Dow: Combatting Microaggressions and Reigniting Psychological Safety in the Workplace Using Interactive, Experiential Learning (Practices Webinar Recording)Nov 14, 2022
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How can we leverage emerging technologies to initiate the next stage of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) learning? For Dow, the Covid-19 pandemic and global conversations on social justice in 2020 presented new challenges and opportunities to reimagine DEI education. Dow’s HR team and the Office of Inclusion, along with education technology company Mursion, created learning modules featuring virtual reality simulations for leaders, covering the topics of microaggressions and bias in performance evaluations. Participants interact with avatars—controlled by human moderators—who lead them through real-life scenarios. This experiential learning has radically shifted leader mindsets and improved DEI learning outcomes across the company.
Learn how virtual reality and interactive learning can enhance education and awareness of DEI topics.
Dow: Combatting Microaggressions and Reigniting Psychological Safety in the Workplace Using Interactive, Experiential Learning (Practices Webinar Recording)
ALEDIA EVANS: Hello, everyone. We’ll give people just a few more minutes to log in. But in the meantime, please share your name and location in the chat box. Like to see where everyone’s dialing in from. Snowy, Utah. Wow. Minneapolis. Toronto. That’s great, thank you. Hi, Keshia. Hello, Catalysta in Chicago. Hi, Selena. We’ll give it one more minute and then we will get started. Glen, hello. London, wow, hello. It’s no longer morning there or afternoon. Hello. OK. So we will get started. Welcome, everyone. We are happy to have you join us. My name is Aledia Evans and I am thrilled to moderate our discussion today. Before I provide a summary, I’d like to share some participation details. So all lines are automatically muted. We also ask that you turn your camera off. Also, we encourage engagements. Join our conversation using the chat box. If you have any questions, please enter those into the chat box as well. I suspect we may not have time to answer questions at the end. However, my hope is that we’ll be able to provide some answers post events. And then last but certainly not least, this event will be recorded and available to Catalyst supporters. At this time, I will introduce our panelists. I will be joined in conversation by Tina Halphen, global talent manager at Dow. Dr. Jennifer Frame, senior HR director, talent development and workshop insights at Dow. Rahul Murdeshwar, director, Mumbai global accounting at Dow. And last but certainly not least, Kim Cook, chief revenue officer at Mursion. Welcome panelists. Before we begin our conversation today, I’d like to provide a little context for our virtual attendees. In 2019, Dow began the implementation of an organizational transformation of its HR system, processes and structures. Then in 2020, greater external challenges occurred with the onset of the pandemic, major weather events and a surge in conversations regarding social justice. While a strong focus on people, processes and systems were already in place, the company quickly adjusted and focused more on leadership behaviors that would nurture a sense of belonging amid the challenges. And enhance the company’s ongoing focus on inclusion. Pre-dating these massive organizational challenges and changes, Dow had provided broad based training on unconscious bias to people leaders across the organization. Also making it available to employee resource group leaders and other work groups. While that approach was helpful to provide a foundation, leadership realized that the current organization needed updated approaches. Fresh content and new delivery methods to maximize impact on inclusive leadership behaviors. Using artificial intelligence, this new leadership development programs objectives, integrated experiential learning, virtual reality, real time feedback and hands on practice in a psychologically safe environment. With that in mind, let’s dive into our discussion. Jennifer, for several months, we’ve been working towards sharing Dow’s work with our supporter community. And we are finally here today. Thank you and everyone else who has made this possible. This fascinating and innovative approach to inclusive development training quickly captured the attention of our team. Would you please provide a summary of the training and its audience?
JENNIFER FRAME: Sure. Happy to. And first, thank you so much to the Catalyst team for the opportunity to share our story. So as we were developing the vision for this training, we knew we had to stretch the organization and address some concepts that were not comfortable always for leaders to discuss, or that some leaders might not even have the right words yet to talk about, like related to microaggressions or some of the social justice situations. We were also intent on driving some learning opportunity that showed a link to our company’s strategic goals around inclusion and our company’s cultural attributes which are trust, transparency, empowerment and accountability. So we designed a curriculum that includes a mix of online microlearning, live webinars and live virtual simulations, where leaders could practice the skills and concepts from the learning modules. And we thought it important to invite all leaders to participate and started this in North America last year. And have since expanded to all of our other regions globally in Dow this year. So just to set the stage before we get into a bit more detail, the most unique part about this, of course, has been the live simulation aspect. And imagine, as a leader, being dropped into a Zoom meeting like the one we’re in today with live avatars and you get to practice inclusive behaviors in the context of a real scenario. So you might be asked to work with another leader or a team of people on a promotion panel discussion for a specific employee or address a microaggression or a team complex situation that’s happening. So your role as a leader is to respond in real time to any microaggressions, to address them. But also still driving towards the ultimate outcome, for example of a promotion decision or resolving some sort of team conflict. So definitely very powerful stuff.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you. Thank you so much for that context and for sharing a bit more history around that. To add to that, would you please share why your team decided to choose the method, this particular method, and to really focus on upskilling leaders.
JENNIFER FRAME: Sure. We definitely wanted something that felt new and different than past inclusion trainings and also, of course, with the constraints the past few years on in-person learning during the pandemic, especially, we knew that having this be virtual was necessary, but we also wanted it to feel real and feel relevant. So building also something in a safe space. So sometimes historically as we’ve done, maybe a face to face training or even a virtual training, where you have colleagues that you work with on a daily basis in that training with you, it may not feel truly safe or confidential. And people may not be really willing to kind of put it all out there and try some new things. And we also knew research was showing that this type of more realistic learning practice brought quicker behavior change over other types of learning. And this was a key foundation for our ROI of our approach that our partners with Mursion brought us. Thanks.
ALEDIA EVANS: No, thank you. Thank you so much for that. Now I’d like to sort of bounce things over to Tina. Can you describe why your team chose microaggressions and psychological safety as focus areas?
TINA HALPHEN: Sure. It was an honor to be part of this team where we design and really brainstorm with a wonderful group of people on picking these items. But we find with these broad, large scale, diversity and inclusion journeys, that individuals really struggle to define what their role is, what their impact could be, where they could make that difference. So with this in mind, we said it was really important for us and really helpful for us to focus on behaviors that happen every day, which have an impact on what we’re trying to achieve, both at our company, but within our teams as well. So in the first module, we chose the topic of microaggressions. And microaggressions really helped us define how bias– we talk a lot about bias, right? How bias can externalize into the things that we do and say. And how detrimental actually those impacts are. So we asked leaders to not only be aware of those microaggressions but also to courageously choose to act and address them. That’s like that next step, that advanced piece of it. Not only awareness but acting. And of course that’s where that practice that we talked about is really essential. So we, of course, provided them with the practical framework to turn these really uncomfortable disengaging moments, into actual growth moments that can actually strengthen relationships if addressed properly. So key for us, again, was to take leaders through awareness and into action. And in module two, we highlighted the environment that’s really needed to enable these courageous conversations to take place in our teams. So psychological safety was foundational and key, and is actually a true enabler for us to uncover and address resistance to some of these topics. But also help our people align to the values and the culture that we’re trying to build together at Dow.
ALEDIA EVANS: Oh, thank you. The whole process sounds like it was so deliberate and so intentionally thoughtful. So thank you so much for sharing that. Regarding leadership participation. We started to talk a bit about that. I’d like to learn a little bit more around what was the timeline of completion for leaders and how many leaders completed the training?
TINA HALPHEN: Yeah. So Jennifer did a great job of highlighting the blended learning concept of the two modules that we offered. And we offered those two modules in multiple live sessions over a year period. So we really made sure that leaders had the time. They have very busy schedules, but really made sure that the leaders had the time to engage and to sign up for an experience. And last year, we rolled out the program in North America and we had great results where we had 79% of our leaders in North America fully complete the modules and 92% engage in one part of the program. So people are interested in learning about this and I think they felt that this was a feedback show, that they felt that this was an innovative way to address this topic and take it further.
ALEDIA EVANS: That’s wonderful. Some more questions around leadership participation specifically. But I’m also curious to know more around how this training was communicated to leaders. What’s participation requirements? How much time did leaders spend and need to dedicate to this? And Jennifer, please feel free to jump in as well.
JENNIFER FRAME: Yeah, this is a great, this is a great topic of our communication. Something that we don’t always maybe get right in how we approach a lot of discussions the team had around is this something that we’re going to really push as a requirement? And really, we knew that we needed visibility, we needed executive sponsorship and support. So with alignment, with our leadership team at Dow, decided that each of our regional presidents would launch the trainings at the right time and in the right context for their respective regions, right? So if you think about, of course, the world the past couple of years, timing and situations may be a bit different for what’s going on in Europe versus North America, versus Asia. So we had to really work with those regional leaders. But each of them, very supportive, and really launching the training out to their respective organizations. The way that we positioned it was that this is a leadership expectation to complete this program and to get involved. We did not position it, though, as a compliance activity. We did not want this to be a check the box activity. I did it, I’m moving on. We believe that people are more open to learning a concept, when they’re interested, when there’s engagement around it. So we used a lot of different tactics. Peer testimonials, you’ll hear from one of our leaders today, for example. We used Dow leaders to facilitate other leaders through the webinar parts of the discussion and to host conversations. We shared demos. We used a lot of different ways to get people interested and engaged. And we knew we wouldn’t get 100%. Nothing like this does. Again, and like I said, we didn’t want it to be a check the box and a compliance. But with the numbers Tina just shared, we’ve been very pleased with the uptake of how that’s going. And as far as time it took. So each module, and there was two main separate modules. Each module took about two hours to complete, including the webinar and including doing a simulation. So not a huge time commitment. But for very busy leaders, even that sometimes can be a challenge. But there were also other learning resources made available. The micro learnings that were more on demand. So those could be added on top of each of those time commitments.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you, thank you so much for sharing that. One more follow up question that I have is, are there any initiatives or accountability measures? I mean you did kind of start to talk about that a little bit, but just wanted to know if you could provide any sort of insight around that.
JENNIFER FRAME: Sure. Yeah, I mean as you’ve heard of course, we’ve been tracking and monitoring attendance. We did do targeted follow-ups as needed. If we saw some leaders just fully not engaging, perhaps their HR partner would take a look at that and see what’s going on. Also there’s surveys after each module where we collected data on how the training was received and what the impact of the training was. And I’d say we were very pleased with the survey results in the sense that the vast majority felt the training provided a safe space to practice and was relevant to them. We didn’t want to incentivize or penalize, but really make being a part of this just part of what we do and how we do things a part of our culture, it’s how we work, right? Not something that’s a separate– I’m going to go do it and then move on. And we really encourage leaders to take this back, practice, see how they could use it in their day to day. And we’re also tracking things like our overall outcomes for our employee surveys like our employee, we call it a voice survey. And our leadership effectiveness surveys. And we have seen, this year, positive gains in inclusive behaviors. And we know there’s many factors that influence that. We think that training is one of them. And one, just one stat here, is 88%, said they learned something that they would use on the job in the next three months. So for those that do training surveys like this. You never get 100%. But we felt quite good with seeing those types of numbers. Thank you.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you so much, and you absolutely should. Those are really great numbers so thanks so much for sharing. I’d like to thank both Tina as well as Jennifer for kicking us off. There will be more questions for the both of you. But I’d like to sort of ease into sort of talking more about this simulation and its demo. And sort of start to direct some questions toward Kim. But before I do that, I just wanted to share, for the next questions, Mursion will be prompted to share a live demo. Note that Catalyst cannot recommend specific products and that this demo will be provided to attendees for informational purposes only. Mursion will refrain from advertising products. So just wanted to make sure that I said that. But as we sort of move forward, I’m very excited to work closely with Mursion as we share this demo for all of our attendees to take a look at. Kim, who is on the line, thank you so much for joining us today.
KIM COOK: Pleasure to be here. Thanks for having us.
ALEDIA EVANS: Can you describe your role in this? And also, would you please share a brief demo so our event attendees can experience a sample of the training?
KIM COOK: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I’m lucky to have the opportunity to work with very thoughtful clients like Dow. We went through, as Jennifer and Tina described, a very thoughtful design process in order to enable this program for their leadership team. I just applaud the efforts of Dow and how thoughtful they were in, not only the design but the implementation. So a lot of these programs are great in design and then kind of fail in the implementation side. So they did a really nice job of opening up the leadership’s aperture with the frameworks provided before they went in and did this actual immersive simulated practice that we’re going to show you what it’s all about. So at Mursion, we– just to give you a couple of sentences about what we do. We’re an immersive practice platform for power skills. Sometimes people call it soft skills. But allowing people that psychologically safe space to actually do and have the conversations. So when they go into, in a psychologically safe space, when they go into the actual situation themselves, they feel empowered. They’ve strengthened that muscle. They feel confident to have a conversation versus sometimes when trainings don’t get enacted and enabled, it’s because people don’t feel comfortable doing it. They don’t have that confidence. So no real behavior change happens. So what we’re going to just show you briefly today is what the Dow participants went through. These sessions are 30 minutes long. And what we do is people come in, they speak to a host avatar to kind of get them oriented to what they’re going to be doing. There is a very thoughtful design around the actual session and the outcome that they will enact. And then there is a little bit of reflection at the end, to just talk through what happened. What you’ll be seeing today is a very truncated version of that. There will only be like five to seven minutes. But the full sessions that the Dow team went through were 30 minutes. So with that said, I think we can just jump in and show you what this is all about. So I’m going to pass it over to my avatar friend who is going to be our host. And our brave volunteer, Andrew, is going to walk through and show everybody an example of what this interaction was for the Dow team. And then we’ll talk a little bit more about it after. So I’ll turn it over to you two both. Good luck, Andrew.
NINA: Wonderful. Thank you so much, Kim. Hey, Andrew, how are you doing today?
ANDREW GRISSOM: I’m doing well, how are you?
NINA: I’m doing great. Thanks so much for participating in front of everyone. So I’m your host, avatar Nina. I’ll be sure to take good care of you. Let me know if you have any questions whatsoever. Here is the scenario that you’re going to be doing today. Are you able to see that all right?
ANDREW GRISSOM: Yes.
NINA: Great. So you’re going to be talking to Lisa right there on the right. She’s one of your employees. And she’s smart, dedicated and passionate about her work. Recently, you’ve seen her respond with rising frustration towards some of her colleagues. You’ve witnessed this in several team meetings. In the meeting that just ended, you also observe Lisa losing her patience with her colleague, George, when delivering some feedback. The desired outcome is to understand the situation and get Lisa’s agreement on a plan moving forward. Some strategies to consider are to actively listen to her concerns, ask open-ended questions to learn more about the situation. Check that Lisa understands how her behavior affects other team members and motivate her to take concrete steps to improve interactions with her peers. Do you have any questions about any of that?
ANDREW GRISSOM: No, I don’t think so.
NINA: OK, great. So I’ll take the slide away. Andrew, what’s going to happen next is I am going to get you to Lisa. She can see you and hear you in real time. At any time you can say pause and I’ll return, check in to see if you need assistance, if you’d like to head to the reflection, if you want to get back to the rest of the meeting. I also want to acknowledge that we’re doing a very truncated experience here, just for people to get a sense of it. And I may end up interrupting your conversation. And we are already recording, so do I have your permission to continue recording at this time?
ANDREW GRISSOM: Yes.
NINA: OK. Great. Then I will go ahead and get you to Lisa. Thank you so much, Andrew.
ANDREW GRISSOM: Thank you so much. Hi, Lisa. How are you today?
LISA: I’m doing all right, Andrew. Hanging in there. I mean is it Friday yet?
ANDREW GRISSOM: Right, exactly. Almost there. Thank you so much for coming in. I wanted to have a quick conversation with you and bring something up that has been on my mind. So I’ve noticed that you have felt some frustration in a few meetings lately. In particular, there was a meeting recently with George where it seems like you felt very frustrated and lost your patience. So I would really like to learn more about the situation and understand a little bit better. So would you be willing to share what that experience was like for you and what’s been on your mind?
LISA: Well sure, Andrew. I wasn’t aware it was quite that obvious, but yes, I did get very frustrated with George. He and I are working on this project together, it’s going really well. But we had a little bit of a communication issue and I basically had to deliver some feedback to him at the end of our team meeting. Yeah, and I was feeling pretty frustrated.
ANDREW GRISSOM: I’m sorry to hear that. It sounds like there’s been a lot going on and there has been a communication issue. And I want to say I hear your concerns. And I want us to work toward a path for, hopefully, some better communication with some of your team members. So what do you think might help remedy the situation?
LISA: Well, I mean one thing I should let you know, Andrew, that with George in particular, this has kind of been going on for a couple of months now, you know. I’m very direct, he’s very indirect. And sometimes he won’t respond to me unless I’m smiling and being super pleasant. And making lots of small talk. And that feels unfair to me. I don’t see him asking any of the guys on the team to communicate in that way.
ANDREW GRISSOM: That’s awful to hear, I’m so sorry. It sounds like there is potentially some bias or exclusion at work. So I would love to have the chance to talk to George about that as well. Really, at this organization, we value inclusion and we don’t want to have any behaviors that have negative impact on our employees and that can really foster exclusion at work. So I’d really love the opportunity to maybe perhaps we can get George in here as well and talk to him. And come to a little bit of an understanding together. How does that sound?
NINA: Hey I didn’t mean to beam her away before she got a chance to answer that. But Andrew, how about if I just take one minute, I’ll get you to George and Lisa. You can experience talking to both of them. For the sake of time, I’ll end up interrupting you after about a minute. But is that OK with you?
ANDREW GRISSOM: That sounds great. Thank you.
NINA: All right. Here they are.
GEORGE: Hey, Andrew. Hey, Lisa.
ANDREW GRISSOM: Hi, George. How are you? How are you today?
GEORGE: Thanks for asking. So Andrew, I’m doing better than I was earlier in the week. Lisa and I have been talking about how to make our work partnership better around communication. Appreciate you taking time to meet with us today.
ANDREW GRISSOM: Absolutely. It’s exactly why I wanted to bring you into this conversation, George. I’ve been talking with Lisa and I know there has been some communication issues at work. And particularly around responsiveness from you. And I wanted to open up the conversation. Lisa, would you feel comfortable talking a little bit too or would you like me to take the lead?
LISA: You know so George and I have been talking. Andrew, if you’re comfortable, if there’s anything, I really would prefer to hear George’s perspective for sure. So–
ANDREW GRISSOM: OK. Absolutely. Well, George, let’s turn it over to you. Have you been reflecting on the conversations that you’ve been having with Lisa? And is there anything that you would like to open up about to this group?
NINA: That is such a great question and I don’t mean to cut off George’s perspective, it would be really good to hear. But I’m going to go ahead and just ask you a couple simple reflection questions, Andrew, if that’s all right.
ANDREW GRISSOM: Absolutely.
NINA: Thank you. So my first one is, in that conversation that you had with Lisa, what’s something you did that you thought went well?
ANDREW GRISSOM: I think following up in affirming what she was feeling, that led to her expressing that there seemed to be that bias at play with George in some of his actions. I think that helps dig into and pinpoint where the communication gap was coming from.
NINA: Yeah, absolutely. And then also getting towards that desired outcome that was on the slide to understand the situation, get Lisa’s agreement on a plan moving forward. And if you were going to do that again, Andrew, what’s something that you might do differently?
ANDREW GRISSOM: I actually would point to the second conversation with Lisa and George. I think when I asked Lisa if either herself or I wanted to take the lead, I actually should have directed to George first. Since I had already talked to Lisa and probably would have helped move things forward. I didn’t want to put her on the spot either.
NINA: Well, and that’s a great insight, Andrew. It would be interesting to see how that would unfold, going ahead and asking George. So I’ll tell you what, Andrew. I want to thank you so much for, again, doing this brief experience in front of this entire call. I’m going to go ahead and unspotlight you. I am going to unspotlight myself and turn it back over. So Aledia, thank you so much. And Andrew, you too.
ALEDIA EVANS: Special thanks to Lauren and Andrew there for this entire demo and experience. So thank you both. With that in mind though, let’s move over to Rahul. Quick question for you. As a leader, can you describe your first impression of this approach in your experience of the development training? For instance, did you or other senior leaders have any hesitations upon using this technology? And how did you overcome it if so.
RAHUL MURDESHWAR: Thanks for the question, Aledia. And thanks for the opportunity to speak about my experience. So when I first heard that Dow was trying out AI technology in the field of learning and development, and that doing a case study discussion, I was really excited and I was one of the first ones to sign up. Because I was very curious to see how this would all work, especially when you have a free-flowing discussion, you already got a demo. It can lead you anywhere. So I was curious to see how this was going to be handled. It definitely helped that we had this webinar that was alluded to earlier by Tina. Where we, as leaders, could discuss our practical examples with each other before the actual Mursion experience. And when we started the experience, this whole initial piece of just putting you at ease, doing the summary, made us feel comfortable because it is the first time I was talking to an avatar myself, right? But I think they really did well to keep us comfortable. And being there to pull us back as required. Didn’t have to do it in my case but it was a good experience. And you saw some of it in this demo, but I can tell you I saw a lot more physical mannerisms. So I was pleasantly surprised to see how they could do this folding of arms, shaking of head and all these other minute things. Amazing stuff, I mean, I don’t know how they pull that off. So it’s really like a real life example. And yeah, that’s why I thought it was a really good experience. For the second question, maybe I’ll hand it over to Tina.
TINA HALPHEN: Sure, yeah. I think it’s more around the hesitation. So we have you as an example of someone extremely enthusiastic and with most new things there are pockets of resistance, let’s be real. But that was certainly the exception, right? When we got people into Mursion and they tried it, the program team really saw some great feedback in that space. But we also thought it was really important to understand where that hesitation was coming from. Again, this is new. As you can see, it is different. There is a threshold to overcome and feel comfortable in that space. But once you get in there, it’s really a wonderful experience. So we really worked hard to find promotional material and engagement activities to help lower that bar to participation. And to spark that curiosity that we were talking about, to try something new. So for example, if you see a video with your leader interacting with an avatar, you’re more compelled to try it. Or if you hear Rahul’s story, you’re more intrigued to go and try something new as well. So those are the things that we work throughout the program to try to get that bar to participation as low as possible.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you. Thank you both so much. And I guess I can speak on behalf of everyone that is on the call, really appreciate your candor. So thank you so much for sharing. So dig a bit deeper. And this question is for Rahul. If you could share just maybe three words to describe your feelings and thoughts upon completion of the training, that would be really, really great. As well as any key takeaways that you gained from the experience.
RAHUL MURDESHWAR: Sure, so I felt relieved, also happy and validated, actually. So I’m a very good student of these things. I loved attending these programs. And I really went to the pre-work and did my practice. But of course, when you go into the actual session, it’s a totally different ballgame, right? But it was a safe space to try out different techniques. So there were some things I tried out. And I felt validated because I could actually pick up some microaggressions because of– I paid special attention to my listening skills and it helped. And sometimes when it was trying to– the conversation was going a little bit off track, but I could politely but firmly bring it back on track. And therefore basically achieve the objective. So initially it was a little bit awkward. But as I got into it, I felt a lot more comfortable. And definitely, it gave me a lot more confidence that I could do this in real life. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.
ALEDIA EVANS: That’s great, thank you. Thank you so much for that. Jennifer, can you describe some of the feedback you received from other leaders who completed the training? Very curious to know whether or not your CEO even participated in the training.
JENNIFER FRAME: Yeah, great question. So as Tina mentioned, we’ve definitely gotten a lot of positive feedback, such as they like the real time debrief, the feedback right after the interaction, like to be able to practice new behaviors in a safe space. We actually had gone through a few iterations of our design of this work. And in our original design, we were thinking of having multiple Dow leaders together in the simulation. And we actually decided against that for the first go around. Partially, logistics of it all became quite complicated. But even more so was the psychological safety aspect that we wanted to drive, that we felt like if there was multiple Dow leaders together, we may not truly– bring that fully safe space. Although that may be a next iteration that we try in the future, of bringing multiple people together at once. So the majority that participated were very receptive, appreciated the opportunity. But there, as Tina said, resistance as well. So sometimes that resistance was just perhaps in being passive, not attending, or kind of not fully engaging with the activities when they were happening. And in a few cases, we had some people that got quite vocal about displeasure of having to interact with an avatar in a simulation. Or that might have questioned the concept around micro-aggressions. Some felt interacting with an avatar was odd or distracting. And I’d say most people quickly moved on from that. We also learned quickly through our communication channels to make sure that we were preparing people for what they were going to be stepping into. We didn’t want anybody to feel surprised. That was not the intent of this. So some of the reactions, the team was at times like, oh, wow, we didn’t maybe anticipate this or that, but we always found a really good learning and discussing. Some of it was related to our company culture, maybe how we’ve done training in the past or how we’ve done inclusion-related trainings in the past and why this may be happening. So it did lead to a lot of good conversation with the team and some improvements in how we did the next iteration of each of the designs. And to the question of the CEO. Yes, he did participate. And actually, funny story, is the team had been talking about should we exempt our senior executives from this training? Sometimes that companies, we do that, we say, oh, we don’t want to bother them with this or that. But actually that never went anywhere because our CEO, Jim, was asking us right away to get signed up, get him scheduled. And he fully participated. And was quite enthusiastic about the experience. So that was great to see. Thanks.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you, thank you so much for that. And I’m sure everyone on the line really, again, just appreciate your candor. So thank you. And it’s great to know that the CEO even had the opportunity of this experience. So thank you. Back to Rahul. If you could, as a leader, I’m just curious to know. Can you describe your role in supporting Dow’s objectives through this training? Now that you’ve experienced it, we did have a bit of a conversation before everyone signed on. And so I will ask a question and I just wanted to kind of give you a heads up around some of the things that you shared earlier. But can you just provide, again, just a little insight into your role in supporting this, as someone who has completed the experience?
RAHUL MURDESHWAR: Sure. So I am the leader for Mumbai global accounting. It’s a very large team. It’s over 150 resources. So I’m obviously in a very good position to pass on the learnings that I have received from this training. So initially, I focused on my people leaders, my next level. And I urged them to take up this training. And separately in our team meetings, I started to pick up on microaggressions and just directly point that out. So obviously, if we start doing it, then they know that is something they can also practice within their team meetings. So that’s how I think this will spread. It’ll take time, but as we do it consistently and in the right way, I think the message will go across. Separately. I’ve also conducted four sessions on psychological safety. So we had these sessions across finance colleagues in EMEA and Asia-Pacific. So I covered about 60 employees in sessions where we had held dialogue on the psychological safety space. So these are two things that have been already doing.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you. Thank you so much. And I will circle back with you because I do have one last question for you. So yes. Jennifer, next question. What are the next steps for this training?
JENNIFER FRAME: Sure. So we’re currently still implementing in our regions outside North America. So that plan goes through the end of this year. And I do, I did get a question in chat I wanted to clarify. We’ve been rolling this out to anyone who is in a supervisory relationship. So any Dow leader that has employees reporting to them has been included in this training in the past two years. So finishing up the outside North America implementation of this first approach. The next phases with this are institutionalizing it, really, into our new people leader curriculum. So if somebody either newly joins the company as a leader or gets moved into a role with leadership, people leadership, then that they would participate in some form of this training. But we’re also looking at applications outside maybe of our initial design, even outside of our DEI trainings. So thinking about how you might use a simulation like this to support collaboration or strategic thinking amongst a group. Maybe do interview simulations. So training people on how to be a good interviewer. So there’s several different applications that we’re assessing for potential use next year as well.
ALEDIA EVANS: That’s great. I love that you’re already sort of just thinking about all of these other pieces. After having such a successful year, thinking about ways to continue to sort of move this objective forward. So thank you so much. Are there any other additional challenges that you’re sort of anticipating or sort of top of mind as you move into the next phase of trying to design next steps?
JENNIFER FRAME: Yeah. One of the challenges is scalability. So for this initial approach, we did do a lot of time spent on the design, some of the logistics, just to pull everything together were quite intense. But we’ve learned along the way. And actually, Mursion has been a fantastic partner and they’ve progressed along the way too. So I think the scalability. How do we get it to more people? The ones that want it and desire it. So that, it’s a challenge but it’s an opportunity space. So I think those are probably the biggest things, is actually meeting the demand as opposed to the other way around. So more people would like to have it than we can currently get it to, but we’re working on that to scale up.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you, wonderful. Rahul, wanted to circle back to you. And I know this is a bit off script. But you did share with me earlier today that you actually experienced it again today. You went through the training again today. And so I’m just curious, if you are willing to share just any new learnings the second time around. Any sort of insight you’d like to share?
RAHUL MURDESHWAR: Sure. So yeah, I was very excited. And I immediately signed up for the second, module two. So I attended the webinar and today happened to be the day when I did the second demo. And I have to say because of the first experience, I already was in a much more comfortable space. I was already a little bit more confident about what I wanted to practice. Still, I have to say, it went off excellently and when the person came back on to ask how would you rate your confidence level after the session, I immediately said 5 on 5. Literally, I mean that’s the way it was. Superb experience. But also, I mean, mainly to help me because I was a lot more confident in doing that particular simulation.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you. Thank you so much. And again, for everyone on the line, this was definitely not built into my list of questions. So I really appreciate you allowing me to put you on the spot here. So thank you.
RAHUL MURDESHWAR: Oh sure.
ALEDIA EVANS: Kim, wanted to circle back to you. And we’re sort of on the tail end of things here. Wanted to really acknowledge all of these amazing sort of kudos and all of that when it comes to the work that your team was able to put together in assisting Dow. Question for you is what learnings are you willing to share with other organizations who may be interested in exploring a similar training approach?
KIM COOK: Yeah, I mean I think that it all comes down to kind of thoughtful design. And really to think about what skills the team that you’re working with really need to improve. So part of what we did with Dow was we designed something that was very specific to this particular need. And we were excited of the outcomes because 90% of people actually said they felt more engaged and motivated, and better equipped to support their teams, which is pretty amazing. But they really thought about what that outcome in mind was. So when you’re thinking about the design for your team, the simulations that we put people through, this immersive practice to get them in there and really make them feel that– feel the experience. Because a lot of times I think the challenge has been for people where they may be able to read a script or do things like that. But when you get put in that moment and you feel like the tension of that conversation, that real life interaction, that sort of stuff goes wrong and gets real. So and that’s how you really build a skill. So really, when you’re designing something this, thinking about the skills that your team needs, sometimes it is part of a regular program or sometimes it’s in the flow of work. So Jennifer mentioned, hey, I’ve got an interview. I want to go get better at it and practice. Something like that where we can assist with that as well. So it’s really kind of two things. It’s either an overarching skill-based need or something that’s in the flow of work of just kind of honing for a particular experience that might be coming up. So I think that’s the way to think about designing these programs. And what Dow did, which was extraordinary was a lot of the pre-work that they talked about. The communication to the learners. This is not something people have done before. So it, very often, will catch people off guard. Like why would I talk to an avatar? This is strange. But once you get in it, the kind of suspension of disbelief falls away and you’re just having a conversation. And so making sure people know what they’re getting themselves into, that there’s leadership support around it. And that is a psychologically safe experience. Because a lot of times, leaders don’t get to practice. They just, they’re expected to know what to do. And this really provides them with that space to do that. So I think all those things kind of wrapped up is– and I’ve kind of gone, I’ve said a lot. So sorry, that’s too much. But essentially, just being mindful about what you’re trying to do with your team. Making sure you provide them with the platform to do it. And really think about what the outcomes are in a lot of communication pre and post is really kind of the overarching way of thinking to make these programs really successful, like this one that we did with Dow was.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you. And no, you did not say too much. I think everything that you said was very helpful and insightful. So thank you so much for sharing. As I sort of head toward my very last question, and we do have a bit of time here, so I’d like to first ask Jennifer. But if there’s anyone else who would like to sort of add their perspective, please feel free to. Would you recommend other companies consider training leaders using a similar approach is my last question.
JENNIFER FRAME: Yeah, sure. This has been, it’s been a great experience, both for our design team, quite honestly, as well as the leaders participating. So getting to use some innovative approaches. So yes. I think it benefited on both sides. It benefited our HR and IAD colleagues as we designed it and figured out what we were doing. It actually made us think quite a bit about our own culture. Maybe what are some common scenarios that we deal with on a regular basis. And it made us question some of our own assumptions. And even our own biases, right? As a design team, right? We’re coming here to create training to hopefully prevent microaggressions, biases. But we had to stop occasionally and say, wait a minute. Are we designing a scenario where it’s only the females that get questioned about maybe childcare arrangements? We know that that’s not an issue just for females, right? Or are we creating a scenario where there’s an Asian colleague that’s a bit quieter in nature? So we don’t want to play into the stereotypes. And we had to really check ourselves occasionally and make sure that we design realistic but also addressing a number of different situations. And doing this globally certainly created some additional challenges. But also great learnings and great experiences as well. So yeah, for sure, like I said before, we’re looking to other ways that we can utilize this because overall, we’ve been very happy with, not just the approach, but the outcome too. But yeah, and actually since we have time, and Tina, if you maybe even want to comment about some of the approach we used for the outside US or outside North America because that did take a good amount of discussion as well.
TINA HALPHEN: Sure, yeah. And I think it’s a really important thing to mention. Because with this year’s global launch, we had to be very mindful and intentional to make sure that our material that was originally made for our North American audience really resonated with people in our regions. So we spent quite a good amount of time piloting, asking for feedback from regional contacts and really adapting our material. And we’re, I know Kim might smile, word for word in our scenarios for Mursion, to say are we really hitting the mark correctly for our various audiences. But also things that we really have to be mindful of with the rollout and the things that are happening in this world, we have to constantly keep our eyes and ears open to these outside factors that are impacting our leaders. This is extremely important. This is an extremely important concept and things to move forward in our companies. But what are ways that we can adjust and look at how we are delivering the program to ensure that we’re not overwhelming but still having an impact? So I think it was a great partnership and a great agility shown in our team to say what’s going on with our leaders and how can we make sure that we’re adjusting and making sure that we’re making the impact that we’re intending to? So definitely recommend this process. As Jennifer mentioned, a learning and a growth for our team as well.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you. Thank you. I did want to sort of open the floor to any of our other panelists who may have maybe some final thoughts. I do have one good question that– well, I saw many good questions. But I do have one in the chat that looks like it would probably work well for Kim if there aren’t any final thoughts. I could either, maybe I’ll just go to the questions then I’ll– oh, go ahead.
KIM COOK: No, I just wanted to share one thing which I should have talked earlier. So this facility has– you can see the video of your recording. And I did that. And that is a very powerful thing when you look at yourself later on. So it’s just an additional thing. It’s a simple thing of course, but it’s good to see you in action to know what are the things that you can do better on. So those of you who are really interested in becoming better and better, that facility is there to– the entire experience is recorded. You can play it if you choose to take that. So just want to share that.
ALEDIA EVANS: No, that’s great. Thanks so much for sharing that. And quick question to you, was that the case during the very first training as well or–
KIM COOK: Yes, yes. Right from the beginning, yeah.
ALEDIA EVANS: Wonderful. That’s great to know. I’m so happy that you shared that with everyone. Thank you. So there was one question I did want to– I saw that I’d like to ask Kim. Have there been any issues with vertigo or motion sickness through the experience? Also how adaptive is the device for people who, similar to me, may use large glasses or frames? I think this is a really good question because as people are thinking of ways to, maybe even implement and execute this, are those things that people should consider or is it something that they don’t have to at all?
KIM COOK: Yeah, I mean I think the one thing to consider is this is a 2D experience, not a 3D experience. So kind of normally when you put on a headset, you can be kind of influenced by vertigo. So we haven’t gotten a ton of reports of that. And Mursion is also fully ADA compliant. So if people have visual or hearing issues, we have adaptable help to be able to allow them to do the experience. So I think the main part of thinking about what this is it’s actually just having a conversation. A lot of the subtleties of, as Rahul mentioned, crossing the arms and the way the avatars respond to what you’re saying. I did just want to share with people that it might be interesting to know there is an actual human behind that avatar. It isn’t an AI scripted bot or anything like that. So you are having a conversation with a human. And so wherever that goes can be very real based on– it isn’t a script. So if you do the same one a couple of times, it’s going to be a completely different experience. So the AI portion of what we do is how the avatars move and everything. So they’ll respond to, if you are mad, it’ll make the face and it’ll look mad. If things are going well or if you get– sometimes if you get distracted, they’ll respond in real time. So they’re responding to the environment that you’re into. But the visual representation of the avatar is the AI portion of what we do. But circling back, we haven’t really had many reports of people having kind of issues like that, which is great. But we’re always listening and always learning in case people are affected in some way.
ALEDIA EVANS: Wonderful. Thank you, thank you. I did want to share as we prepare to close, that this is, again, it is recorded. It is a recorded session. And all Catalyst supporters will have access to this recording. I also noticed another question that asked, wanted to know who the trainers were geared to specifically, and just wanted to specify again during the first year the rollout was geared toward leaders and then now– the leaders in North America. And now it is expanding into other regions. So I did want to share that as well. If there aren’t any final thoughts and I will provide maybe a minute. Any of our panelists would like to share any final thoughts as we prepare to close?
KIM COOK: Well, maybe there’s a couple that just jumped in there. I think people are kind of curious how this whole thing works. So If I could just say a couple of sentences. So the people that are behind the avatars are all trained people that are employees at Mursion so whatever company that we’re working with, no one recognizes the voice or anything like that because it’s a completely separate group that we train. Many of them are professional actors. So they’re trained in improvisational skills, but they learn these particular scenarios and are trained on those learning outcomes for the teams. So it kind of– it allows the team to come in and feel psychologically safe to practice because it’s an outside group that’s doing these trainings. And then to Ruhal’s point like, you get a recording after so you can kind of watch it and review the game tape, I guess is the best way to think about it. So it allows people to be able to continue to interact and learn. But yeah, I think immersive learning is new. And this is a brave world that Dow has entered into and we’re excited at the great results that we were able to have and continue to focus on for their teams and their groups. I think the one other question, if you don’t mind me answering, why talk to an avatar versus a human? There’s been a ton of studies that show that people actually disclose more to an avatar than they would a human. There’s a lot of bias when you do role playing that comes into play, that this takes that out of the equation. And people are also more psychologically safe. So they tend to push themselves a little bit harder in the conversations when they’re talking to an avatar. And so there’s a lot of factors that make this immersive learning platform more impactful because of that. So that’s why an avatar versus just talking to another human.
ALEDIA EVANS: Thank you. Thank you, Kim, so much for catching that in the chat. So if there are any other questions, I know we are really down to the final minute. So if there are any other questions, please feel free to throw them into the chat. We will try to get those answered. And we will respond to you, I will respond to you directly with answers. But I just want to take a moment to really thank Dow, thank Mursion and also to our panelists, truly, thank you for your time, participation and candor. I’d also like to extend a warm thank you to our event organizers, Alveda Williams, Tiffany Torain, Andrew Grissom, Venessa Hughes. Laura, who served as our demo. Facilitator, I’m sorry. And Anthony Whitaker, who helped us when it came to Zoom and tech. Lastly, I’d like to thank our audience for your attendance and engagement. A final writeup will be shared upon completion and located on our website under Practices, along with this recording. Thank you, again, to everyone and have a wonderful day.