“Fannie Mae” Builds an Inclusive Workplace with Microsoft 365, Helping All Employees Reach Their Full Potentials
Teaching New Skills and Promoting an Inclusive Workplace Breaks Down Barriers
“The Accessibility Labs are hugely popular opportunities for people to embrace the full breadth of the accessibility features built into Microsoft 365. We promote the idea that everyone can work more productively and create better outcomes for customers,” says Scott. “Last year at each location, volunteers from the I2 ERG and members of the Digital Workplace team trained employees on accessibility features, focusing on those that might assist with hearing, cognitive, and vision conditions. So, we covered things like Tell Me, the Microsoft Office Themes and High Contrast, Magnifier, and Ease of Access settings. It was a big success because it raised awareness about the benefits of inclusion and showed Fannie Mae employees how accessible technology can help everyone.”
“Planning this event in partnership with the I2 ERG was a great experience to not only educate our colleagues on collaboration tools like we normally do, but also bring awareness to how others can deliver content to our colleagues more efficiently using alternative text, making captioning available in meetings, and more,” says Hannah Cherian, IT Business Analyst in Digital Workplace at Fannie Mae. “We saw an opportunity for Digital Workplace’s partnership with the I2 ERG to produce impactful events for our users while building a sense of community that enhances our everyday jobs.”
The I2 ERG and Digital Workplace team designed the workshops to provide a productivity spin for all abilities. This helped individuals appreciate that the accessibility features could benefit everyone. “Using Outlook Read Aloud to review your emails or the Accessibility Checker to ensure everyone can consume your PowerPoint presentation—we all benefit from the accessibility features in Microsoft 365,” says Cherian.
Keith Clayton, Project Manager and Lead of the I2 ERG’s Recruiting and Pipeline Development workstream at Fannie Mae, is always hearing stories about interesting uses for the accessibility features built into Microsoft 365 that demonstrate the universal benefits of the features. “I was talking to a director not long ago at Fannie Mae who likes to listen to his emails before he hits the send button to make sure they sound good,” he says. “There are so many uses for these accessibility features in Microsoft 365 that go beyond what you might expect. I turn on captions in Microsoft Teams, and it helps folks with language barriers, for instance.”
“To maintain social distancing, we’re holding our second annual Accessibility Lab virtually through Microsoft Teams live events,” says Cherian. “We want to be able to give everyone an opportunity to join a hands-on virtual environment where we demonstrate Microsoft 365 and Windows accessibility and productivity features and talk about why these things can be valuable tools as they relate to vision, hearing, cognitive, and even mental health assistance.”
Fannie Mae is also hosting a workshop on Microsoft Power Platform, which allows non-developers to build their own applications, dashboards, and workflows. Organizers plan on including content that’s geared toward inclusive design. “We thought it would be beneficial to host an inclusive design workshop to showcase the built-in accessibility features within Microsoft Power Platform,” says Cherian. “And now that we have analysts, legal assistants, HR employees, and other non-technical folks making apps, we want to open this window of opportunity for them as well.”
Accessibility Features Deliver Remote Work Benefits for All Abilities
The outbreak of COVID-19 and the resulting work-from-home initiative provides a powerful example of the way accessible technology delivers unexpected benefits. “As employees learn to balance work and home life during COVID-19, we’ve all found so many more opportunities to use these features. Parents who no longer have daycare, for example, can really benefit from speech to text features when taking care of a child,” says Scott. “That’s what’s so great about inclusive design—it really just benefits everyone,” adds Hong.
In addition to hosting technology labs, employees at Fannie Mae’s Tech Center send out weekly newsletters called “Tech Tip Tuesdays.” The newsletters answer questions that the Tech Center has received in high volume, but they also provide a great platform for promoting accessibility features. “We see Tech Tip Tuesdays as an opportunity to showcase accessibility features; things like Cortana and Outlook Read Aloud, for instance,” says Cherian.
Fannie Mae plans to train its Firstline Workers in its technical support staff to bring awareness to accessibility and how it affects interactions with colleagues and customers. “Our next step is to train our Tech Centers and corporate service centers to promote these features with individuals who may benefit from them,” says Cherian. Fannie Mae has even optimized its external-facing website for accessibility. “Fanniemae.com has all these customizable accessibility features built into it,” says Cherian. “On the home page, we have a drop-down where customers can do things like set different filters for contrasts or magnify the screen.”
Continuing to Serve Communities Through Transformation
For a company that has spent the last 80 years helping to house United States residents, Fannie Mae’s adoption of accessibility tools as part of its technology-enabled workplace transformation is yet another step in its ongoing efforts to build a more inclusive workplace. “We’re privileged to have a workforce that reflects the communities we serve across the United States,” concludes Bill Loeffert, Vice President of Securitization Technology at Fannie Mae. “Innovation, creativity, and problem-solving are enhanced by diversity, and we leverage our talent to create products that serve diverse markets.”