The Forum on Workplace Inclusion® brings DEI to our ears
By Mark Stone
For 31 years, The Forum on Workplace Inclusion® (The Forum) has served as a convening hub for those seeking to grow professional leadership and effectiveness skills in the field of diversity, equity and inclusion by engaging people, advancing ideas and igniting change.
A part of the Office of Diversity & Inclusion at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the Forum’s mission is to expand mindsets, skill sets and tool sets necessary for true workplace inclusion through its annual conference, other events and programs and media platforms.
If you’re familiar with The Forum, it’s probably because of the organization’s legendary conference. This year’s conference, its 31st, takes place from April 16 to 18 in Minneapolis.
But The Forum is expanding its reach with the launch of The Forum on Workplace Inclusion® Podcast, which encourages and engages conversations about those topics core to The Forum’s mission. The podcast features guests from industries around the globe and will continue to grow as the show moves beyond its opening season.
Ben Rue, The Forum’s Program Coordinator, explained that the concept for the podcast was hatched to meet the need for finding innovative ways to expand the organization’s professional development and learning opportunities and to make them more accessible to a broader audience.
“The Forum Podcast is just one way The Forum is expanding our content beyond our annual flagship conference,” he said.
So far, the podcast has featured a wide range of thought leaders from academia, non-profits, corporate DEI and consultants. Boasting expansive topics and solid production values, the podcast is produced with a surprisingly small team.
“We run pretty lean and efficient in our office,” Rue said. “From selection to production, there’s just three of us: our Executive Director Steve Humerickhouse curates the content, I coordinate schedules and record the podcast with our presenters and Ender Göçmen works post-production and distribution. It’s amazing what you can achieve with a small yet dedicated team… it’s been very exciting!”
With eight podcasts produced and released to date, the team has accumulated enough experience to learn how they can streamline production when the next season rolls around. For Ender Göçmen, Assistant Marketing Director, the biggest takeaway at this stage of the game is to allow for plenty of planning time in post-production.
“While the tools we have today certainly make it much easier for us to be creative in the digital space, there’s still a lot of time that goes into the editing process,” he said. “Picking the content, scheduling the recording sessions and recording also takes careful planning.” Yet no matter how hard they plan, he admits that the team must also be prepared to abandon the plan and go with the flow.
So far, the flow has involved topics ranging from addressing tribalism in the workplace (Episode 7) to pragmatic ways minority professionals can “earn a seat at the table” and keep it (Episode 3). A recent episode moved from immediate action items to a forward-looking view with Third Wave: The Future of Work, Engagement, Well-Being & Inclusion.
“We’re excited about traversing even more topics this year,” said Rue. “The podcast series will cover a wide range of topics from Women and DEI in the workplace to religion, whiteness and corporate activism.”
It’s interesting to note that all the podcast content (not to mention the organization’s webinar content) are chosen from proposals submitted originally for the conference. Rue explained that given all the great potential sessions they could host at the conference, there’s not enough room to work into the limited number of slots available.
“Our 2019 podcast schedule is already planned out [drawing from those proposals],” he said. “That said, we have a few ‘special episodes’ on the drawing board. You’ll have to subscribe and see.”
Everyone who subscribes to the podcast quickly discovers that DEI work is not a once-a-year effort. The podcast’s overarching goal is to make workplace DEI learning opportunities a year-long proposition rather than limited to an annual conference or workplace seminar. In service of that goal, Göçmen invites podcast listeners to engage with more of The Forum’s media platforms like the monthly webinars, videos, blog posts and more.
Over and above that very important message, the podcast team hopes that listeners understand that learning is no longer limited to formal institutions and traditional delivery methods.
“Learning doesn’t just happen in classrooms, conference rooms, libraries and break-out sessions,” Göçmen said. “You can learn on the way to work, in your car, on the train or however you commute. You can take amazing content from some of the world’s premiere DEI thought leaders with you wherever you go.”