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How Gatheround Became a ‘Cornerstone’ of DEI at a Fortune 50 Entertainment Company

A Fortune 50 entertainment company, adored by fans around the world, is known for creating transportive fictional worlds guided by strong values and a sense of community. That ethos extends to the company’s real-world internal culture as well; it has worked hard over a matter of decades to build a best-in-class employee experience that brings teams together. As a result, its culture of inclusion and belonging is second to none; it is known across the corporate world for employee loyalty, motivation, and innovation, and ranks in the top 10 of Fortune’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies. But in recent years, that culture has been shaken to its core by outside forces and long-standing systemic pain.

Caring for a Team As Crises Overlap

Good leaders know how to navigate transitional times, but the last several years have brought multiple, massive crises, converging simultaneously on customers, lines of business, and employees. Teams and leaders have been tasked both with navigating the shared trauma and upheaval of the pandemic, and addressing the acute pain of violent external events impacting their team members at the local, national, and international level. It has been a time of reckoning, massive change, and highly charged emotions. 
For the entertainment company, it became clear that there were hard conversations the team needed to have — ones that would be vulnerable and painful. Employees needed to feel safe to talk to one another about the pain they were feeling, and a culture of trust years in the making — a key pillar of the company’s identity — hung in the balance. 

High Stakes — and a High-Impact Solution 

A Senior Manager thought he might have a solution. He conducted a series of internal focus groups, then pitched the idea to senior leadership: Gatheround, then called Icebreaker, is a video platform designed to enable difficult conversations, using guided prompts, a unique approach to breakouts, and a design oriented around inclusion to help people open up and engage with each other.

In his focus groups, the leader found that 100% of participants had a positive experience on the platform, and four out of five considered it “great,” the highest ranking. Comments from his participants emphasized its ability to spark deep conversations. One noted, “I think [Gatheround] would defuse a lot of tension,” while another added, “I like the way the good questions prompt great discussion.” 

Great discussion is exactly what the team needed. They adopted Gatheround company-wide, and immediately launched a year-long series of team-building workshops. The entertainment company also began working closely with the Gatheround team to draft a program focused on sensitive conversation about diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. Gatheround brought in experts in the field, including Dr. Akilah Cadet and Gamal Palmer, to reflect the best practices of world-class DEI facilitators and champions. The result was a program called Foundational DEI Practices & Skills. (Need to uplevel your DEI? Find the program here.)

A Major Win for DEI and a Welcome Way To Reconnect

The pairing of team-building workshops with Foundational DEI Practices & Skills has been a runaway success. To date, thousands of employees of the entertainment company have participated in more than 2,600 conversations about identity, diversity, and the workplace. Their conversations have spanned more than 55,000 minutes of dialogue — equivalent to roughly 39 uninterrupted days. 

An SVP involved with the initiative explains, “Gatheround has become a cornerstone of our DEI&C activities. It provides a seamless, comfortable and easy way to raise and discuss interesting and sometimes difficult subjects.”

He adds, “Unintentionally or not, it has also become successful for engagement. People who may never normally interact get to discuss issues or share information about themselves and what you suddenly find is that you are better at small talk than you thought. Then you realize that it is not small talk at all, but something altogether more meaningful.”

Another senior member of the team puts it simply. “Gatheround is the only way we can show our true selves. It allows us to be human beings.”

The same sentiment is echoed again and again by everyone who encounters Gatheround and the DEI programming the two companies have worked so tirelessly to create. 

Another SVP says, “Gatheround has added consistency and relevance to our commitment and ability to create a diverse and inclusive culture — with the added benefit of meeting (and really getting to know) members of the larger teams.”

It’s not just a hit with senior leadership. A brand-new member of the team who enrolled in the DEI program shortly after joining calls Gatheround, “Absolutely fantastic,” and adds, “These sessions have helped me feel connected. I’m also impressed and pleasantly surprised at how gracefully many of the sensitive topics have been approached and enjoy learning and hearing different perspectives.”

A Future that Reflects a Cultural Legacy

With an impressive history as a culture champion known for attracting top talent and inspiring lasting loyalty, this entertainment company knows the power of an intentional and thoughtful approach to connection at work. Strong relationships at work have been tied to everything from higher levels of productivity and profitability to improved levels of workplace safety. 

Similarly, a workplace culture that prioritizes trust, psychological safety, and appreciation for one another — the crucial social fabric that allows for great collaboration and innovation — also drives hard business value: research from Gallup has correlated these kinds of cultural practices with roughly $92 million in improved employee output and productivity. 

With Gatheround, the entertainment company takes its strong cultural legacy into the future, demonstrating that, even in times of crisis and upheaval, the company will always find new and innovative ways to care for the team and to prioritize the conversations they need to have. 

One SVP notes, “I hesitate to use the term “tool,” but in this case I think it fits. We extract more from Gatheround than we have to input and we get something really surprising and beautiful in return.” 

Culture is a living thing, subject to outside forces and unpredictable challenges. But with Gatheround to bring people together and keep them talking, the entertainment company is prepared for whatever comes next.