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How conversations about DEIB can drive empathy throughout your organization

Cornerstone Editors

Discussing current events at work has historically been taboo. Bringing your personal "baggage" into the office used to be frowned upon. But it's always been true that what's going on outside of work can easily seep into your professional life — and over the last 18 months, that veil between work life and personal life has lifted significantly. At the height of the pandemic, work entered our most personal spaces, and long-standing issues from mental health to racial discrimination became topics of discussion in the (virtual) office.

It's up to organizations to drive conversations on these topics related to work so that we can better understand our peers' experiences, even if it feels uncomfortable at first.

Even if current events such as the rise in racial attacks around the world don't affect you personally, they do affect somebody you work with, or at the very least, someone you know, says Doug Segers, head of original content at Cornerstone. His team's latest diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging content series, A Seat at the Table, was produced to highlight the people behind these realities through shared personal stories.

Take a look at this teaser video for A Seat at the Table:

A Seat at the Table

A Seat at the Table

Real conversations about DEIB

This series isn't like any other DEIB training. In each episode, 32 real professionals (not actors) are divided into groups of four to discuss a DEIB issue in the workplace. Participants exchange perspectives through unscripted, open dialogue. Across eight episodes, the series covers everything from the "Model Minority" stereotype to discussing depression at work.

"The point of the series isn't to solve these problems, but to consider an issue, and hopefully inspire similar conversations for viewers," says Segers. "These are common things that people find difficult to talk about. There's an opportunity for us to provide perspective and hopefully, drive a bit of empathy."

The first episode of A Seat at the Table will premiere this November at Cornerstone's 2021 Convergence conference followed by a panel discussion with the Cornerstone Studios team about ways to use this content to facilitate meaningful dialogues in your organization. Attendees can talk about their own experiences and comment on what they're learning in real-time by engaging in the live chat feature during the virtual event. If you're registered, make sure to mark your agenda. Not registered yet? Sign up to attend! Here's what you won't want to miss:

Q: This is a unique format for learning content. How does the unscripted, roundtable discussion format facilitate learning?

You can't script somebody learning in real-time: Someone using the wrong word, somebody else correcting them and hearing that person say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. This is my first time even talking about this. Thank you for correcting me." That's really powerful to see that behavior model for learners participating in this series to be able to say, "Oh wow, there are people like me," or, "I also have that question."

This format may be relatively new for learning, but it's certainly not new. It's a familiar genre that content consumers recognize. This series brings that style to professional learning with clear objectives — it's not a one-and-done type of learning content. We have Activation materials to support learners post-conversation, "Hey, that story you heard, that's textbook microaggressions. We have an entire course on microaggressions where people can learn more."

Q: How do you describe A Seat at the Table and why?

It's meant to be disarming, provocative, optimistic and actionable.

When you're talking about things like Black Lives Matter or privilege or depression, people get really anxious about that at work: "I shouldn't be talking about this here." The series is meant to be disarming. There are constructive conversations, story sharing, reactions, discussions and questions to help move the needle for everybody at the table and the people watching.

In terms of the provocative aspect, it's just kind of inherent with this format and the discussed topics. It's something that traditionally has not been seen in professional learning content.

Optimistic and actionable: This series is meant to be helpful. This is learning content, so we want to understand, "Okay, well, what do you do with that? What is the next step? Or where can I learn more?"

Q: Why do you encourage the Convergence audience to tune in to the premiere?

The people participating in the series are real working professionals. They are just like the employees, managers, leaders that Convergence attendees work with, the same people they're trying to recruit and develop. And understanding your employees is paramount when it comes to DE&I. This series talks about the true issues that employees face and how they're affecting men, women, straight, gay, Black, white, Asian, able-bodied, people with disabilities, mental disabilities, physical disabilities.

Modeling a conversation and demonstrating that it's okay to talk about these topics can certainly help understand your employees and the type of culture that you want to hopefully build at your organization.

See the premiere of A Seat at the Table at Convergence 2021

Don't miss your chance to see the world premiere of A Seat at the Table at Cornerstone Convergence on November 16–17, 2021. This all-virtual, all-free conference is your opportunity to get inspired, have "ah-ha" moments, connect with your peers and explore the future of work (and your role in it).

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