Advertising and communications firm WPP has been working with Microsoft to embrace accessible technology and bring its employees together. The business has rolled out several Microsoft solutions to empower its staff and encourage collaboration.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, 95 per cent of WPP’s workforce shifted to working from home. To ensure productivity and collaboration among these employees, WPP implemented Microsoft Teams and Microsoft 365.
Throughout this period, WPP was also serving all its customers remotely and wanted to ensure that “all client communications were as inclusive as possible,” says Microsoft. The two firms worked together to train 85 accessible tech champions — people who have an in-depth knowledge of all the accessibility tools available across Microsoft’s products and services so that they could, in turn, help their colleagues.
“Working with Microsoft has enabled us to really speed up our inclusion work,” said Nancy Lengthorn, managing partner and head of inclusion and belonging for WPP UK. “Improving systems and processes is vital to inclusion and diversity, and there can’t be a more critical system to improve than how we communicate with each other.
“The initiatives we are putting in place will really help us all to be more authentic and more effective, both with each other and our clients. This is about helping everyone to flourish and Microsoft have been a brilliant partner.”
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Following the tech champion training sessions, Microsoft also helped WPP deliver a series of events on diversity and technology, covering vision, hearing, cognition, mobility, mental health, well-being and dyslexia.
“When the pandemic suddenly hit, it was a struggle,” said Lengthorn. “However, in a way it also democratised everything. Everyone was in the same boat, and we all had access to the same tools. Some of the barriers were taken away and many people started to notice new things.”
Many employees suffer from invisible disabilities, including dyslexia, and often choose not to disclose their condition due to fear or embarrassment, according to Microsoft. To combat this stigma, WPP and Microsoft created an event called The Creative Brilliance of Dyslexia, which included a keynote from Kate Griggs, CEO and founder of the Made by Dyslexia charity. Role models from across WPP and other companies shared their experiences, showing that people should embrace diversity.
“The dyslexia event had a much wider ripple beyond WPP,” says Lengthorn. “Employees also had their friends and family watch the live Teams event. Bringing together so many people for such an important, positive cause was an amazing thing.”
WPP is striving to truly embrace diversity and inclusion and has set up a new initiative – called Accelerate – to drive its accountability. The project will see business leaders across its agencies report back on a quarterly basis, providing updates and evidence across its inclusivity work.
“Authenticity is absolutely important,” said Lengthorn. “If it doesn’t feel authentic, people can sense it. If inclusivity and change isn’t systemic, people see it as flag waving. If things don’t feel fundamental — if you’re not monitoring what you’re doing, if you’re not reporting results, if you’re not holding yourself to account — then I think that people will see that nothing will be different.”