Interview with Medibank: How we became a top performer in access and inclusion

Wed 24 July 2019

Hand holding out microphone for someone to speak into

It’s a story of remarkable progress. One that shows how a deep understanding of access and inclusion across your whole organisation can lead to tangible results.

In this interview with Nigel Davis, you’ll find out how Medibank used a national benchmarking tool – the Access and Inclusion Index – to boost its score on inclusion of people with disability by almost double in just three years, taking its place as one of Australia’s three top performers in 2018-19. 

Nigel David is Medibank’s Employee Listening Strategy and Organisational Effectiveness Lead. The original version of this interview took place during a live webinar hosted by the Australian Network on Disability, called ‘A whole-of-business approach to access and inclusion’. Our sincere thanks to Nigel for allowing us to share his experience and valuable insights into Medibank’s remarkable journey.

Tell us, what prompted your initial participation in the Access and Inclusion Index in 2016?

Nigel: I think it’s safe to say that back in 2015 and 2016, Medibank’s focus on an accessibility strategy wasn’t where it should be. We managed to engage with the Australian Network on Disability just to understand the lay of the land in accessibility and what we should be focusing on.

We also ran an accessibility maturity assessment. The way our digital teams and some of our customers and employees were developing assets – making sure those were accessible for people with disabilities.

We also had a pretty low representation of people with disability in our workforce. We had some ideas about how we might improve, but we didn’t know where to start. It was a good opportunity for us to do a more thorough assessment across our business and start to understand how to perform more holistically, rather than how we just communicate with employees.

It introduced a whole-of-business approach to how we thought about accessibility. It was an opportunity to engage people around the business. We generally use that as a starting point to talk about accessibility.

So, you use the Index as a tool to engage people in a conversation?

Nigel: Absolutely. It’s a non-threatening conversation to have, especially for us who weren’t doing a lot in the accessibility space. It’s more of an inquisitive conversation. A lot of the time people didn’t know what they didn't know. The Index provided a good opportunity to start talking about accessibility and uncovering those blind spots that we had before.

And what support did you need from the wider business in order to complete the Index?

Nigel: Our organisation was familiar with things like the Australian Workplace Equality Index that we use for LGBTI inclusion. Understanding the power of having an instrument to let us know how we’re travelling in comparison to our peers was really useful.

Using the Index is an opportunity to have conversations with the people who are responsible for doing the work that will have the most impact; I think that helped us to get a case for change within the business.

Having conversations with someone who might work on a website and understanding where some of the gaps might be or some of the challenges are. We can have a more informed conversation and partnership with the business. With some of our senior leaders as well, so they can understand the problems.

To be honest, our business leaders really did sit up and take notice when we started talking about this in relation to our customers. When we started having a conversation with them about this being an experience of customers as well as our people, that is when the conversation really changed. Having a look at, for example, how people in our retail stores could better service people with disability, or how people with disability can find content they want on our website.

What did you learn from your first iteration in 2016 and how did you use those learnings to improve by 54% in 2017?

Nigel: We learned there were things we weren’t doing, and some basic stuff we could do immediately, such as a Workplace Adjustments Policy and looking at our recruitment process, which should have been inclusive of people with disability.

We had a bit of a fire behind us now, to make sure we increased our efforts because we were not performing in the way we thought we were. And we took those results to form a really basic action plan, and it wasn't anything too intense, but we wanted to make sure our senior leaders were engaging around disability, having an action group on disability, having some of those insights in the business.

We also leveraged some of the results to make sure we could better understand who the business leaders were that we could use to influence some of the harder elements, such as how could we work with some of our suppliers to make sure some of the technology we were using had better accessibility built-in from the get-go. So, it was a matter of having a frank conversation with businesses to get some really quick wins on the table about stuff that didn't require a lot of heavy lifting, demonstrate that success and then start to go for some of the harder things.

What have been the biggest changes you’ve made in the past three years as a result of the Index evaluation reports you’ve received?

Nigel: I think participating for as long as we have, it gave us a real opportunity to have some in-depth conversations around accessibility with people, and realise there were a lot of passionate people in the business who wanted to do the right thing. So, once we got some of the basic stuff done, we had a real passionate base of people across the organisation to start tackling the difficult issues.

I think one of the real game changers for us as well was understanding the sorts of issues that were cropping up in the system, such as customer complaints. How they were accessing some of our products and services, for example. We wouldn’t have been aware of these issues without having those conversations.

So, we provided an opportunity for the business to work on those issues in partnership and gave people a platform to start thinking about how we approach this as an enterprise rather than in a piecemeal way. Basically, it stemmed from thinking that we need to develop a whole-of-business plan for accessibility. That led us to develop our first Accessibility and Inclusion Plan, which was launched in 2018.

Well, you’ve certainly achieved remarkable success. What are the next steps for Medibank with the Index, or just access and inclusion generally?

Nigel: We will definitely continue to do the Index. We understand we don't have everything right yet.

We will continue to boost representation [of employees with disability]. I mean, we’ve gone from less than 5% at the start, to around 7.5% now, which is great. I think the fact that there’s been a more than 2% increase since we started doing the Index – this tells me that people are happier to identify with disability since we started having these conversations and making visible change.

There is still a lot of work to do so. Digital access will continue to be a key focus for us. We have quite a diverse business that runs many subsidiaries. The digital access is one of those things that will keep going and will become more of a focus for us. And I think, also, trying to understand how we better work with our customers with disability as well.

We’ve done some amazing work: Medibank runs the 1800 RESPECT domestic violence and assault hotline for the government, and we’ve done some amazing work redesigning that with the perspectives of people with disability.

Question from the audience: Did you complete the Index independently or did several business functions work together to complete it?

Nigel: It was People and Culture putting a finger in the air to see how we were performing at baseline, but once we took that result back to the business, we definitely started putting responsibility for the Index into the hands of the wider business. I can’t talk about digital accessibility with the confidence of somebody who works within ICT [Information Communication Technology], so we absolutely rely on the different business areas to support us in responding to each of the questions.

About the Access and Inclusion Index

Gain critical insights into your organisation’s performance and a roadmap to accelerate your progress with the Access and Inclusion Index – Australia’s foremost benchmarking tool for inclusion of people with disability. 

No matter where you are on the journey to disability confidence, the Index helps you:

  • Deeply understand access and inclusion across your organisation
  • Gain insights into areas of strength and opportunity 
  • Establish a foundation from which to build disability confidence and capability
  • Set measurable performance goals across key business areas
  • Build awareness and knowledge across your workforce
  • Engage your whole organisation in the access and inclusion agenda
  • Gain a roadmap to accelerate year-on-year progress
  • Formulate a strategic plan for the future

There’s only two months until the submission deadline (Friday 6 December) for this year’s national benchmarking. To find out more, or discuss how you can participate, contact us on 1300 363 645 or email

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