In the past three years, Second City Works has become increasingly important to the comedy shop’s bottom line, Humphreys said. Its revenue has grown by 67%, and the department now makes up a third of Second City’s overall revenue. Humphreys attributes this growth to organizations’ increased investment in their employees’ soft skills. ”Ideas like empathy, vulnerability and emotional intelligence weren’t common in the business landscape decades ago,” she says. “Now, they are seen as critical to success.”

Diversity and inclusion have also become a priority. To that end, the enterprise software company SAP came to Second City Works last year to ask for help putting together a training program for all 78,000 of its employees. It was a tall order, especially considering Second City Works had not produced diversity training videos before.

Humphreys and her team worked with SAP’s internal educational department, as well as diversity experts from the consultancy Korn Ferry, to write and produce six custom educational videos for SAP. The videos, which will be rolled out to SAP employees worldwide starting in August, address differences in culture, gender, sexual orientation, and age, and, ultimately, aim to show how embracing these differences can make a team better.

A clip from one of Second City’s videos for SAP.
Image: SAP

Again, the troupe’s experience in comedy has come in handy. “We are well-versed in dealing with tricky topics and not playing into stereotypes,” Humphreys said. “Our comedic expertise is in finding the truth and highlighting that.”

She points to the television show The Office as an example of how this approach plays out in the training videos. The show, which stars Second City alum Steve Carrell, wrings humor from office stereotypes, and its quirky cast of characters remind many of their own co-workers. 

“Everyone knows a Dwight Shrute,” Humphreys said. “You’re laughing at the familiarity, which opens up some space to talk about it.”

Image: SAP

Second City Works is currently developing its own diversity and inclusion series, similar to the one it did with SAP, but without the specific branding.

“To be able to make content about diversity feels very important to us,” Humphreys says. “The plan is to keep growing and reach as many organizations as possible.”

Image: SAP

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