By Emily Hammer

Recommendations and guidelines are good for what they do: demanding a bare minimum. But rarely are they able to keep up with the fast-evolving digital spaces that we interact in, for which there is no precedent of “accommodations.” In response, we must be more generous with our standards for accessibility, going above and beyond what may be expected and desired of us. You should design your digital spaces with accessibility in mind – not as an afterthought.

You’ve probably heard of an ‘image description’ (or ‘alt text’). These provide descriptions for screen-readers and other assistive technologies to read aloud to their user and must be included for images on your website.

Similarly, ‘video descriptions’ that detail its visual content should be included for videos on your website for assistive technologies to read. Accessible videos will include captions and a transcript, but also feature contrasting colors and refrain from flashing content. When possible, avoid playing videos automatically on your website – this will interfere with screen readers and confuse users.

Add image and video descriptions across your website – and ensure the user experience across your site is consistent. Users should not lose out on content or context because they are disabled or require assistive technologies. This can mean changing the colors of your website to be more contrasting for easier digestion or choosing a different font which is more friendly to dyslexic readers.

Technological accessibility extends beyond providing accommodations for your digital spaces. For example, consider adding a livestream option to physical events. This opens up your viewership to people who wouldn’t ordinarily be able to make it to your event due to disability or distance. Additionally, use technology to make your physical spaces more accessible, such as using adjustable-height desks and counters for direct customer interactions.

Implementing digital accessibility and disability inclusion can make a difference in your workplace – and your world. It’s good for your business, too; organizations that focus on accessibility can reach a whole new market. Choose to be proactive. Accessibility is everyone’s right, no matter the business or its size.

Listen to this in a 3 minute video below.

Steve Reasner, Chief Innovation Officer and Founder at LIFT

Continuous improvement is the key to long-term success. It is the ability to creatively evaluate a program, product or service with internal and external feedback to ensure it is meeting the needs of the marketplace. Continuous improvement implies a long-term view of a situation, though it can be applied to short-term projects, too.  This is often the case in Agile Sprints or the Lean Methodology. The goal is to take a lifecycle approach to systems and products which focus on:

  • Defining the current market conditions and gaps
  • Creating a plan for how to make changes which could include improvements, merging solutions or ending a product in favor of something different or better.
  • Implementing the changes
  • Measuring your results by establishing a baseline to know you are on the right track and adjusting as needed

The benefits are ensuring you are delivering the solution that still meets the need of your organization, customer and market. Organizations which are not continually improving may be disrupted given the right market conditions.

Every IT team can benefit from continuous improvement. The goal is to test your processes and programs against the current market conditions to ensure proper investment of time and resources. Building a software solution in-house makes sense when it provides a competitive advantage.

Over time these systems might be commoditized in the marketplace, and it becomes cheaper to migrate to external solutions. This only happens if systems are evaluated and improved on a regular basis. Efficiency, differentiation, security and scalability are the name of the game.

The best way to get started is by creating an inventory of some of your systems, processes and programs. The goal is to not get overwhelmed but start the process. Track the information in a database, spreadsheet or IT software like ServiceNow. Capture when the solution was first implemented, last evaluated, the value it creates, strategic importance and priority to the organization.

After an evaluation has been completed and you leave it as is, update it, or redesign it, update the data to reflect the decision date and put an expiration date in to alert your team the last possible date for reviewing it again.

IT teams are not always aware of how a system is being used or the level of criticality of each system. Some solutions are still in place, but rarely used while others are not being updated regularly but are critical to the overall health of the organization.

Shadow IT often happens when team members don’t feel they are being heard or their needs are being addressed. The most important thing IT can do is to be a partner to all departments within an organization and actively collaborate to ensure efficiency, fiscal responsibility and the overall security of the organizations data and competitive differentiations.

Organizations, especially IT, need to continually improve their processes to stay current and avoid increase costs, friction and frustration. Having a healthy internal lifecycle for all systems is the key to success.

Steve Reasner, Chief Innovation Officer and Founder at LIFT

As employees return to the office after the summer break, it is important to make them feel welcomed and comfortable. Think of it the same as kids returning to school. You have several communications before returning to school which talk about your classes, supplies needed, expectations and rules. The thing most kids look forward to is seeing and playing with their friends. The same goes for the office. Before we look at technology, we should consider the experience we want to provide. While this may seem like we are pandering to our employees, the reality is that when your employees feel comfortable, connected and confident, they do their best work.

To achieve success, plan out the month of September as the “return to office”. Build the experience you want for your employees. This starts with a small committee of peers who can articulate what experiences they would want and allow them to build the process for your teams. The process includes an overview of the activities people can experience at the office and the emotions you want them to feel. This includes excitement, competition and nostalgia.

  1. Games: What games can you use to help people engage and create fun competition with a leader board? Trivia games consisting of work history, people traits and hobbies and funny cultural items from different decades, for example. Create teams across different office locations to increase collaboration locally and connection between offices.

  2. Lunch: Rather than ordering out, can employees bring their favorite foods to share making it a social potluck

  3. Mocktail Happy Hour: While alcohol is great, there may be people that can’t or would rather not participate. There are amazing new non-alcoholic mixers and drinks that can be used to give the festive feeling without the buzz.

  4. Common Area Video Meetups: Put large video units in the common areas in each of your offices and leave them on all day so people can have chance encounters with employees at different offices. The coffee room catch up is one of the things people miss about the office; hard to do when remote and impossible across offices. By adding this option, you can break down the distance walls and find ways for people to connect.

  5. Guidelines: As “digital citizens” in our offices, we have a commitment to add value through our work and protect our company both physically and digitally. This should be openly talked about with rules that everyone should be informed about and agree to comply with. You may consider electing mayors and/or council people for each office that allows people to have additional leadership responsibility to share culture and enforce the rules. This takes the weight off departments, like IT and Finance, and mainstreams it to all workers. This eliminates the feeling of superiority and focuses on success and compliance. This is the same as student body officers in school. They have limited power but get to make plans and create meaningful experiences for their classmates.

The goal is to engage people, make them feel included and provide them with a way to have a voice. Technology helps to scale this by providing flexibility, security and inclusivity. IT organizations should focus on the value you are providing and how you are enabling the success of the people and the company as a whole.

Steve Reasner, Chief Innovation Officer at LIFT

CX is not just a department or a service, over time, it should be core to your organization’s DNA. The challenge is that most companies still view it as a cost center and put it in the same bucket as customer support. To ensure the long-term viability of your program, make sure you are always highlighting how your CX practice is driving revenue, retention, and increased wallet share. Here are some tips on how you can gain executive support for your CX program:

  1. Create Your Strategy – Develop a plan that includes the vision for your CX Team. Outline your ideal customer profile and engagement process. Create 2 to 3 repeatable service offerings based upon vertical markets (healthcare) and/or horizontal markets (HR). It is just as important to outline what is out of scope as it is to determine what is initially in scope.
  2. Build Your Case – Develop the measurements and metrics you will use to track the progress of your CX practice. Remember that a great customer experience is all about benefit realization. List out the resources and costs required to get the program started and include a plan for ongoing expansion to show confidence in the program. The stronger you can make the connection between a strong CX program and business outcome realization, the stronger your case will be.
  3. Build your Team – Customer Experience should be core to your organization’s DNA. This means that everyone in the company has a role to play in CX. This will take time, so recruit your internal champions and sales leaders who want to partner together for success. The great thing is that outsiders will see your success and ask for your help. Develop a customer selection criterion so customers that are not a match will be excluded automatically. This will create scarcity and scarcity creates demand. Once you gain momentum, sales reps will ask for help rather than you having to sell them on why they should work with you.
  4. Present Your Plan – Start with the problem statement highlighting the downside of not having a CX program. Next, discuss the impact to your organization including, increased revenue, customer retention, customer loyalty, and the ability to expand your wallet share over time. Review how you select and engage customers and be specific as to why some customers may not qualify. This is key so you can focus on quality initially rather than quantity. Finally, outline the milestones and metrics that you will provide to your leadership team to validate CX outcomes.
  5. Be Assertive – if you Nobody likes to hear about more problems, especially executives who already feel under the gun. Instead, give them solutions. Remember that you are backed by best practice research and methodologies that can help your organization achieve higher levels of success. They need to hear and know this. You may be a pioneer in your organization with knowledge others don’t have. Don’t wait for someone to ask you for help. Assert yourself!

Remember, when you’re sitting across from a C-level exec, you only get one shot to pique their interest. If you don’t come to the table armed with enough knowledge and insight, they’ll shut you down without a second thought, and you won’t get another opportunity. The key thing is to be prepared.