Inclusivity in a digital transformation

Tied to organisational culture is inclusivity. Information technologies have no opinions and are agnostic. How they are deployed within an organisation however, can impact employees sense of inclusivity. For example, management handing down their laptops to lower functioning roles can lead to a sense of people not feeling included as part of the organisation, or as less important. Even colours used in applications can impact some cultures. A heavy usage of yellow for example, may make some of Indian culture think of funerals as yellow is a colour representing death in India as blue is in Chinese culture. Expectations of use of company information technologies, from smartphones to laptops, may impact how employees feel included in the organisation as well. Such as weekend use and the expectation to be answering emails on a Saturday for those who are Jewish and may observe Shabbat on Saturday, when they aren’t supposed to use electronics.


One example of inclusivity that may seem trivial, yet had a huge impact on how employees saw themselves within an organisation, was in regard to email addresses. Senior management had an email address that represented the parent brand, while employees and lower management had email addresses for different brands. The employees felt lesser and not part of the main brand they felt more empowered by. This caused ongoing friction between employees and management. Management resisted making any change for a long time. Eventually, with the intervention of the CIO and HR executive, all employees were given the same email address. The impact on morale was profound in a positive way. Small things can lead to big things.


In any organisation where information technologies are a key part of an employees’ job performance, issues of culture, ritual and inclusivity will play a key role in how people perceive, accept and work with the technology tools they are provided.


For decades, the development and deployment of information technologies has been made from the perspective mostly of the developer of the tools and the requirements of the buyer. Humans have been seen simply as “users” fulfilling a function in a system, rather than humans. The word “user” is in itself an abstract term that creates a sense of disassociation between the human designing/developing the technology and the human that has to use it every day at work. And one thing we know about humans, is that we are a quirky bunch. The user has simply been viewed as a functional part of the system, yet it is the humans which cause the most problems with information technologies.


By taking a more human-centred approach to information management and technology deployment in an organisation, we look at the people using these tools not as “users” but as humans or perhaps, participants. It changes how software and hardware are designed, developed and deployed within an organisation. A significant tension always exists in how an information management person sees the best solution and the humans on the other end who use the tools.

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