AXSChat Podcast

AXSChat with Jodie Greer Founder of Be #PeopleSmart, a disability inclusion and accessibility consultancy based in the UK

May 23, 2022 Antonio Santos, Debra Ruh, Neil Milliken talk with Jodie Greer
AXSChat Podcast
AXSChat with Jodie Greer Founder of Be #PeopleSmart, a disability inclusion and accessibility consultancy based in the UK
Show Notes Transcript

Jodie Greer is the Founder of Be #PeopleSmart, a disability inclusion and accessibility consultancy based in the UK, supporting businesses around the world. Jodie has been passionate about disability inclusion ever since she can remember, and has made it her mission to put more human-centricity back into the workplace. Jodie describes herself as currently non-disabled and believes disability inclusion isn’t really about disabilities, it’s simply about people. Jodie says there’s no diversity without disability, and the value of equitable workplaces just makes for smart business.

This is a draft transcript produced live at the event and corrected for spelling and basic errors. It is not a commercial transcript. AXSCHAT Jodie Greer

DEBRA:

Hello everyone, my name is Debra Ruh and this is Axschat. Neil Milliken is still doing all kind of things for his wife. He is a handyman right now. So he is unable to join us this week and I have my wonderful partner, Antonio Santos here and we are really excited to be featuring Jodie Greer, who has actually been on the show before but she, I believe Jodie haven't you been on before?

JODIE:

I haven't actually. This is my first time I've managed to link up on Axschat.

DEBRA:

Oh yay. Well, Jodie, tell us about your experience in the field and because I know you were with Shell but now you are you're a consultant and you're doing really amazing work. So, tell us more about what you're doing and who you are and also Jodie, let me remember to do a visual description, if anybody is not watching or you can't see the video, I am a white woman with grey and purple hair and I am wearing blue glasses today with some bangs and a sort of bluish shirt. So, over to you, Jodie?

JODIE:

Thanks Debra. My visual description is going to sound strangely like Debra's because I am also wearing blue rimmed glasses. I do actually have purple hair but it's tied back so you can't actually see it very well anyway and I've got a black V neck jumper on, T shirt even. It's quite warm. So yeah, about me. I will try and make it as brief as possible because I do love to chat, everybody knows this. I was in the corporate world for a lot of years, 24. I will just say it and I did spend the last 13 of those with Shell and Disability Inclusion has been a massive passion of mine, literally going back to childhood. I may as well share upfront, I am currently non-disabled as I call myself, so I don't have a disability myself but it is something of course, which is just as important for the world. And so, I spent however a decade leading the disability network for Shell and I just wanted to do even more and I was fortunate to be a global accessibility lead for the last four years of my corporate career and I decided, due to our wonderful Pandemic that it was time. It was time to take the leap of faith and go out and start a new organisation that can help lots of organisations to be more disability inclusive and accessible and so there came the birth of the people smarts and so we literally support organisations around the world to be disability inclusive and accessible as I say but right from strategic planning and road maps to educating their staff to policy setting and order in digital solutions and also their physical premises. So it really does vary which is kind of exciting. And I am just really passionate about what I do. So, one other thing we are here to talk about today is the wonderful I am very proud of new disability inclusion maturity model, Debra, which you know all about. Yes and it's very exciting to see you really step out and become a consultant like this because one thing I have often heard, as a matter of fact I have heard Neil complain about this and many people in the United States is that we as the accessibility field don't often understand how to really apply accessibility through a gigantic organisation with all the moving parts and that's actually something you have experience with. Yeah, definitely because there's another part that is obviously about being realistic, you know. No matter what the funding is within an organisation, you know there are still budget restraints but there's also. There are so many conflicting priorities that you have to be realistic. So, what can you achieve with short term and long term strategies. The two don't go hand in hand. They are different.

DEBRA:

Yes, yes and I think that is one reason why I really love the maturity model. You took the lead on it and you brought in other leaders and stuff but you have actually been part of a very, very complicated major multinational corporation and so, once again I think often we come in and say use an overlay and all you have to do is do this, this and this and they are easy sometimes right? Just add Alt Text right? Blah blah blah. But it's a lot more complicated than that and that is why I am excited about your maturity model. So, tell us more about that and also I know Antonio has questions, so I won't hog the microphone.

JODIE:

No problem. Yes, so the disability inclusion maturity models are pretty different to anything else that is out there because the way it's formatted is to put it into simple terms, there is an overview sheet but there are ten key business areas and each one has a dedicated worksheet of its own and you work through different points, different criteria, if you like to determine whether that is yes, this is where you're at. No it isn't. Or not applicable is also an option. Its needs to work for everybody for instance talking about staircases in the built environment area. Then, if you've got one single story warehouse for your business, of course you know, you don't want to be marking yourself down because you don't have stairs. So, you work through each sheet and there is really a clear guidance as well to help you to set the scene for how to work through it. How to set accountability. Who can take responsibility and how you can make it work for you. And the other thing is as well and make this really clear, the maturity model goes from one to five and we do not expect and we don't feel that you should expect anybody out there should expect that there would be a five in all areas and they may never get to a five in all areas. And that is okay and I think that is a big part of it because I think there's often pressure with data that everyone wants to get to the top mark and actually that may not be where you need to get to the best for you, your employees and your customers.

DEBRA:

Well said.

ANTONIO:

And Jodie, you made references to your work at the large company. You're working on the maturity model. But where do you see these topics sit in an organisation and how can people drive this in the right way? Because just a quick comment, sometimes I see organisations, okay now we need to improve something on accessibility or diversity and inclusion and they go and they hire someone from outside with no connections in the organisation itself and then they expect that person to make a change and that person doesn't know anyone. And then you have employees, inside organisation that have been doing some groundwork for years without any appreciation that feel so, how about now, nobody was listening to us. So, how do you see organisations? What do you need to do to manage all these conflicts that sometimes take place at companies?

JODIE:

I think you've really hit the nail on the head there for so many organisations, Antonio. So what I would say is collaboration is absolutely essential but I do think, because of what you're saying because you will have passionate people in every organisation that are quite likely taking real action as well and trying within their own remit as far as they can to make real positive change. But for them to be known, for them to be known who to tell what they are doing or what they have been achieved, there's got to be a central point as well. There has got to be some kind of accountability overarching that accessibility piece, if you like. So that they can understand what is being fed in. But also it needs to be appreciated because a lot of the time people feel like they have got to hide the extracurricular activities because they are not technically their day job. And so it needs to be part of company culture, which is a whole bigger thing I know that it is actively not just encouraged but almost pushed that you want people to take their passions. You want people to use their lived experience and their knowledge and everything to make real positive change for your organisation. If you can do that and then you've got that accountability where they can all channel it through so people do know what's going on and you're and not reinventing the wheel in every country and everyone seems to be trying to do the same thing. That is one win. But the other thing with collaboration as I say, it comes back to maturity model is you have got for instance, recruitment. Recruitment is huge. Recruitment is so essential for accessibility and for inclusion but through the way they communicate, it's really important the way they are actually sharing information, some of the language and terminology they are using but also the methodologies they are using are inclusive. But that flips back into your internal communication team, understanding what that means. So, if you have got proper collaboration it also means that you are built environment people are putting digital solutions into meeting rooms should be engaging with the digital teams because they are put in similar solutions everywhere else. So, there needs to be almost a network I guess of representatives from different business areas who are engaging together. If you do that you share in lifetime and it actually streamlines for the whole business because if John has already done it then Carissa does not need to do it again.

ANTONIO:

Let me follow that on a question that I feel that sometimes can be recurrent that an organisation, they do that, let's say at their HQ. So, they do all this events, artists, movements, takes pictures where they are proud of what they are doing. At the same time, the same employees, similar in another office in another say, what is going on here, we don't have any of that. How can we find ways where we move forward but we don't create disappointments with people that work in organisations simply in different places, different regions.

JODIE:

Yeah, I think that is really important and that is where equity comes in right and it's about a preacher in all of your employees and not prioritising some sort of post code lottery and I think that is another place where the maturity model comes in handy because it actually talks about when you're assessing your organisation, you may need to because of different legislation, you may need to, rather than want to, assess different locations separately, which is fine but then how do you come back to where you are as an actual organisation overall. Well, we give guidance on that as well. And we say you know, we absolutely don't advocate that your score yourself at that highest denominator because you lose sight of where you really need to be taking action. So, we advocate for people starting out that you kind of grade yourself on the central point, on the average if you like but making sure you prioritise where you know there were lower scores and that they are noted and actioned and you can change that as you mature because you can actually then score yourself on the lower denominator because you kind of should because if you're already there then where are you failing, for want of a nicer word. But yeah, so we talk about that as well because it is so important that there is equity. Not just so all of your employees are actually respected and given all the tools that they need for instance. But also you know you have people traveling. So, if nobody wants to go to that sight because you can't have anything that you need. So you will only go to A, B or C because at least three people are actually looked after. Who wants to work in an environment like that?

DEBRA:

Yeah, that is a really good point. And also, Jodie let's talk a little bit about maturity models. So, one thing I would be, you know, how you are okay, okay, I am going to back up. I know there are maturity models out there but how you know, you know how does an organisation know which maturity model that works best for them or do you recommend, maybe they consider multiple maturity models?

JODIE:

Well, I got to be honest and I am going to just sound really biased. I honestly believe to be people smart, works for everyone and it's a lot more in-depth than any I have ever seen in existence and just for the record, this is not a revenue stream, it is a free tool. You actually don't register or ask us to send it to you; you can actually just download it from the website. Some people are really shocked that we have done it this way. I'll quickly just tell you, there are a couple of reasons for that. One, I did not want any commercial market to be out priced from being able to use the tool and I think that's really, really important. But also, the reality is, a lot of companies have not necessarily even been honest with themselves as to where they are on that kind of maturity ladder. So I want them to be able to before they necessarily feel they need to put their hand up and tell someone else and also the unconverted, as I call them who don't really recognise the value or recognise actually there is a lot more they need to do. I did not want there to be a barrier of cost or even someone feel like they are signing their life away and giving you all their details before they've been able to identify those gaps. So, we have gone on the whole hog and I have not seen anyone else who has done it that way but literally you click on the access the maturity model and it just gives you the document and you can play with it, add your notes, do your scoring and no one is ever going to know.

DEBRA:

And in business, this is how we do things, we create processes, we create plans, we check, have we made any progress and this is the way to do it. That is why I loved your maturity model. I think it is very important. I also want to note that you really are so passionate about our industry and we need more people that are passionate like we are you know, because I know, Antonio, Neil and I, we do Axschat for free. We have been doing it for almost ten years. So there are so many things that we do to give back to the community. We love leaders like you Jodie that are also giving back but let me ask you another question based on Shell. And I also think it ties into the maturity model and I would really recommend everybody go out and get a copy of this maturity model. You should be using it even if you're using another maturity model. Put them together and you know, make sure there are no gaps. But I know that you led, you were very involved at Shell with their, I am totally blanking on the name, but the employees come together for a cause. Yeah. Sorry.

JODIE:

Disability Networks?

DEBRA:

Thank you. Thank you very much for being my brain just then. But have you found that having one of those networks to really talk about inclusive design and inclusion in a different way instead of just saying, well your people with disabilities or you love somebody with a disability but do you think there is an opportunity to use these networks in a different way to help companies be even more successful with inclusion.

JODIE:

Absolutely, I am a massive fan of Disability Networks or Employee Resource Groups, whatever you frame them as because if you actually want to get it right, the reality is you need to hear from the people it's mainly impacting and the people with lived experience. And if you don't have a conduit, somewhere where those voices can basically group to be heard or somewhere really that you can reach into, to hear the voices, how do you know, how do you know your thought processes whatever, are really being received. And I have spoken to organisations who are anti networks or ERG and I will say the same to them because if you genuinely want to be inclusive, you need to hear from first-hand experience because if you're open to know where it's not going so well, well guess what that's where improvement comes on.

DEBRA:

Powerfully said. Jodie, I know once again, you talked about your new company but do you mind just giving us the URL and also telling us again you know what you're offering and you're not just looking at it from the UK. I don't want to put words in your mouth. But you are looking at this globally. Shell is a gigantic global company so you're used to working globally. But I was just wondering if you would tell us more about your organisation?

JODIE:

Yeah, no problem. So, basically at B People Smart, we are really that end to end resource to enable disability inclusion and accessibility. I say those words so much but it's very, very true. So, when organisations are starting out, we can support with that strategic planning but real planning, yeah something tangible, something you can take, something you can run with which is where road maps and action plans come in. But when we looking at strategies as well, I mentioned earlier but, looking at short term and long term because I am a massive lover of kind of the low hanging fruit, the quick wins. I think when people recognise how easy a lot of this stuff is to actually achieve, you really switch your minds. It's a very different reception when people realise the value and the ease. I mean, you know, adding value in a simple way. Brilliant. Everybody loves it. So that is the kind of part of the thing with the short term strategy but also and this comes back to the corporate experience I guess but it is about it working with your ways of working because every structure every other methodology, you have got to be able to work in tandem that does not mean not changing ways of working because sometimes that is essential. But it is again, it is about making sure it works within an organisation. So, we do that. We also then come in. There is no point you just filling your intranet up with lots of documents. People need to understand, what you are actually asking them to do. How do they deliver against those requirements? And that is where the education comes in. That is things like inclusive communication. Disability confidence. Unconscious bias. Certainly with recruitment. I keep probably talking about recruitment but it's such a massive area that we need to see so much improvement in. So that is one of the pieces about that education and then there is, linked to that, I guess, and also linked to the strategies is the policy writing. So we support and we actually produce policies and standards around things like digital accessibility, inclusive communication, recruitment and procurement and supply partners. All of that kind of work in practice, how we actually make it so that you are genuinely inclusive and that you are making sure that your tools and your services are accessible to all of your employees and all of your customers. So, really we are just there as a kind of one stop shop to help everyone get to where we'd love to see be.

ANTONIO:

So, Jodie, on this journey we need to look at employees or not necessarily as customers but at least almost with a singular angle as customers or as internal citizens and how do we make sure that the solutions that and the content that we make available for them to read, for them to get information is also accessible in the way that is easy to understand, easy to read. That they don't need to spend hours and hours to understand the policy. How we make sure that or we need to ask them to attend the webinar to understand the policy? What do we need to do to succeed in communicating with employees?

JODIE:

So, I always encourage companies to have an accessible communications standard or policy but also to make sure that that is backed up with education, not just for communication professionals but for everyone. So everybody needs to understand what that looks like. But it is also important because especially larger organisations, they love a template and they love a branded; I don't know PowerPoint slide that you can just add a little bit to. So, anything you're actually asking your employees to make use of for their communications has to start by being accessible and any guidance you're giving for them to actually adjust that on brand also need to keep it on accessibility. So, for me it really is about information and education. I think if you get that out there and you build that into the way your organisation actually communicates over all. One size can almost fit all. I always say almost because there's always a difference. But one size can almost fit all and you only have to do it once.

DEBRA:

Great, great point. Great point. Something I do need to add actually talking about a maturity model. Especially because Debra is here. I realise I did not say it. So, it wasn't just a Jodie brain dump, we had a global professional review panel as I call them, doesn't role off the tongue I know and Debra, was one of our wonderful people who gave us some really valuable feedback. But, part of the reason for that was is making sure that we did get some real valuable input from professionals that have been in this space for a long time but from different industries and different size organisations and different countries around the world so that we could be confident it worked across cultures and languages. So, we have not actually translated it. We wanted to make sure that it could work. Yes and the collaboration, I think is so important in our field. And I also want to say that Jodie really did do the lion share of this and it was a lot of effort. You will see it when you download it. It was a lot of effort for many years of experience. So, I just really appreciate Jodie that you would do that for our community. That is really showing major leadership and you always have. I know you showed a lot of leadership with IAPP, so and you are wonderful. We all just really love working with you. You make it fun.

JODIE:

Right back at you Debra.

DEBRA:

Collaboration is just so important and also we want to do a shout out for GAD, because GAD 2022 is coming up on May 20th. So, that is another way to celebrate this maturity model. So one more time, Jodie tell us your website.

JODIE:

Yeah, so it's bepeoplesmart.co.uk. You can find out all about us but if you go to the tools and resources page that is where you will find the maturity model and all the information on there. You will also find, which is also a free resource, our personas, so our personas are created with back stories and likes and dislikes and different disabilities, which you are free to make use of to help you with changing your own narratives and getting your culture to where you want to be. So, it's all there for you to take, for you to use and for you to do well with.

DEBRA:

And I also want to say Jodie is supporting Billion Strong too. So, she really believes in. She is all there. We just really appreciate you so. I want to take time to thank My Clear Text for making sure we are always captioned and accessible. And I hope you will join us on Twitter on the Tweet Chat and she is just a wonderful, wonderful global resource. So, if you're one of the valuable 500 and you need a real expert, Jodie is your girl. Jodie is your woman. So thank you very much to the audience. Thank you Jodie and thank you Antonio.

JODIE:

Thank you very much from me. It's been an absolute pleasure. Thank you Debra for just being fabulous as always and thank you to Antonio. It's great to be invited and it's great to be able to share, and I really hope that people have taken something from it. So take care.