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Communications

Break The Bias: Reflections on International Women’s Day 2022

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The theme for International Women’s Day this year is #BreaktheBias. Bias is tricky, often an unconscious, knee-jerk response to the unknown. It is perpetuated by culture, those unspoken assumptions of one group about another. Bias manifests itself as the thousand paper cuts of language itself, embedded in words and phrases so familiar they may not appear at first to contribute to equality’s cause of death. So how do we “break” bias?

If, at its core, bias originates in ignorance and fear, the natural antidote must be knowledge and compassion. When confronted with bias, we have a choice to respond by asking ourselves, “What did I just learn from this experience so that I can prevent it in the future?” When called out on our own unintended linguistic offenses (parents of teenagers know what I’m talking about), we can admit our ignorance, say, “Thank you – I’m learning,” and do our best to show it.

At The CARA Group, we have a motto: “Change, Learn, Grow”. This reflects the services we provide to our clients. It also describes our aspirations for the CARA culture. Being open to change means admitting that we don’t get better by staying the same. Having a learning culture means acknowledging that mistakes are inevitable. That growth is an individual and a group process that requires commitment, focus, and time. To #BreaktheBias requires a commitment to “Change, Learn, Grow”, to take the small individual steps that together become a giant leap for mankind humanity. (See what I did there?)

In honor of International Women’s Day 2022, let us take a moment to acknowledge the women of Ukraine, where the battle that is being fought is one of survival. In Ukraine, IWD has been a public holiday for decades. As we take the day to recommit to “Change, Learn, Grow” in our local communities, let us also honor these women who will not have the chance to celebrate. One only need to witness their strength and resilience to #BreaktheBias about what a woman can do.

 

What I Learned: 10 Microsoft Accessibility Tips

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Companies are committing to diversity, equity, and inclusion as they develop and design their learning and documentation. I have learned a great deal about accessibility in learning and documentation since my journey began a couple of years ago and it has been exciting for me. I have learned so much and wanted to share with you what I have learned. I also want to be clear that I do not know everything (not even close!), but I found these 10 tips most helpful and hope you do, too.

Overview

Working on my first client accessibility project presented a daunting challenge.

The web is rich with guidelines, tools, and tips, but it is inundating without a roadmap and I could not find one. For example, there are dozens of features to resolve several types of issues related to disabilities in MSFT Office. I was truly overwhelmed. Fortunately, I worked with a knowledgeable and very patient client team that pointed me in the right direction.

First, and without a doubt, THE most important tool is Microsoft Accessibility Checker. You will find Accessibility Checker in any MSFT Office Product. “Check Accessibility” is in the Review toolbar and will provide you with a list of issues and recommendations on how to fix them. To make the checking process easier, you can set Accessibility Checker to run in the background while you work on your files. You can learn more about Accessibility Checker by clicking here.

“First, and without a doubt, THE most important tool is Microsoft Accessibility Checker. … [and] I found that starting at the task level worked best for me.”

How to Begin – 10 Tips

I found that starting at the task level worked best for me. Here are what I consider to be ten tips for those who do not know how to start when developing for accessibility in learning, documents, worksheets, and even email.

  1. Use more than color to convey the message: Screen readers do not read color information aloud. Do not be afraid of color, but use text, symbols, and texture to represent the messages being conveyed.
  2. Use Alternative (Alt) Text: Using Alt Text provides screen readers with a description of an image you use in your document. In all Microsoft products, right-click any image, select Edit Alt Text from the drop-down and enter a brief description of your image in the text box provided.
  3. Use good contrast: Contrast is the measure of brightness between two colors placed on top of or next to each other. Strong contrast makes it much easier to distinguish text from background color. Use a contrast ratio of at least 5:1, including black or dark blue on white.
  4. Use captions with videos: Videos can be challenging for those with low vision or who are visually impaired. Captions for video are available in the Microsoft 365 apps. Due to specific formatting requirements, captions can be tricky and will likely take a few attempts before you get it just right. More information on creating and inserting captions can be found by clicking here.
  5. Use built-in Headings and Styles: Built-in headings and styles follow screen reader tab order and make it easier for screen reader users to go through your documents, as screen readers are programmed to read in the order of the numbered headings. Apply built-in headings, styles, and bulleted lists in most 365 products, and screen readers will read the files correctly.
  6. Clean up Excel worksheets: Screen readers read the tabs of the worksheets in Excel, letting the user know the contents of the tab. Make your tab names clear and unique so the user can distinguish between what can be many sheets in an Excel workbook. Remove blank tabs as screen readers stop on all tabs, blank or not, and the user will not know if it is an extra, a blank, or missing a label. By using unique names and removing blanks, the screen reader can better read the sheet names to the user.
  7. Use simple table structures in Excel: Design worksheets and tables so that information can be located and read properly by a screen reader. Screen readers use header information to identify rows and columns and identify their location in a table by counting table cells. If a table is nested within another table or if a cell is merged or split, the screen reader loses count and cannot provide helpful information about the table after that point.
  8. Ensure slide contents are read in order: In PowerPoint (PPT), screen readers read the elements of a slide in the order they were added to the slide, which might be different from the order in which things should be read or appear. Use the Accessibility Checker and the Reading Order pane to set the order in which the screen readers read the slide contents.
  9. Use accessible templates in PPT: If you are working in PPT, just type “Templates” in the search box on any PPT screen and you will be taken to the template screen. The Template Search bar will appear. Type “Accessible templates” in the new search box and dozens of accessible templates will appear. These are templates that are highly compatible with screen readers and other accessibility tools and contain fixed headings and other settings that you will not have to create from scratch.
  10. Make your meetings accessible: Ask the participants which type of accessibility they need. Share material in advance and include live captions in Teams meetings.

I’m learning more each day and will leave you with your first assignment: open any Microsoft 365 app and familiarize yourself with Accessibility Checker. In my opinion, it is truly the best place to start!

Sources: Microsoft Accessibility website, Enable-the Microsoft Accessibility YouTube Channel, American Foundation for the Blind

Click here to access the Microsoft Accessibility website

Click here to access Enable, the Microsoft Accessibility YouTube Channel

Click here to access Screen Readers referenced above: American Foundation for the Blind

Click here to access Alt Text referenced above: American Foundation for the Blind

Reflections on International Women’s Day 2021

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Reflecting on International Women’s Day, the #ChoosetoChallenge theme, and Women’s History month overall, I am proud of how CARA continues to evolve and strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion. As I look back to when we founded our firm in 2002, and where we are today, women have consistently held leadership positions at CARA, mirroring the industry statistics. According to an article on trainingindustry.com, Women Lead the Way in Learning and Development, by Taryn Oesch, CPTM, nearly 60% of leaders across change management, learning, and communications are women. However, there is still an inherent gender bias resulting in a pay gap ranging from 6% to 20%, depending on which practice a woman works in and what age a woman enters the workforce. Whether bias is implicit or explicit, we need to continuously challenge our own policies and procedures against inequities in hiring and pay. CARA’s current leadership team is vigilant about workforce equity, and regularly benchmarks our talent pay scales against industry standards.

One of the decisions I am most proud of was in 2018 when CARA’s Board of Directors unanimously decided to appoint our first woman President and CEO, Michelle Reid-Powell. Michelle was the right person to strategically lead our organization and be the standard bearer of our values that drive how we do business. With Michelle’s appointment, CARA earned its certification as a woman owned business under the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). With support from the WBENC, CARA continues to #ChoosetoChallenge the status quo and do our part to ensure equity for women in the workforce.

I am honored to have founded CARA and remain its co-owner. As CARA focuses on enabling the workforce of the future, I know we will recognize and celebrate the achievements of women beyond this one day. To our clients, our consultants and our staff – all my CARA friends – happy Women’s Day!

 

 

 

 

the cara group blog image with committed to your future tagline

How Partnering with SMEs and Creative Communications Led to a Successful Workday Implementation

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What is Workday?

Workday is a cloud-based solution that brings people and financial data together into a one-stop shop. With one source for financial, people, and operational data, everyone can access real-time information when and how they need it. It allows for better reporting and analytics and for data to be smart which allows companies to make better business decisions.

The Workday platform enhances the firm’s ability to streamline and improve processes, workflow, communications, and notifications. Workday also provides additional reporting and dashboard capabilities. As Workday states on their website: “We build on a flexible foundation that enables us to continually broaden our technology platform. From machine learning and extensible frameworks to analytics and more, we are working to bring you increasing intelligent and personalized experiences.” [i]

What did implementing Workday mean for the company?

My first experience with the Workday program was as a CARA consultant working with a global professional services client. I was a Communications/Organizational Change Management (OCM) Specialist for the client’s global Phase I implementation of Workday. Moving to this platform was a HUGE change, but a much-needed change to stay up to date on the most current technology and to offer their customers the most modern and efficient experiences.

And with change comes fear, excitement, anxiety, and a lot of other emotions for the staff that will be using it. The implementation of Workday at this client brought about many thoughts and questions.

The employees were right to ask these questions, because Workday would change how they did their jobs. It was the job of the OCM, Communications, Training, and many other teams to positively relieve some of the anxiety and fears.

One of the biggest changes for the client was decommissioning seven programs and SharePoint sites that hundreds of people worked in and used every day. These sites/programs were managed by different members of the various departments at the client, i.e. Finance, HR, Accounting, Training, etc. Workday’s capabilities would replace, or in some cases, combine, the information in these legacy programs and convert the data to an easier and more accessible way.

Image of woman asking questions of how workday would change her job
Source: J. Hojnacki

“… if you remember that your SMEs are your partners and you are creative in your communications, you can make any project successful.”

Who helped with decommisioning the legacy programs/sites?

The decommissioning of these programs/sites was a HUGE & DELICATE undertaking. As you can imagine, when you work with programs day-in and day-out you become very efficient and comfortable with how you do your work, but where does growth, opportunity, and challenge come in when you are in a stagnant environment like this for a long period of time?

That is what my team had to learn by working with the subject matter experts of each of the discontinued programs/sites. Working with SMEs can be a very delicate and savvy process, but if you remember these 10 tips, you will be successful…


Source: J. Hojnacki

How did the team communicate about Workday?

In my experience, anytime a company wants to make large impactful changes, it is important to focus the communications on the EMPLOYEE…really hone in on the WIIFM (What’s in it for me). This project was different, in that we had to create very specialized and separate communications for all the different business units who would be working in Workday. For instance, the HR staff didn’t need to know where, how or when to pull certain financial reports and the Financial team didn’t need to know about onboarding and training. So, our communications plan was HUGE and very detailed. But it was the holy grail to keep all the messaging in order and on time. We worked hand-in-hand with the Training department on this implementation, because in many cases, the training was customized per business unit, as well. We had to ensure that the communication and the dates correlated correctly with what training was being offered to whom, when and where. The SMEs played a key role when it came to communications, as well. They were part of the communication review process to ensure the context of the messages were correct and going to the right groups of people. These communications were imperative to the success of the rollout of Phase I of Workday, but how did we keep staff interested in messages about this new program… VARIETY! We had to keep the communication pieces short, concise, engaging, and different, so the audience would pay attention to them. We utilized several different communication methods and vehicles…

  • Emails
  • Intranet articles on internal website
  • Workday SharePoint site
  • Videos (Leadership messages, animated short stories, how-to videos, etc.)
  • Infographics
  • Electronic Newsletters
  • Surveys/Results
  • Webcasts
  • Podcasts
  • Interactive PowerPoints

Getting the right methods and vehicles was just one piece of the work that had to be done, we also had to make the messages ease the anxieties of this systemwide change, get the staff excited about Workday, highlight the benefits of this new program from a personal and professional point of view and motivate them to want to learn and embrace this new way of working. Workday was an enormous investment that the client made to enhance the services that they offer to their clients, but also, how they could make the work easier, more efficient and collaborative for the staff.

I have worked on many large systemwide initiatives like this in my career of 20+ years, and I find that if you remember that your SMEs are your partners and you are creative in your communications, you can make any project successful!

[i] Workday website: https://www.workday.com/en-us/why-workday/our-technology/core-technology.html?wdid=enus_ws_itov_wdrcard2_wd_wd_web_17.1574

Consulting Skills for the Workforce of the Future

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I have been recruiting for over 20 years in the F500 Learning and Development industry, and I have seen a great deal. From rapid skill shifts, to elevated client demands, to erratic market swings, consulting is not for the faint of heart. Working with the F500 has a very slim margin for error and expectations are high when a consultant walks through the physical or virtual door.

So, what does it take to be an exceptional CONSULTANT?

F500 Clients are demanding, so while you need to possess solid skills to perform and deliver results (hard skills), these are table stakes and not the only skills you need to bring to the proverbial table. You will need to quickly adapt into a client organization, communicate concisely and empathetically, make sound decisions, think outside the box, manage deadlines . . . You must also be chameleon-like and be able to adapt to change quickly, all while managing client expectations and delivering results!

“..attributes such as executive influence, strategic agility, political savvy, and the ability to coach/provide feedback will be expected. They are the differentiators or game changers and that is what a client requires.”

 

A wise man once told me that the best Consultants are curious and customer-focused… they listen, investigate, ask the right questions, and quickly absorb an understanding of the clients’ business. He also said …. “Consulting is a lot like dating” and while this analogy is a bit tongue in cheek, it has some validity. In consulting, connecting is so important and relationship building is critical.


There are times when consulting feels like being caught between a rock and a hard place – a delicate balance between knowing when to align/conform and when to push back. As projects become more complex, the stakes become much higher. Therefore, attributes such as executive influence, strategic agility, political savvy, and the ability to coach/provide feedback will be expected. They are the differentiators or game changers and that is what a client requires. Possessing these skills will allow you to solidify and expand relationships which, in turn, usually earns you the right to be involved with follow-on initiatives. After all, isn’t that really what it is about . . . becoming extraordinarily valued by the client that he/she continues to partner with you and provides more opportunity for CARA and you!

You may be asking yourself, “Is consulting right for me?”

As you may have gathered by now, consulting is far more than just building an excellent work product!

I know this career path is not “a walk in the park”! I have hired hundreds of consultants in my tenure and not every engagement is without error. Typically, the hard skills of the consultant have rarely been the reason for an unsuccessful engagement. It usually comes down to one or more of the softer skills I have been referencing. You will need these skills to build and further your consulting career – and in our current climate, they are absolutely critical!

While consulting will never be shy of challenges, pressure, and uncertainty; it will always be brimming with big rewards –working on multi-faceted engagements within a variety of industries, growth opportunities, and the opportunity to create so many meaningful relationships.

To all of CARA’s Consultant Team Members, I’d like to dedicate this blog to you. Thank you for your partnership and focus!

Committed to your future blog post image

ServiceNow: Six Change Communications Best Practices to Consider During Implementation

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Picture this: Your organization has decided to build a ServiceNow platform to enhance your IT service desk capabilities to all end users. The platform would provide employees with multiple ways to reach the service desk to open incident tickets, including the ability to self-diagnose and fix minor issues by accessing a new knowledge center.

The business goal is wrapped around the need to streamline and create a more efficient service desk process. Your business case is sound, and now you must build an implementation team, which includes outstanding Organizational Change Management practitioners to ensure employees embrace and use the new portal. After all, projects are more likely to fail when OCM is not properly accounted for.

However, it’s easy to assume that the need for OCM support is minimal in the case of a ServiceNow IT service center platform. After all, your organization always had a help desk hotline number – you are now just expanding those services. That can be a mistake.

Never underestimate your end users’ resistance to change, especially if they cannot envision a need. Users will typically access the IT service center when technology issues develop, and they are unable to work. They will often take the easiest route to get their issue solved by picking up the phone. Downtime does not make for a great workday.

“After all, projects are more likely to fail when OCM is not properly accounted for.”

 

Make Targeted Communications a Priority

During a recent integration of a new ServiceNow IT service center platform we created a robust OCM plan, including a communications strategy that communicated to and convinced all audience members in the organization of the value of the features and benefits of the ServiceNow platform, which included the customized ability to:

  1. Continue to contact the help desk telephonically
  2. Get resolution to an issue through a chat session
  3. Open a ticket by completing an online form
  4. Self-diagnose minor issues through a knowledge center platform that included a growing service catalog
  5. Check on resolution progress of open tickets
  6. Learn of any organization-wide issues/outages that were impacting their ability to do their work

Effective, targeted communication is critical, especially when stakeholders do not have a firm grip on the need for the change. In this case employees were happy to use their desk phones to open a resolution ticket. During a change process, employees will typically fall back on the “what’s in it for me” concerns – how would the new ServiceNow service center help them more quickly resolve their issue.

As a result, communications must go beyond delivering project awareness, it must also convince all audience levels to actively support and commit to the change by providing evidence of how the new ServiceNow service center benefits all parties and the organization. Messages around simplicity, efficiency and expanded capabilities are crucial to end-users. Communications must also be open-ended, enabling stakeholders to have their questions answered.

To ensure this is done well, the communications lead must plan around what stakeholder audiences need to know, when they need to know specific messages and how those messages will be delivered. Poorly planned and executed communications often leads to a lack of user acceptance, understanding and frustration that can go all the way to the C-suite.

Six Communications Best Practices

Consider these six OCM communications best practices when implementing a ServiceNow platform:

  1. Communicate early. Never wait until the 11th hour to start your communications process. Your communications timeline should start early enough to allow stakeholders to decipher the change to ServiceNow and its impact. We started several months prior to launch with a variety of communications tactics, including a fluid intranet toolkit portal that housed all communications materials, with FAQs and a hotline link to have questions answered.
  2. Communicate often but plan it right. Is it possible to overcommunicate? Yes, if your messaging starts to become annoying – much like that TV spot that quickly grows old and tired. Establish a good communications rhythm. Repeating messages is important, but don’t let them become a nuisance your employees can easily tune out.
  3. Consider messages for all audience levels. Many organizations may miss out on opportunities to convey targeted, purposeful messages by limiting themselves to broad email or intranet communications. See the next best practice for additional channel ideas.
  4. Use multiple communications channels. If you want to reach 20 percent of your audience limit your content to the intranet. Many employees make occasional visits to the company intranet and may miss your message. Remember that your communications compete against their other work priorities. Complement email and intranet messaging with a broad array of tactics, including town halls, managers’ team key messages and lunch ‘n’ learns, which also allow for 2-way communications opportunities. Lunch ‘n’ learns, in particular, allow employees to “test-drive” the new portal and can be a great way to build interest and commitment.
  5. Use “tips and tricks” to arouse support and commitment. When the new service center is announced many employees will hesitate to move away from their telephone to open a ticket. Brief, memorable tips and tricks will teach employees something that will spur them on to learn more about the features and benefits of the new portal.
  6. Communications doesn’t stop after rollout. Make sure the change to the new service center sticks – employees will quickly move back to old habits in the weeks and months after your ServiceNow rollout unless you continue to keep the portal in front of them. Tell success stories that show how other employees made good use of the new service center and continue to offer tips and tricks. Share these via a variety of channels – the intranet, email, manager key messages and even your company’s video screens, if you have them.

Of course, it is critical that you also measure your communications’ effectiveness. Did employees rally around the new ServiceNow portal? Did they continue to exclusively use the help desk hotline? Did messages resonate with them? If so, how did they best receive them? Evaluate both your communications content and strategy.

Please connect with us if you could use Organizational Change Management help on a ServiceNow integration, or any project you have. We’re glad to help!