Five Ways to Build Digital Inclusion and Accessibility into your Adoption and Change Management (ACM) Project

Adoption & Change Management

5 Ways to Build Digital Inclusion and Accessibility into Your ACM Project

5 Ways to Build Digital Inclusion and Accessibility into your Adoption and Change Management (ACM) Project

Embarking on your Adoption and Change Management (ACM) project means you have made a significant commitment to focus on the people in your organization and to put them at the center of your desired changes. At SoftwareONE, we see this as the perfect opportunity to build digital inclusion and accessibility into the culture of your organization. It is estimated that more than 1 billion people (15% of the world’s population) are living with permanent disabilities, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an even higher percentage, with 1 in 4 adults (26%) in the United States having some type of disability. It’s safe to say that every organization has accessibility needs, either for its own staff or for its customers.

This means that every day, over 1 billion people are encountering discrepancies between their abilities and their environments. Because your organization is responsible for some of these environments, these discrepancies could be preventing you from getting the most out of some incredible people.

It is estimated that more than 70% of disabilities are "invisible" and more often than not, employees do not disclose them to their employers. All too often, the right tools are not provided unless they are requested, and making such a request would inadvertently lead to the disclosure of the disability, not just to HR but also to the department responsible for providing the tools. Some employees may feel that revealing something so personal will make them seem vulnerable or less capable of doing their jobs. Consequently, they may end up having to work longer or harder than others to complete their tasks.

There are many types of disabilities to consider when determining a plan for digital inclusion and accessibility within your organization, including mobility, vision, hearing, neurodiversity, mental health, learning and cognition. An organization that is actively more inclusive by embracing best practices for employing and supporting persons with disabilities in the workplace tends to better attract and retain top talent.

With technology leaders building digital inclusion and accessibility features into their products as standard, many organizations now have a wealth of tools and functionalities at their disposal. However, it takes more than technology to change habits, and for some organizations, a complete culture change may be required. This is where ACM delivers by bridging the gap between technology projects and the people expected to use the technology.

1. Organization Assessment

Before change can be achieved, it is essential to assess where your organization is in regards to being ready to adopt the desired change. This presents a unique opportunity to also assess where your organization is when it comes to your culture and attitude towards inclusion. There are tough questions to ask and you should create an environment that allows people to divulge their true feelings and attitudes. The first step is to get people talking. Your people have the answers, they simply need the right forum and the right questions posed to them. Some of the responses may make you feel uncomfortable but with your current state laid bare, you will have a clearer view of what you need to improve on, what will really make a difference and where to start. Additionally, your employees will feel empowered by having had the platform to share their true feelings.

2. Executive Sponsorship

An important piece of your change management methodology is having at least one actively engaged executive sponsor, and his or her passion and determination for change should cascade down throughout the rest of the organization. When tasked with achieving a culture change, your executive sponsor becomes your cultural officer and is a key figure to influence that change. When it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent, it usually only takes a short conversation to convince your sponsor of the merits of using greater digital inclusion and accessibility to help tackle their talent acquisition challenges. When you have a recognizable and influential person representing that message within your organization, you are significantly more likely to successfully deliver meaningful change.

The same philosophy is true when working towards a more inclusive workplace. Imagine if 1 in 4 of those executive sponsors is living with his or her own disability and inspires others by demonstrating what can be achieved. Imagine if 1 in 4 of your colleagues was able to work with the freedom to be his-or-herself, safe in the knowledge that the disability will not lead to the colleague’s exclusion. That can drive real and necessary culture change.

3. New Technology, New Way of Working

We are seeing a significant surge in digital transformation projects and, for many, the deployment of new technology is central to it.  Digital transformation is achieved when an organization can leverage technology to change how their people and processes function to address business problems and improve customer satisfaction. When such technology is being introduced, it is a great opportunity to also introduce digital inclusion and accessibility as part of the processes being overhauled and to make it part of what everyone uses.

Your people can be at their best when accessibility barriers are removed, be it by enabling closed captions, by using Read-Aloud to read text from documents or websites, or even suppressing notifications outside of office hours to reduce their impact on mental health. By having an awareness of the features and using them widely in your organization, they will become part of everyday processes and become engrained in the culture.

Using ACM to coordinate the communication and training of your new technology gives you greater control over the messaging and brokers the relationship between the technology and the employees who will use it.

4. Successful Communication

One of the fundamental pillars of ACM is effective communication. When you think of communicating change, you may picture an email describing the change or an informational article on your intranet. While those certainly represent forms of communication, it is important to remember that enablement training and user feedback are also forms of communication. If any of your communications do not fully consider the accessibility needs of your users, your message may not be landing with everyone, or you may not be getting a true reflection of employee sentiment with respect to your transformation project. Completing accessibility reviews of your communication channels and content is a simple first step towards being more inclusive. Having closed captions on any training videos should be a minimum requirement. You should also take care with the language used, particularly where ableist language could evoke feelings of discrimination.

5. Reinforcement

Once the technology has been delivered, the changes have been enacted, and the technology team moves on to their next project, you’ll need a way to sustain the changes. To do so, you will have to reinforce the reasons for the changes as it is human nature to slip back into old habits. Your ACM engagement will own the reinforcement of the change message and remind everyone why it is right for your organization. This should go beyond the people currently in your organization and should extend to every new hire orientation to reinforce the inclusive culture you foster. Culture is lived at your organization and your values are reinforced through your actions.

We are continuing to learn about how disabilities impact people’s lives and we are continuing to find ways to lessen that impact. With persistent reinforcement, you are better placed to stay current and preserve an inclusive culture within your organization.

Enable Your Workforce to Drive Business Success

Building digital inclusion and accessibility features into your adoption and change management project will truly enable everyone in your workforce to perform their best. Learn how SoftwareONE can help you make your ACM project a success.

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Final Thoughts

Change is hard, but it is important to not let perfect be the enemy of good. The smallest change can make a huge difference to your people, and the decision to change can be monumental. Sometimes, change on a large scale will require alignment with a partner, like SoftwareONE, for advice and guidance.  We will be honest about our own DI&A journey and share our lived experience. Our ACM Advisory focuses on complex scenarios, where organizations seek a strategy to help transform their businesses with technology. SoftwareONE can help your organization drive a successful adoption and change management program for transitioning to a new way of working — giving you not only the "why", but also providing the "how".

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Peadar O'Sullivan

Peadar O'Sullivan

Senior Consultant – Future Workplace

User Productivity, Unified Communications, Adoption and Change Management

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