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- Shimrit Janes, DWG’s Director of Knowledge
Digital inclusivity is a way of working, a culture in which the digital workplace is intentionally made welcoming to everyone – but how can you successfully create this?
In this episode of Digital Workplace Impact, Shimrit Janes, DWG’s Director of Knowledge, shares her latest insights from The inclusive digital workplace: Part 1 – Nurturing digital inclusivity. This recent report, the first in a three-part DWG research series, is available online.
Host Nancy Goebel explores what inspired this series of reports, why Shimrit is releasing Nurturing digital inclusivity first, the difference between inclusivity and accessibility, and why ethics has also been investigated.
A key learning? You can focus on accessibility, but this doesn't mean you're creating an inclusive experience for everyone. Together, Shimrit and Nancy pinpoint great examples from the field as well as opportunities and challenges, covering the principles of good design and the value of becoming a ‘conscious communicator’.
Relevant today more than ever, this podcast offers advice and insights to help those designing and operating in digital workplaces everywhere. Listen now and learn more.
Show notes, links and transcript for this episode:
[00:00:00.410] – Shimrit Janes
What does your digital workplace look like from an inclusivity point of view? Where are the barriers where people are being excluded, where they can’t access something for whatever reason, because it doesn’t feel safe to them psychologically, or it doesn’t feel they’re just not able to access it. And so I think that’s why it’s important to think about exclusion as well as inclusivity. You need the dark and the light, the moon of the sun, to be able to really understand the picture. It’s that smooth feeling, I think, when you’re talking about what does an inclusive Digital workplace feel like, and this is about the feeling of it almost. It feels smooth. You get these little moments of joy that you belong and that you’re seen.
[00:00:39.850] – Nancy Goebel
In this episode of Digital Workplace Impact. You’ll hear from Shimrit Janes, DWG’s Director of Knowledge. The focus of this chat with Shimrit is to delve into her latest insights about nurturing digital inclusivity. And this is actually the first of a three part box set from DWG’s research program. And not only did Shimrit and I have a chance to explore what inspired a three part box set, of which Nurturing Digital Inclusivity is the first part, but we also got to talk a little bit about the sequencing and topics around inclusivity accessibility and ethics and why they’re being released in a specific order. We explored some examples around what good looks like from the field. We talked through opportunities and challenges, and then, of course, as always, we have to get into some of the solutioning frameworks to support important conversations and priorities like this. And so within that context, we talked about principles of good design based on Lou Downe’s framework, along with outputs from interviews with Janet Stovall and Kim Clarke, which had to do with insights about becoming conscious communicators. Be sure to download The inclusive digital workplace. Part 1: Nurturing Digital Inclusivity, one of three nurturing digital inclusivity from the DWG member extranet or our website.
[00:02:24.830] – Nancy Goebel
This research is absolutely a must read for all digital workplace leaders and their teams and of course, their stakeholders. The show notes for this episode include a link to this research along with several additional suggested resources. As always, this is your host, Nancy Goebel, in conversation with Shimrit. Digital Workplace Impact is brought to you by Digital Workplace Group. Happy listening.
[00:02:54.530] – Nancy Goebel
So Shimrit. Welcome. It is just lovely to have a chance to talk to you about such an important topic and one that we see receiving growing attention not only across our member circles, but our wider industry as well. And so, of course, in your role as DWG’s Director of Knowledge, you not only manage the sdwg service, but you’ve also been an anchor member of the research team for a number of years now. And I have to say that your writing has always been so inspiring and thought provoking. And so I couldn’t wait for us to be able to have what feels like a coffee chat among friends while delving into this important topic around nurturing digital Inclusivity. And so you recently took to your writing desk to published what actually morphed into a box set of research on the subject of digital inclusion.
[00:04:04.200] – Nancy Goebel
And I wanted to make sure we set that context for everyone. And so why this topic and why a box set would be a great place to start.
[00:04:14.480] – Shimrit Janes
And just thank you for having me as well. I love talking about this and I know it’s a matter that’s deep and close to your heart as well, so it’s great to be in conversation together about it and why this topic kind of feels obvious almost, but I think we need to say it. I think the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, belonging has always been important. I think the fact that it’s currently in the news and people are focused on it doesn’t mean it wasn’t there before. It’s always been important, but it’s now receiving increased focus for a whole host of reasons. And so the reason because of that. As a result, we know that the digital workplace is the essential workplace for many. It’s something we’ve spoken about, we saw it during the pandemic, it’s increasing its importance all the time. The digital workplace has almost two roles to play when it comes to dei. It can amplify efforts by showcasing the work that is going on through contents, through communications, but it can also be a place of exclusion in itself and a place of inclusivity itself, depending on how it’s designed, depending on the content that’s there or isn’t there, depending on the language, depending on how it’s being used as well.
[00:05:29.240] – Shimrit Janes
And so it was essential for us to be able to focus in on that and explore it basically. Which is also why it’s a publicly available research report. It’s not just for members, it’s publicly available because we want this to be spread out and to be read and kind of a jumping off point for people if needed. As to why it’s three, I wrote too much is a really easy answer. We wanted to explore ethics, we wanted to explore accessibility, we wanted to explore Inclusivity. We didn’t want to leave any of those three out because they were all important. And once I got into the writing, I didn’t want to skimp. And so on Friday I kept writing and didn’t block myself. And so when it got to the end, it was written as one report and we thought, let’s split it into three so that we can have a very clear story that we’re telling. So Inclusivity is the first, ethics will be the second, even though originally it was the first section and then accessibility is the final one as well, which we didn’t want to skimp on either.
[00:06:30.350] – Nancy Goebel
And I think, put another way, it reflects the fact that this is a topic that has many, many layers to it. And for years it was all about accessibility. And actually inclusivity in the digital workplace is not just about accessibility. And so I think it’s always important to put things in context. And so let’s talk a little bit about the difference between inclusivity and accessibility as you’ve laid it out in the research.
[00:07:04.570] – Shimrit Janes
Yeah, and it felt like a really important distinction to make when I was doing the research, it came out really strongly that one doesn’t equal the other. You can focus on accessibility. It doesn’t mean you’re creating an inclusive experience for everybody. You can focus on inclusivity. It doesn’t mean you’re then creating an experience that is accessible for people with disabilities. So you need to be able to hold them together but also treat them in parallel. And I wanted to spotlight somebody that I follow on masterdon. His name is Nick Colley. He’s a London-based disabled access designer and developer. And he tweeted and didn’t tweet because that’s not what you do on Mastodon, but tooted recently the difference, and he said bordering accessibility into anything that excludes people, erases disabled people because it favors majority groups. And we’re saying that time and again. He’s seen this play out. When you talk about accessibility and try and make it for everybody and make about inclusivity, disabled people are marginalized again. And so this idea of accessibility is for everyone. Yes, a lot of people benefit from a focus on accessibility, but it doesn’t mean that it’s not okay.
[00:08:14.660] – Shimrit Janes
You can still have value in focusing on accessibility as being just for disabled people. That is needed, that is an experience in and of itself that needs to be focused on. So when we talk about digital inclusivity, it’s a way of working. It’s a culture through which the digital workplace is intentionally made welcome for everybody. That includes focusing on inclusive design. It focuses on inclusive content, inclusive communications, and also behaviors within and around using the digital workplace. And that’s what we’re going to be focusing on today. So we’ll get more into that. But then when we talk about accessibility, it’s a specific intention to remove the barriers that exclude people from with disabilities from using and participating in the digital workplace, and those outcomes can benefit everybody. So if you design for somebody who, for example, has an amputated arm, that benefits somebody who is also a new parent, holding a child in one arm and trying to type with one the other, for example. But it’s okay to say that we’re focusing on accessibility because it serves our disabled population and that’s people with physical and cognitive and mental and all the range and invisible disabilities as well.
[00:09:22.360] – Shimrit Janes
So that’s why it was important to split the two out. So we focus on inclusivity first in this report, and then we have a separate one focused on accessibility.
[00:09:31.350] – Nancy Goebel
That’s really very helpful context, and I think it’s a powerful foundation for us to be able to go a little bit deeper into this box set, starting with the first chapter around nurturing digital inclusivity specifically. And in laying this box set out, was there any thought about why lead with nurturing digital inclusivity first?
[00:09:57.230] – Shimrit Janes
So it’s interesting, when I originally wrote it, it was ethics first and then inclusivity and then accessibility, because it felt like a nest where you start with ethics and talk and exploring what that means and then getting into inclusivity. But actually, when we separated the three out, inclusivity feels like a foundational point to start with. You can then have it as a standalone, which really sets out the key principles of what we mean by inclusivity. And then we can dive into, okay, and what does an ethical approach look like within that, and what does accessibility look like within that? So that was the flip when we made the change.
[00:10:32.730] – Nancy Goebel
I’m going to blue sky for a moment with you. I know that we’re all learning and evolving around this area of focus vis a vis digital workplace, but can you frame for us what an inclusive digital workplace should look and feel like inside organizations?
[00:10:50.920] – Shimrit Janes
I can kind of start with an example for myself. It’s not necessarily a digital workplace example, but it’s an example of how digital tools can help nurture this feeling of belonging and inclusivity. So my name is Shimrit Shimrit Janes. Or fully Shimrit Hamadani Janes. It’s not spelt that way. And I often have to correct people, or it can create a lot of tension. It can feel quite awkward. It raises questions about heritage that I don’t always necessarily want to discuss. And so LinkedIn a couple of years ago, introduced a tool where you can just record your name. The pronunciation of it is on your profile, and people can check it. It’s something that quite a few digital workplaces are also introducing. And I’ve seen examples of it where internally on your profile, you provide that ability to just record your name and actually fuels this idea of being able to feel like you belong in the digital workplace because people can learn how to say your name. When I did mine, I thought nothing of it. I thought, no one will probably look at it, but at least I’ve put it out there. And a couple of times since then, I’ve been speaking with someone new, for example, for a podcast or for something else through a professional context.
[00:11:58.990] – Shimrit Janes
I’ve asked them, do you need help pronouncing my name? And they’ve just said it straight off the bat, as it’s supposed to be pronounced, because they’ve gone to my LinkedIn profile, listened to it, and taken the time to learn. And it’s that smooth feeling, I think, when you’re talking about what does an inclusive digital workplace feel like, and this is about the feeling of it almost, it feels smooth. You get these little moments of joy that you belong and that you’re seen. I don’t know if you’ve had any experiences like that, Nancy.
[00:12:32.130] – Nancy Goebel
I’m just going to try to think that through. I know that there are lots of organizations that have affinity groups. One that doesn’t often get a lot of attention is the needs of women, in particular women who are entering into that window where menopause is kicking in. And I have to say, when Sarah Escott, who has been a core part of our events team and looks after our digital workplace and how we come together as a team, she took the initiative to start this affinity group. And suddenly there was a level of candid conversation happening about women in the workplace, around this topic and the challenges and the resources. And it’s kind of interesting because a lot of our colleagues are in the US or the UK, and how things are managed is very different. And I know as sitting out of the US I learned a lot from my UK colleagues, and it gave me the courage to ask different questions than I probably would have left my own devices. And I felt like I also had a safe sharing space. So that’s an example of where I felt included in a very unique way.
[00:13:58.670] – Nancy Goebel
And that is sort of the DWG workplace story exemplified in a lot of ways.
[00:14:04.880] – Shimrit Janes
And it’s a really nice example of the one that I shared is a tool being made available specifically designed to fuel inclusivity. Yours is an example of behavior using normal digital workplace tools, being used to then foster a sense of belonging and inclusivity as well, and also to support diversity. So it’s two really nice examples of the kind of spectrum that you can have and just to get deeper into it as well. Two of the people that we interviewed for the research report are Janet M Stovall and also Kim Clarke, who are co-authors of The Conscious Communicator. And I started the interview asking, what does the inclusive digital workplace look and feel like for you? Because they’re experts, they deal in inclusive communications, they deal in dei, they’ve seen all the good, the bad and the ugly around this. And so for Janet, she said, an inclusive digital workplace feels like digital inclusion that ensures all employees, including the frontline, who we know often get forgotten, experience the same culture, the same conditions and opportunities, no matter where they work from. So for Janet, it’s about a level playing field with equal access to technology, resources and information that people need to do their jobs efficiently and effectively.
[00:15:18.460] – Shimrit Janes
So it’s that level playing field. And then when I asked him, she summed it up beautifully. She said the digital workplace is a key element in a dei strategy, which is what we were saying at the start. And she wants to be able to see herself in the workplace, to know that she was in mind and that her identities were in mind as they designed it. And I think that’s it, that’s it. That’s ultimately what anyone wants. And the same as you want that in the physical world, you want that in the digital world as well. And so that was the kind of the feel of what a digital workplace is. It’s that smoothness, that’s seeing yourself reflected that feeling that you belong. And then when you start to get deeper into it, into the kind of what does that actually mean in reality? As part of the research, I found a paper from they’re called Shropshire Council. They’re here in the UK. And they have a paper specifically looking at digital inclusion. And they said the elements that contribute to that are equipment, so physical access to the tools that you need, the skills.
[00:16:19.630] – Shimrit Janes
So the ability to actually use the tools effectively, and the motivation to making use of the equipment and the skills. And it’s really easy to look at that kind of triumvirate and say, okay, well, that’s down to the individual. I need to make sure I have the tools I need to make sure I have the skills I need to make sure I’m motivated. But what that report and I think also when you start to look at things like the living systems view of the world, which we look at in Nature of Work our book, you kind of broaden that out and say, well, the things that impact my ability to use the equipment aren’t just my access to it. Maybe the process to get the equipment is actually really hard to use because the process the organization has designed is inaccessible or just doesn’t make sense, or you just give up because you can’t order your laptop or tools that you need. Same with the skills. There’s going to be a whole host of reasons why someone might not have the skills and motivation. Likewise, if you’re experiencing microaggressions in the workplace, in the digital workplace, your motivation to use those tools goes down.
[00:17:19.070] – Shimrit Janes
If your manager is micromanaging you, if your team is using the digital workplace in such a way that you feel excluded, your motivation goes down. So it’s interconnected. It’s this dance between the individual and the team and the organization and the social environment and so many things that go into that. And so how we decided to structure the research was looking at three key areas of what is it that contributes to a digital workplace, an inclusive digital workplace. So we looked at inclusive design approaches, and it’s almost like how you build the house. Have you built the house in a way that is accessible and inclusive, and you’ve thought through everything that people need in terms of that, and that’s elements. Like, we look at the double diamond of design, where you’re including people from a diverse section of the organization throughout, not just at the testing phase, but throughout, from scoping it out, to designing it, to listening to them, all of the things that we know are good around inclusive designs. And there’s a load of other issues and areas within that as well that we go into in more depth and then we look at inclusive communications and content.
[00:18:32.310] – Shimrit Janes
So if the design is the house, the inclusive communications and content are almost like the things that go in it, the furniture, your dishwasher, the crockery, all those things are kind of the furnishings. And so are you using inclusive language? Are you using inclusive imagery? Is the content easy to find? So that if you have, for example, if you’re neurodiverse, the content is laid out in such a way that you can easily make sense of it and there are a whole load again of things within that that we go into in more depth in the research report and then finally the inclusive ways of working. So how are people actually living in the house and behaving with each other? So, for example, the way that you run your meetings, you can have the same technology that’s set up to be inclusive, but you can have two very different experiences depending on how that meeting is being run. One might be designed in such a way to be inclusive and facilitated in an inclusive way, another might not be. And so that’s why we focused on those three areas.
[00:19:33.910] – Nancy Goebel
I have to say this three pronged approach breaks things down so that they can be absorbed in a very simple yet comprehensive way and really starting to get focused on what’s needed in some of your framing points around the look and feel. It also gave some insight about why we need to care about an inclusive digital workplace. But I think it’s worth coming back to that as a specific question for you, Shimrit, to make sure that we are thinking about this comprehensively. And part of the reason I say that is because in the early days of accessibility agendas web specific which touched the digital workplace and the intranets at the time, many organizations ventured into this space for legal reasons. There were special interest groups that were knocking on the doors of a website, then venturing into the career site, and then starting to ask some really tricky questions about what was happening behind the firewall. And so many accessibility agendas got started for those reasons, as opposed to thinking about it with the employee experience lens and what was needed for people to bring their whole selves to work, bring their best selves to work and to feel like they were truly part of the organization and supported accordingly.
[00:21:15.530] – Nancy Goebel
So, backing it up again, why care about an inclusive digital workplace?
[00:21:22.650] – Shimrit Janes
And the accessibility point is a really interesting one because while I was doing the research, I came across a beautiful articulation of it by a disability advocate. That was if you think about how a building is designed and it has steps at the beginning. So meeting regulations is providing a ramp so that people who use a wheelchair and can access the building. However, where do you put the ramp? You could stick it around the back and people are then entering the building through the back entrance instead of having an equal experience through the front. And so you can’t just meet regulations. You need to think about the experience of it as well. And that was just a beautiful way of articulating it. That stuck with me. And so that why is really why wouldn’t you want 100% of your workforce and 100% of the recruitment talent pool as well, especially now, to be able to use the tools that they need to do their job and to feel an equal part of that organizational community? It feels like such a simple thing to ask, but yeah, we need to get deeper into that why. And so I think, yes, avoiding discriminatory practices and kind of meeting the legal is when we talk about ethics in that report, it’s like the minimal of the why of why you need to do it.
[00:22:38.450] – Shimrit Janes
However, like what you were saying in providing this and in thinking through inclusivity, you’re kind of giving that opportunity for people to work in a way and to participate in a way that doesn’t risk physical or mental harm. And it can cause physical harm if you are providing something that accessibility that people aren’t able to use properly, that can cause physical harm. But I think also when we’re talking about inclusivity, if you’re not using inclusive language and imagery, that can cause mental harm as well. And people take that away with them. And so I think that’s a really important thing to think about is what harm could we be doing by not providing an inclusive digital workplace? We’ve also said already that it can support and amplify dei work. And so it’s a really good opportunity if your organization is really focused on its dei culture and work. If you’re not including the digital workplace, you’re missing out half of the experience, or a lot of the time, a lot of the experience, because that’s how people are accessing the organization now for a lot of people who are remote or hybrid. And so it’s a fantastic way of amplifying that work and really showcasing it.
[00:23:50.330] – Shimrit Janes
We’ve said that it can avoid discriminatory practices, but I think it also contributes to a diverse workforce. If you want people, if you’re hiring in a diverse way, you need to make sure that the culture itself is inclusive and that people feel like they belong. Otherwise they’re not going to stay. Your attention is going to drop. And so having an inclusive digital workplace helps contribute to that as well. And then there’s a whole host of other things. Like we said, there’s a rise of distributed and hybrid and flexible working. So the digital workplace is the front door for people a lot of the time when they experience the organization and experience relationships with each other. And again, that inclusivity needs to just be kind of threaded throughout the experience. Otherwise, again, exclusion is going to happen. And so there are a few of the things, there’s lots more that we explore and I think as well, one of the things we talk about in Nature of Work is the permeable boundaries between an organization and society. So if you’re providing an inclusive digital workplace, the experience that person has that they takes home to their family, they feel completely different compared to if they’re experiencing an exclusionary digital workplace, it can help with employment as well and so many other areas.
[00:25:05.320] – Shimrit Janes
And so the ripple effects go out if you have an inclusive digital workplace.
[00:25:10.690] – Nancy Goebel
And clearly this whole notion of why I care is one that allows us to illustrate not only the importance of putting this on the map for digital workplace transformation, but I also want to make sure we don’t lose sight of the fact that the digital workplace is really a reflection of the culture of the organization. And if we think about the digital headquarters as that experience layer that’s taken on added importance over the last couple of years alongside the physical headquarters of an organization, this is the clear cut business case for why this needs to get the attention in all three dimensions and more that you’ve highlighted as part of this box set series. Taking us a bit further, there is an expression that in order to understand the light, you have to experience the darkness. And I think it’s really important to bring this idea into the discussion. So I’m going to ask you, why does digital exclusion happen?
[00:26:27.470] – Shimrit Janes
Yeah, and this is something that came out really strongly when I was looking at organizations like Microsoft and how they approach inclusive design for their own tools. And a lot of them were saying that we approach it through exclusion. And so there was a great graphic that I’ve included in the research report, which is it’s quite old now, but it’s a version of the London Tube map. I’m in London, so this is meaningful for me. Hopefully it’s meaningful for others as well. But it shows what the Tube map looked like good few years ago. Now, if you needed disabled access, it shows all the points at which you’re able to get off and get onto the train and it’s like London doesn’t exist. When you look at it, the points at which you’re actually able to access it are minimal. It has improved a bit now, actually, but it’s still not great. And so when you look at that and you think about inclusivity and you think about your own digital workplace, what does your digital workplace look like from an inclusivity point of view? Where are the barriers where people are being excluded, where they can’t access something for whatever reason, because it doesn’t feel safe for them psychologically or they’re just not able to access it.
[00:27:37.700] – Shimrit Janes
And so I think that’s why it’s important to think about exclusion as well as inclusivity. You need the dark and the light, the moon and the sun to be able to really understand the picture. And so Lou Downe, who worked at the Government Digital Services organization a good few years ago, has written a book called Good Services: How to design services that work. And they articulated it in terms of exclusion happens when we solve problems using our own biases. And it’s when we are so focused on our own experience and what we think it should be that we forget that everybody’s experience is different. And I think that’s how exclusion happens. We forget that everybody has a different experience. When we talk about exclusion, the role of cognitive bias is huge. We make assumptions around what a normal user is. And actually there’s no such thing as a normal user because no user, no person is static. That changes the entire time over the course of the employee lifecycle and a person’s life. So how are you designing and creating an environment which actively seeks to include everybody, regardless of where they are or who they are and making sure you’re not excluding anyone based on your biases?
[00:28:47.210] – Shimrit Janes
And there’s a great person called David Dylan Thomas, who we cite in the research report, who talks about designing for cognitive bias. And they suggest things like doing an assumptions audit at the beginning of any design project. If you’re designing something in the digital workplace, do an assumptions audit to start with. What assumptions are you making about your users based on who is in the design team? And so there are things that you can do to start to disrupt those ways of thinking. And there’s a great list of questions you can ask yourself as a digital workplace team within the research report. You can ask yourself that at any point in your process just to disrupt your way of thinking. So that is one exclusion happens because of cognitive bias. And I think another is, if we’re honest, the lack of diversity in digital workplace teams. If you don’t have people that represent the cross section of people over your workforce within your digital workplace team, is that perspective being heard when you’re going about your design, when you’re going about your content strategy, your learning? And so as really another area which is maybe an absence of appropriate partners, so are you partnering with your employee resource groups in order to make sure they’re a part of the process and doing the design and testing with you, you co-creating the digital workplace with them?
[00:30:07.670] – Shimrit Janes
Or are they kind of being left by the wayside as just a normal user compared to everybody else? Another area was just a need for learning. This was a learning experience for me and I care about this area deeply and it was still a learning experience doing the research. And so people, continuous digital workplace team, continuously learning about new areas that are emerging or just making sure they’re deepening what they know about all the different identities or what inclusivity means as well. There’s loads of others like we’ve spoken about the need for inclusive design. So if you’re not designing in an inclusive way, you’re going to have an experience that excludes people. But I think you mentioned how a lot of people to start with for accessibility. I kind of entered it through the legal route and I think something we’re seeing is a lack of dedicated resources, especially now as budgets, budgets are struggling, we’re seeing layoffs in so many different areas as well. And so when times are tough, inclusivity is often the first place to go. However, if you’re trying to retain the people that you have and at one point, at some point, you’re going to be recruiting again.
[00:31:20.430] – Shimrit Janes
And actually it also means that the talent pool is being flooded with amazing talent at the moment. And so if you’re cutting those resources to your digital workplace about how to make it inclusive, I’m going to get cutting off your nose to spite your face. But it’s such a huge opportunity and it often creates really innovative solutions as well for people. I think you’re going to say something.
[00:31:48.880] – Nancy Goebel
Yeah, it’s one of those things. I think you honed in on a really important point at a time when economic pressures are likely to squeeze digital workplace budgets, at least to some degree, if not in a more significant way this year. And I think back to the podcast that I did with a duo from Avanade when they shared what they’re doing relative to the metaverse. And one of the first things they said they were surprised by was that when they introduced the use of the metaverse as a recruiting tool, it diversified their applicant pool significantly. And so think about the life cycle of an employee where you’ve now attracted employees who may not otherwise have come to you through traditional recruiting methods and they walk in the door and there’s a level of digital disappointment or friction because the space isn’t inclusive all the way through the employee life cycle. You’ve now lost the employee before you had them, in a sense, and you’re now going to have the negative halo effect around that person’s experience and wherever they carry that going forward. So it is definitely one of the thinking points I had in emphasizing the importance of starting this conversation with the what, the so what and the why.
[00:33:27.490] – Nancy Goebel
And those foundational elements are critically important for this conversation and creating that safe learning space for our members who invariably are going to be faced with some of these tough questions around, do we really need to do this?
[00:33:47.530] – Shimrit Janes
Yeah. And I think as well, it’s something that came up time and again in the research is the idea that inclusivity isn’t an afterthought. It can’t be, oh, after we’ve designed everything, how do we make this inclusive? It’s actually a core part of how you work. It’s threaded throughout your design process. It’s threaded throughout. How do we create a content strategy? Florin from Avanade, who I think you probably interviewed for that research, I read a book that he wrote with another person about digital ethics, which was recommended by you, actually. So thank you. And he says that ethics needs to be in the first stack of the technology, the first layer of the technology stack. And it’s the same with inclusivity. Inclusivity needs to be in that first layer of your digital workplace where every time you’re thinking about what you’re doing, how are we making this inclusive? Who could we be excluding? What are the unintended consequences of what we’re doing that we’re not seeing? And as soon as you start to answer those questions, you’re almost naturally starting to create an inclusive environment because you’re asking those questions and you’re thinking about them.
[00:34:57.870] – Shimrit Janes
And there’s a few other things, like we could talk about the mechanistic mindset that people have where you forget that users are actually people who live and breathe. And so, again, going out and partnering and speaking with people helps break that. And teams and managers not knowing how to work inclusively. I think we’re seeing this more and more when the question of hybrid working and the remote and distributed working has come up. How do you foster inclusive ways of working and coach people to know how to do that as well?
[00:35:27.690] – Nancy Goebel
So I know we could spend our entire window of time focused on exploring the what, the so what, and the why. But I do want to make sure we reserve a little bit of time to start to get into the how. And so as part of the research, you shared Lou Downe’s 15 principles of good service design from one of the books you read as part of working through this research. So where do these fit into the digital inclusion landscape and can you take us through those principles?
[00:36:05.910] – Shimrit Janes
Yeah, so I think the book is about good service design and you’re like, well, the digital workplace is technology, but the digital workplace is a service. You’re providing a service for your employees. How do you design that in a good way? I’m not going to go through all 15 because I know we’re limited on time. I just want to spotlight a few. So, for example, they say that a good service is easy to find. So search and findability might feel like it’s just about search and findability, but actually it fits into the inclusivity side as well to how easy it is and how that feeling of belonging and joy that you can create within a digital workplace that makes you feel like you belong. If you’re putting a search term in and it’s just not recognizing it or you’re finding it hard to find, not only is it going to impact your neurodiverse employees, it just creates frustration and that’s not a feeling of belonging and inclusivity or joy. That’s the jagged feeling that you get when something isn’t for you. And so you’re working with people to make everything easy to find. There’s a few others, like for example, it’s consistent throughout, it has no dead ends.
[00:37:15.620] – Shimrit Janes
It’s really thinking through that experience is usable by everyone, equally encourages the right behaviors from users and staff. I think this is where we start to get a little bit into the ethics side. But are you encouraging healthy behaviors through the design of the digital workplace as opposed to unhealthy behaviors? And that also gets into areas like how are you making use of notifications? Are you encouraging people to show that they’re present all hours of the day because that’s what the technology is asking for. And so what behaviors are you asking of people when they use the digital workplace? Clearly explaining why a decision has been made to that level of transparency around what’s being done and make it easy to get human assistance when needed. I think especially at the moment where there’s so much chat about ChatGPT and AI and bots, they have such a crucial role to play in the digital workplace. Not everyone is always comfortable using those. So do you still have a human at the end of a phone or a chat or a meeting in order to get assistance as well? Let’s not forget the human touch in amongst all the benefits that AI can bring us as well.
[00:38:26.690] – Shimrit Janes
So they’re just a few of them.
[00:38:28.070] – Nancy Goebel
And just extending that example a little bit, you think about when podcast or video was introduced into the organizational landscape. Suddenly people had to think about transcripts because either people were sitting in places where they couldn’t have audio playing or because they have auditory issues and needed support and the transcript allowed someone to stay tuned into the content, or because English is a second language and it was hard to absorb it orally. And so having the transcript alongside for the visual support was meaningful. For that reason, as we do delve into the world of ChatGPT or artificial intelligence capabilities, we have to figure out what’s needed to balance that equation. So that’s a very powerful way to frame things. Have we missed anything you wanted to cover around these guiding principles?
[00:39:29.440] – Shimrit Janes
Let’s leave it there. We can give the link to the full set of 15 and there’s also a wonderful self assessment tool that’s available for free on that website as well, which we can provide.
[00:39:40.600] – Nancy Goebel
Fantastic. So we’ll be sure to include those in our related resources. So I’m down to just on my last couple of questions for you, Shimrit, and wondering if in true DWG fashion, you could share some examples of what good looks like to really help bring this framework to life.
[00:40:01.830] – Shimrit Janes
We interviewed a team from MassMutual for the research report and they shared some amazing things that they’re doing. And so what they’ve done. When we spoke about exclusion, there were things like the need for deeper learning, absence of appropriate partners. They worked really closely with their adapt business resource group who are people who are disabled, who are gathering together and providing and kind of talking about their experience within MassMutual. And so they partnered really closely with them in order to ensure that the digital workplace that they were designing or the new intranet was accessible. And I think as well, for them, they were really clear that they are on a process of continuous learning. They are constantly reading, listening, attending conferences. And I think for them as well, they said it’s a part of everybody’s job and it’s just integrated into how they work and how they think day-to-day, whenever they’re thinking about a new tool or a new content strategy or a piece of content or anything. ‘Are we making this inclusive?’ Is a part of everybody’s role, it’s just a part of the conversation naturally. And so that’s a really good example, is the MassMutual example.
[00:41:11.510] – Shimrit Janes
And then there was another, which is the Zoological Society of London ZSL, or London Zoo, if you know it well, if you’re in London. So they use Yammer really extensively to help with knowledge sharing. It connects the workforce and the leadership in all the beautiful ways that we know that Yammer can do. But as well, they use it to help break stigma and to help create an inclusive environment around mental health. So they have run campaigns where they encourage people to be able to share their stories around struggling with mental health. And they’ve created a safe environment or a brave environment in which people feel comfortable to be able to do that. And using the digital workplace to break stigma, people realize they’re not alone. They realize that other people have experienced similar things to them. Or if you haven’t experienced those things, that maybe your family have your learning from others in order to better support your family and friends and also colleagues. And so that was another wonderful example of how the digital workplace can be used to foster an environment of inclusivity as well. So there are two really good examples that we spotlight.
[00:42:18.930] – Shimrit Janes
The MassMutual one is going to be in the accessibility report. The ZSL one is in this first one. But yeah, lots of good examples across the whole report.
[00:42:28.590] – Nancy Goebel
And certainly these examples help bring these priorities and concepts to life. So that’s very helpful in sharing these Shimrit. And I guess the last area to explore with you is the world of becoming more conscious communicators. And you had a chance to chat with Janet Stovall and Kim Clarke, as you mentioned in framing this research. What can you share about this with us in concepts?
[00:42:59.270] – Shimrit Janes
So the way that Kim phrased it when I asked was a conscious communicator is one who understands that everyone has unconscious biases, including themselves. And if you don’t catch these in the process and adjust, then they start to influence your work. And so it was really about building the skills as it’s focused on internal communicators. But I think it’s equally valid for people who are just part of the digital workplace because you’re influencing the experience. So do you have that dei lens for your work? Do you recognize that your experiences of the world are limited and are you seeking out those different experiences? So are you being intentional? Are you being conscious of the work that you’re doing and your role of it and who you’re connecting with and not connecting with? So they’ve developed it’s called depth model. They’ve asked that people go to the website to download the graphics and get more detail around that. So we’ll provide the link. But it’s a framework that really helps people understand how they’re crafting communications and content through that dei lens in order to make it inclusive. And so I wanted to make sure we spotlighted that as well, because it’s about the internal journey that you need to go through as part of this.
[00:44:12.850] – Shimrit Janes
It’s not just about doing things in the digital workplace. It’s about kind of the internal learning that needs to take place as well. So that’s an important part, I think, to spotlight too.
[00:44:24.050] – Nancy Goebel
Very powerful conversation Shimrit. Before we move into our final minutes together. What have we missed?
[00:44:32.350] – Shimrit Janes
I think the big one is maybe a phrase that came up time and again as I was doing this, and that is perfection is the enemy of progress. If you feel like you need to do this perfectly or not do it all, you’re never going to get started. And so rather than aiming to be perfect with this is just get started. Talk to people. Engage with any employee resource groups that exist. Talk to people, hear what they feel and what they think, and that will get you started. Start to understand where exclusion might be and go step by step.
[00:45:06.980] – Nancy Goebel
And this just comes back to a theme that we hear time and time again. Start small and build, test and learn. And that’s the way that you are taken on an unexpected journey that allows for progress on an incremental basis. And when you add up all of those elements, you’ve actually achieved something significant. I think that’s a great place for us to pause for today. And Shimrit, I have to thank you for taking the time to have an exploration with us around nurturing digital inclusivity.
[00:45:49.210] – Shimrit Janes
[00:45:52.210] – Nancy Goebel
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