Why HR should prioritise digital accessibility

When it comes to attracting and retaining the best talent, HR professionals are continually looking for ways to ensure their organisation stands out from the crowd.

So, what if I said that many businesses are effectively locking out a huge proportion of the workforce, and therefore potential talent, by failing to get to grips with digital accessibility?

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In most sectors, competition for talented employees is fierce and those with access needs make up a significant proportion of the talent pool.

However, in the world of hybrid working, many people are still being effectively excluded from digital environments that don’t adequately cater to their requirements.

This could be due to a range of conditions, including sight and hearing impairment, reading or cognitive difficulties, fine motor difficulties – which make it harder to control a mouse – or more general impairments associated with ageing.

Often this ‘exclusion’ starts with the recruitment process, which means that employers are effectively falling at the first hurdle.

Our latest report An Immature Response? Why organisations are failing to build digitally accessible products and services, reveals a need for greater awareness and buy-in to digital accessibility among senior HR professionals.

Encouragingly, almost a third (30%) were deemed to be highly committed to the issue – ahead of others around the boardroom table, including CEOs and financial directors.

But, one in five organisations said their HR director was unaware’when it comes to digital accessibility and almost half (47%) don’t have a board director responsible for leading on this issue.

This cascades to an operational level, with just 6% of organisations confirming they always check their suppliers are trained in digital accessibility and can deliver it in digital solutions.

Given that recruitment and other important business functions, such as the provision of e-learning are often outsourced, it’s imperative that a best practice approach extends throughout the supply chain.

For employees with digital access needs, the report makes for somewhat depressing reading.

More than a third (37%) of organisations are launching digital products without conducting accessibility checks, and one in three (35%) said they would still proceed with a launch even if they knew the product wasn’t accessible.

Imagine how demotivating it would be to work for a company that created a digital product or service that you couldn’t access. If a business can’t consider the access needs of its customers, it’s probably less likely to consider the access needs of its employees when it comes to using the digital tools they’ve procured to allow working in a hybrid environment.


Differentiating through digital accessibility

Many HR professionals are now reliant on technology to recruit, onboard, train and generally communicate with employees. If you get accessibility right, then there are many benefits, including:

Higher revenue Research from Accenture showed that companies that hire those with access needs outperformed their peers, seeing, on average, 28% higher revenue over a four-year period.

More innovation A diverse workforce bring new and valuable perspectives to your organisation. For example, neurodiverse employees are often creative thinkers and strategic problem solvers.

Greater inclusivity By ensuring you embed digital accessibility across your organisation, you are naturally increasing inclusivity and raising awareness of its importance across your entire workforce.

Increased loyalty Data has shown that employees whose access needs are met tend to stay with a company longer.

Creating advocates If an employer has demonstrated a proactive approach to accessibility, they may create long-term advocates for the organisation, even if an employee leaves. This proof of the company values of equality, diversity and inclusion creates positive reputational impact and is great for recruitment.

Improved reputation Through our work, we have helped our clients win multiple awards for their digital inclusivity. Embedding digital accessibility demonstrates you align with the values of potential customers, employees and other stakeholders.

A more inclusive future

A proactive approach to digital accessibility benefits everyone throughout an organisation, and getting it right unlocks a whole world of potential talent that may have previously been overlooked.

In addition, maturity in digital accessibility is the mark of an organisation with an innovative and trailblazing approach to diversity, equality and inclusion. Before too long it will be expected of everyone. Which begs the question, can your organisation afford to get left behind?

Jonathan Hassell is CEO at Hassell Inclusion