As an experienced corporate event planner, Jeff Orlowsky knows how important a good experience can be in engaging an audience. He has tapped into his own unique skills to become a champion for accessibility, inclusion, and engagement at Macquarie.
Jeff Orlowsky is no stranger to the importance of accessibility, having experienced hearing loss since the age of two. "I came to understand that everyone is different and each of us requires a unique set of skills by which we interact with society. What I've also learned is that it takes courage to adapt and speak up for what you need, no matter your circumstances."
Soon after joining Macquarie as a senior manager of Event Marketing, Jeff knew he would be more efficient if he had access to a video conference monitor and access to closed captioning for global calls.
"I was wasting time on the phone. I really need to talk with people face to face so that I can read their lips. After discussing with my manager, we researched the best options to support me in my work."
Empowered to make positive change
From inclusive behaviour and leadership education and training for employees, to showcasing the importance of neurodiversity and mental health, there are a variety of accessibility resources at Macquarie to support the needs of our people.
"As a manager, you may not immediately understand why an employee is asking for certain resources," says Jeff. "It's important that you take the time to engage with and learn more about that person in order to better elevate them."
Feeling genuinely valued by Macquarie and its belief that everyone has a role to play in creating a culture of inclusion, Jeff was inspired. He began to look for additional ways he could make Macquarie an even more accessible place for all and was welcomed into a dialogue with Macquarie's leaders, ultimately presenting to Macquarie's board of directors on the importance of enhancing our workplace experiences to accommodate all needs.
"In today's tech-enabled world, it's an ideal time to learn more about people and the specific resources that will help them to succeed. By listening carefully and taking the time to understand employee needs, leaders can increase engagement and help their staff feel valued as human beings ultimately improving morale and performance across the organisation."
Adjusting to remote working and virtual events
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Macquarie employees, like millions of others, began working virtually.
"Once I understood the magnitude of the situation, I quickly realised that returning to the office could be a long time away," Jeff says. "Like everyone else, I had to adjust."
He knew that adapting to a fully virtual working environment would be challenging as he would no longer be able to speak with his colleagues face-to-face. However, once again he was able to leverage his team and technology to get set up for what he needed to work remotely.
In addition to adapting to this new way of working, Jeff, with the support of Macquarie colleagues globally, started prioritising key accessibility needs throughout the organisation. This included updating Macquarie's presentation builder.
"Presentation builder is designed to equip staff with the right materials to tell the Macquarie story. It is highly leveraged throughout the organisation and is often viewed by clients, communities and colleagues alike, so it was important to update it," Jeff says.
"From reordering elements on a page for improved screen reading, to checking text legibility and colour contrast, everything we updated was done with accessibility in mind."
Jeff also had to work with his team to adapt Macquarie's entire event calendar, which would usually consist of face-to-face events.
"It's my role as a corporate event planner to make sure our clients, colleagues and stakeholders have a great experience at our events and leave with a better understanding of our work and a better relationship with Macquarie."
He began looking for virtual meeting tools that provide live captioning and auto-captioning features to make events and virtual meetings more inclusive and engaging.
"Within one month of working from home we had live captioning set up as we completed an onboarding process with a vendor to provide this service. This is helping to maximise the team meetings and other virtual events we plan, not only for myself but for others," Jeff says.
"If our videos/podcasts/social media messages are not captioned, people may stop watching or miss part of our message. We don't know the seen and unseen needs of our colleagues, clients and our communities, so we try to cover all bases, so everyone feels included and engaged."