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A connected future is an accessible future

Inspiration Business and Enterprise

Posted on December 3, 2019

4 min read

Tuesday 3 December is International Day of People With Disability. The TelstrAbility Employee Representative Group hosted a panel on accessibility in Sydney and Melbourne to hear about how we can build a connected future so everyone can thrive. The event was live-streamed to audiences around the country.

One of the key takeaways was recognising that becoming an accessible employer and an accessible company doesn’t just happen overnight. At our collaborative panel event, our people who live with disabilities discussed the long journey towards becoming an accessible business.

They each identified areas where there have been improvements, while highlighting shortcomings that we’re well on our way to addressing.

Chris Riley, one of our Ways of Working coaches, offered an interesting insight on the journey of accessibility and how we all have a role to play.

“Is technology perfect for accessibility yet? Heavens no. But is it getting better? Absolutely.

“But accessibility is not just about building better technology, it’s about people. It’s about mindset. As a coach I train people on mindset as the powerhouse behind everything.

“By making small changes of mindset, you can have a big impact towards creating more accessible working environments,” Chris said on the panel.

Adem Cifcioglu, Founder and Director of Accessible Technologies at Intopia, told the audience that “you don’t know what you don’t know”, and that people “never set out to make something inaccessible”. Inaccessibility happens when teams building products and services don’t seek diverse perspectives from someone who may use that product or service with a specific requirement.

He added that accessibility is more than just a checkbox: it’s about designing something to be accessible in every step of the development process.

One of our key values is “better together”. It’s about understanding that we benefit from what we have in common and strengthen our internal culture by leveraging our differences to build things collaboratively. Amy Whalley, Deputy CEO of Australian Network on Disability, recognised that as part of our “better together” practices, we need to recognise that accessibility is everyone’s job.

“There isn’t one person responsible for driving accessible culture and accessibility,” Amy says. “Everyone is responsible for disrupting biases to make sure that we’re creating an accessible workplace. If you see something that isn’t accessible, make sure you call it out within the organisation,” she added.

Amy said that the most effective way to ensure you’re being open and accessible is to remember the acronym “ATP”. That stands for “Ask The Person”.

“By thinking about the humans who interact with the technology, we get the best results. Asking the person what they need is the biggest leap forward we can take for accessibility,” Amy said.

Chris Riley added that ATP is great, and needs to be a constant feedback process: “Keep checking in on people and keep asking the questions about what they need to do their job well!”

Amy also mentioned that Telstra has recently become one of only a dozen Australian organisations to be recognised by the Australian Network on Disability as a Disability Confident Recruiter. This is significant, as it recognises us as an accessible workplace of choice for the 1 in 5 Aussies living with a disability.

We’re obsessed with attracting the best talent to help build a connected future, and by making our recruitment and employment processes more accessible we’re now able to select from a broad and diverse talent pool.

Becoming a Disability Confident Recruiter, or DCR, sends a message to skilled candidates with disabilities that they can feel confident to apply for roles with us, and that we have the flexibility, the technology and the culture that supports them to thrive.

Being certified as a DCR means we’ve worked to remove barriers to the recruitment process and build new workplace adjustments to cater for those with an accessibility requirement, while becoming an employer of choice within the disabled community to attract more talented individuals to our ranks.

Being an accessible employer unlocks huge value for a business, and in turn its shareholders. Companies that improve their accessibility are four times as likely to build greater shareholder return after doing so. That’s why we’re acceding to the requirements of being a DCR and updating our internal disability policies to ensure everything from our premises through to our products are accessible to everyone.

A connected future has to be an accessible one, and by working collaboratively to ensure we’re better together, we’ll ensure that we’re building that connected future for everyone.

Ending homelessness within a fortnight: social change maker Dignity’s story

Telstra Business Awards

Posted on November 28, 2019

4 min read

Dignity

When Suzanne Hopman witnessed a young family experiencing homelessness, she was determined to address the issue in Australia one person at a time. Her not-for-profit organisation Dignity aims to do just that by helping people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness – and has gone on to be crowned Telstra’s Business of the Year 2019.

People often ask if we are a business or a charity. The answer is that we are both. In order to be the most efficient, stable, transparent charity that we can be, we need to run as an incredible business. We do not make a profit – but every dollar saved is a dollar we can spend helping someone, and every dollar wasted is a dollar we can’t use. It’s an incredible responsibility.

I’ll never forget that moment when I knew things had to change.

I was visiting a mother, and her little baby and five-year-old daughter Sophie, who were experiencing homelessness. They had just checked into a really dingy motel – it was like something out of a horror movie. There was a visible layer of grime on the floor and I was taking small breaths so I didn’t breathe in the smell of the room.

While I was talking to the mum, Sophie was just on the corner of the bed so quietly – no tears, but a look in her eyes of pure terror that I will never forget. They had nothing to eat, no nappies, no clean clothes and no idea what to do next.

Restoring dignity is a critical step in empowering people experiencing homelessness.

At Dignity, we aim to empower people to end their homelessness within 14 days. That is 14 days from the first day of homelessness to stable accommodation. Last month, we averaged less than eight days. At Dignity, our properties are beautiful, we offer delicious homecooked meals made by incredible volunteers, and have a team offering brand new clothes and well-trained support workers.

I wish that Dignity had been there for Sophie. In less than 4 years, we’ve journeyed alongside more than 50,000 people and ended their homelessness.

Dignity

Homelessness does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone.

Usually, a few things have just gone terribly wrong until life has spiralled out of control. It can creep up on those who’ve always had a place to call home, and never contemplated life would be any different.

No two stories are ever the same, but one thing they often have in common is a level of trauma; trauma from whatever has caused the homelessness, and trauma from the homelessness itself.

Dignity

A diverse team with one mission.

We don’t have an office.

Instead, our team works remotely to reduce our overheads and 97 per cent of every dollar we are donated goes directly to supporting people who are homeless. But this is not why we’re successful in achieving our goals. The key lies in our complete and unwavering focus on our mission to support people experiencing homelessness.

We believe we can end homelessness in Australia, and our ultimate aim is to do just that. We can’t get this result by providing aid or just helping people who are homeless; instead, we need to empower people who are experiencing homelessness, or at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Dignity

This award from Telstra is in celebration of all who have ended their homelessness and who got into stable housing – you have inspired us with your stories of how you overcame the adversity, endured humiliation, risen above embarrassment and shame.

It’s your courage and strength that is to be admired – this is for you.

From intern to full-time: how we’re helping Indigenous students find their fit

Telstra Careers Advice

Posted on November 20, 2019

4 min read

We have just welcomed 16 talented and driven Indigenous university students who are joining us this summer for the CareerTrackers internship program.

Every summer and winter, we aim to onboard new interns as well as welcome back some familiar faces returning for another experience. Over the next three months, our interns will be hard at work in different areas of our business.

Since 2015, we’ve partnered with CareerTrackers – a national not-for-profit organisation that aims to create paid, multi-year internship opportunities for Indigenous university students in Australia.

This partnership is part of our 2019-21 Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP), in which we’ve committed to increasing our CareerTrackers intake to 20 per year for the next three years to help improve the participation of Indigenous Australians in the workforce and develop future talent.

We’re committed to continuously building a strong pipeline of diverse early career talent, and this program is a means to help Indigenous students find their career fit and gain work experience relevant to their degree – with the aim of developing them from interns into our graduate program or full-time employment once they complete their degrees.

We asked Kirstin Shaw, one of our past interns who is now a full-time employee, to share her experience on the CareerTrackers program at Telstra and her career journey since then.

Kirstin’s story

I’ve been at Telstra for almost 5 years now, and have loved every step along the way, from Customer Advisor to Intern, to Summer Vacation Student to Graduate, and then a permanent role! My career started before CareerTrackers came along – I applied for a casual role in a Telstra store, and the leads I worked with were always extremely supportive of my ambitions – this supportive culture led me to look at Telstra as a long term career choice.

I grew up in Mackay in North Queensland and began studying a double degree in Law & Accounting online at Central Queensland University while working part-time at a local tax firm. When I moved to Brisbane, I moved in with a friend whose brother worked for CareerTrackers and that’s how I found out about the program. They provided me the academic support and direction I was really lacking.

The community was like nothing I had ever experienced at home – it allowed me to learn a lot about myself and my culture and connect on a deeper level. Seeing others from backgrounds like mine succeed made me realise I could do a lot better than I was.

What area of the business did you rotate into, and what did you learn?

My first internship was in Service Delivery in Enterprise in 2016. I did 4 weeks in this team and this was enough to cement the fact that Telstra was the right fit for my early career.

I applied for the Summer Vacation program and accidentally ticked a box confirming I’d relocate to Melbourne instead of staying in Brisbane. I got a position which was in Melbourne – I had never been before, knew no one here, but was determined to make it work.

I spent those 12 weeks in a Small Business Sales team attending customer site visits, investigating customer non-payment causes and NPS. After this I was accepted to the Finance Grad program, which saw me permanently move to Melbourne – ticking that box in 2016 is the best mistake I’ve ever made! I completed three rotations in Commissions Finance, Group Compliance and Supply Chain Operations – each rotation was very different and allowed me to build different skills.

I’ve now rolled off the grad program into Group Internal Audit, which I’m loving – there are always new things to learn and different parts of the business to dive into. I’ve had fantastic support along the way from our people – namely, store leads, Grad leads and the Indigenous recruitment specialists who always supported me to follow my passions.

The highlight of CareerTrackers was earning my Gold Diary – an award for students who maintain a distinction average. Coming from a place where I didn’t know what a GPA was, this was a huge achievement for me and something I may not have been motivated to do without the community’s support.

What would you say to other Indigenous students who are looking at applying for the CareerTrackers program with Telstra?

Give it a go – what do you have to lose? It just may be the best decision you ever make. Being a part of CareerTrackers was a driving force for my success at university and into my early career. Get yourself a mentor and learn as much as possible.

Be strong about where you would like to see your career take you, don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself.

Communicating openly to rebuild trust

Telstra News

Posted on November 6, 2019

3 min read

We’re an organisation with a century-long history, recognised as playing a critical role in bringing connectivity to millions of Australians over that time. That shared history has seen us through both good times and challenging times. We’re working hard to build an organisation that can last for the next 100 years. Part of that work involves looking at what we do well, and what we want to improve on and working on ensuring we maintain trust with our customers.

As we have been looking at areas to improve, we have reflected on a few important questions. How can we make life simpler for our customers? How can we take away key pain points and ensure they only pay for what they need? How can we make sure that behaviour we want to change doesn’t happen again? And most importantly – how do we constantly work to build greater trust between us and the community?

We’ve worked hard for many years to progressively remove customer pain points.  Last year, for example, we radically redesigned our plans, abolishing lock-in service contracts and excess data charges, all fuelled by a desire to simplify our offerings to make life easier for customers.  

Amidst these changes, we started to hear some concerns about the way we had been selling some of our devices and services. We found that we hadn’t always got this right and we needed to work harder to build trust with our customers.

This was an uncomfortable truth for us to face. We identified (or had raised with us) instances where a small number of our partners sold mobile devices and plans to customers that they ultimately couldn’t afford and also may not have been appropriate for their needs. This included sales to Indigenous Australians living in remote communities.  In some cases, the checks and balances we had in place to ensure this doesn’t happen were not followed.  Put simply, the standards our customers expect from us, and that we expect from ourselves and our partners, were not met.

We recognise and have grappled with the gravity of this issue and understand the impact to the customers involved was significant. Of most concern is the fact this behaviour is enough to break the trust we want to foster with our customers and in the community. 

That’s why we’re taking significant steps to strengthen our processes, as even one instance of this happening is one too many.

As a first step, we have responded to complaints raised with us and are working with our customers towards individual resolutions.  In addition, we have taken a range of significant disciplinary actions against the partners that we found to be in breach of their agreements with Telstra.

Why I’m stepping up again for Steptember

Sustainability

Posted on September 17, 2019

3 min read

We’re at the midway point of Steptember – Cerebral Palsy Alliance’s (CPA) fundraiser to challenge people to move 10,000 steps each day this month.

To date, more than $6M has been raised globally from steppers around the world to support people living with cerebral palsy.

As a parent of two children with a disability, I’m excited by the potential of technology to drive inclusion and reduce barriers for people with disability. When I’m stepping, that’s what I’m thinking about and I encourage people to join the Steptember effort or donate to a team that has stepped up this year.

Just reflecting on my Steptember this year, I like the idea that when I take stairs instead of a lift or encourage my friends and family to part with their reddies to sponsor me, that this all rolls up to something much bigger than a charity fundraiser.

For Telstra people involved in Steptember, we’re stepping up because our fundraising supports CPA’s Remarkable, Australia’s first accelerator for early-stage start-ups creating tech that improves life for people with disability. 

Last year we raised more than $200K, and while we topped the Steptember fundraiser tally board the real headline was that six new innovative tech enterprises were supported to make a difference. Through Steptember we helped:

  • Sameview to build a trusted online platform for easier, and better disability care coordination
  • Spokle to launch its speech therapy app to provide practical, family-centred communication strategies to support children with communication disorders
  • Bookbot to empower those with learning disabilities to become confident, independent learners through a reading assistant app
  • jobmatcher to use predictive artificial intelligence to match the most relevant positions for each job seeker, particularly tackling the low employment rates for people with disability
  • NomadVR to bring highly stimulating virtual reality experiences to empower anyone without the means to go outside with the ability to do so much more
  • PolySpine to develop a customised, modular torso and head support system that enables people with physical disability to participate in various recreational and rehabilitation activities

Here are just a few ways that you can meet your Steptember goals by the end of the month and step it up:

  1. Walk away from your desk for lunch and get some fresh air. It will not only get your steps up but help you to refocus for the afternoon.
  2. Get off the train/bus/tram a stop early to get some extra steps in.
  3. Park your car further away from your destination to not only increase your chances of finding a car park but increase your step count.
  4. Say no the elevator and embrace the stairs.
  5. Spring has sprung so spend some time outside getting your garden ready. You’d be surprised how many steps you’ll do mowing, weeding and planting.
  6. Take your meeting to go: walking and talking will allow you to have a doubly productive meeting.
  7. Retail therapy: get those steps up and treat yourself to a shopping trip.
  8. Get social and active: walk with someone as a social activity catch up or walk over to a work colleague to talk instead of emailing them.
  9. Set an hourly alarm to remind yourself to take a stroll.
  10. Keep it fun – walk the dogs, kids, partners, and get everyone outdoors to play.  

You can #makeeverystepcount: https://www.steptember.org.au/