“These are the conversations we need to have. And we're just getting started.” Our Speak with Courage video says it all. As you watch, you’ll see employees speaking about their experiences with Courageous Conversation Circles, also known as C3.
Since 2018, we’ve been encouraging our employees to have conversations that help us grow through our C3 initiative. It's just one of many inclusive cultural practices that the company has embraced – and employees at all levels are benefitting from these ongoing discussions around a variety of difficult topics, including:
- Military status
- Mental health
“An inclusive work culture drives higher levels of employee engagement and satisfaction and is critical to our company’s success,” explained Miranda Bennett-King, Director of Inclusion Initiatives. “Learning how to dialogue across differences helps employees to develop mutual respect and an appreciation for others’ perspectives. These interactions lead to more trust and understanding, as well as deeper, stronger, more meaningful relationships,” Miranda noted.
The list of topics is continuously growing to address subjects that employees want to cover. The conversations are deep and often personal, but employees leave each discussion with an enhanced connection to their colleagues. The format offers a safe place for employees to learn about each other and engage in difficult dialogue. Our goal is that these conversations would work to build skills that employees are able to apply in other work-related situations – and it’s working. We’ve heard from many that this has helped them in ways they never expected.
Wex Carter, Assistant Director for Learning and Quality with The Hartford’s Group Benefits team, attended a Courageous Conversation Circle where Black culture was part of the discussion. “I have my story to tell and could relate my story to others that were being told. The C3 was a forum to push political correctness aside and go into an environment where people were allowed to remove barriers,” he said.
“The conversation was not just about being Black in the workplace, but about growing up in Black America. The C3 was a platform to help enlighten people who haven’t had that experience,” Wex explained. “The group was very open and willing to contribute. It’s just awesome that we're free to talk about things at work that people may not talk about.”
Jenna Janicki, who works with Wex as a Senior Learning Consultant, agrees that Courageous Conversation Circles have produced a space that is not typical of corporate workplaces. Jenna attended a C3 on mental health and noted that the conversations were more than just sharing your own story or experience. “‘Courageous listening’ allows you to just listen to other people’s stories that make you think or challenge you,” Jenna said.
“There's this healing component and emotional component that is really meaningful,” she said. “You're connecting with people far from your daily group.”
For Jenna, that’s led to connections that have lasted beyond the C3. “I've even had some reach out after the fact to let me know that something I talked about resonated with them, or to let me know they would be there if I needed someone to talk to. That's a part of the culture that I think we wouldn't have had without C3’s.”
Wex agrees that time spent in Courageous Conversation Circles has been well worth it:
“Time is money. To spend money to allow us to have these conversations says a lot about our leadership team. The fact they’re willing to make the investment to try to be a difference maker in the realm of social awareness and social acceptance is huge. That commitment from our leaders has done a lot for me to say that our environment is continuing to make progress. If our leaders are willing to demonstrate their commitment, then I think that will trickle down to the rest of us.”
“There's always something to come away from a C3 that is inspiring,” Jenna says. “It's challenged me to think of things that I can implement in the workplace that have long-term effects. So, how can I integrate that into our culture?”
One way Wex and Jenna have been able to carry the C3 experience into the workplace is by having deeper, more honest exchanges with colleagues and managers.
“I think the relationship that I have with my manager is so important to those courageous conversations happening more frequently than just this C3-specific event,” Jenna says. She reflects on her own positive conversations she’s had with her manager when developing new manager training. This helps them to have those conversations with people on their team and continue the cycle of understanding and meaningful relationships.
“I have hope that we will continue to offer platforms like Courageous Conversation Circles,” Wex says, “and continue to evolve so that we create a culture of people who are more aware and more in tune, and then better equipped to deal with things both in and out of the workplace.”
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