Diversity.jpgThis post is part of the series 14 Questions, featuring interviews with advocates regarding their work and insights into the Complex Rehab Technology (CRT) industry. In this post, Numotion Director of Advocacy Strategy, Justin Richardson takes a slightly different approach. Richardson has invited a group of people to address a very important and timely topic – Diversity and Inclusion at Numotion.

This distinguished panel of Numotion employees includes Adam Holton, Chief Human Resources Officer; Regena Johnson, Vice President of Funding; Amy Baker-Warner, Regional Vice President, Northeast; and Karen Roy, Numotion Brand Ambassador.

Richardson: As an HR leader, why is a focus on Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) important?
Holton: Because it’s the right thing to do – for our employees, our customers, and our business. Our employees deserve a workplace that values the rich set of experiences & viewpoints that come from having employees of different gender, ethnicity, disability status, religion, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, and citizenship. Our customers deserve a company that reflects the communities we serve and that draws upon this diversity to most effectively interact with them. As the market leader in CRT, we serve an incredible customer base who shares the diversity dimension of disability in common, but also covers every intersection of diversity that exists. Mirroring that diversity and creating an inclusive environment for all allow us to serve our customers even better. And the various stakeholders in our business deserve a workforce that is the best in the industry. Diversity has been proven to accelerate individual cognition and enable team innovation in a way that homogeneity simply cannot. By having diverse representation and constantly striving for the most inclusive environment possible, we ensure our business can operate at its highest potential.
Richardson: What makes for a good D&I program and focus in any company?
Holton: I think connection to the business strategy, leadership focus, and prioritizing the vital few outcomes to deliver. When D&I works, it is not an initiative. It’s not just “another thing we have to do.” Rather, it is an overarching lens to use as we look at everything important across our business. This comes from having leaders who innately understand that having a diverse & inclusive company equals having a better company and generating the actions that back up those beliefs. Lastly, like any good part of a company’s strategy, I believe the best D&I programs prioritize the most important outcomes it wants to deliver on, and then maniacally focuses its efforts around achieving them. For us, we have chosen to focus our D&I program on raising the dialogue and increasing awareness around D&I and then (most importantly) facilitating needed change. As we continue executing on each of these pillars, we will continue to be able to serve our customers even better.
Richardson: How has Numotion’s approach to D&I changed in light of events of the last few months?
Holton: In the six years that our current CEO, Mike Swinford, he has been passionate about the importance of diversity & inclusion as a core enabler of our business. And in line with Mike’s leadership style, it has been our strong preference to drive actions instead of only aligning words. While we still believe that action is most important (and we have plenty of opportunity for more of it), the last few months have convinced us we needed to provide more clarity to our employees and customers around what we believe and why we believe it, as well as provide more structure for how we systematically enable D&I at Numotion. We have updated our position statement on diversity & inclusion and are in the process of building out more intentional operating mechanisms that will help us focus on the actions that will have the most impact. We feel these are the right steps as we continue on our never-ending journey to be the most diverse & inclusive company possible. 
Richardson: What has Numotion done to facilitate dialogue and understanding across the employee base?
Holton: For us, creating a safe and structured environment to raise the dialogue around matters of D&I has been our focus in the last few months. George Floyd’s death has sparked a dialogue in our country tied to race that has been unprecedented in most of our lifetimes. Race is a topic that evokes emotion in ways that almost no other topic does, and the cost of silence when it comes to it is often overlooked. While dialogue on race and other aspects of diversity can feel incredibly uncomfortable and unwieldy at times, it represents the initial pathway to unprecedented improvements in diversity & inclusion. We ALL should strive to be more comfortable having discussions that touch on the various facets of diversity. In striving to provide a framework for having those discussions, we have hosted a series of panel dialogues on D&I over the last few months, doing our very best to provide diverse perspectives on topics that we all can learn from. For instance, we had a panel discussion where a few of our employees talked about their experience as African-Americans, and shared heart-wrenching examples of what they have routinely endured throughout their lives. As well, we hosted a group of employees who had been themselves or had family members who were, law enforcement officers. Most recently, we did a discussion on bias and macroaggressions.  The intent of these discussions, along with other D&I panels we plan to have, are to delve into different aspects of D&I, all with the intent of raising the dialogue to a higher level. We have received a wave of positive feedback from our employees, who have been thankful to have an environment that is ok to ask tough questions and hear raw and vulnerable perspectives as they articulate what is on their minds and in their hearts surrounding this very complex topic. 
Richardson: You were a part of the just mentioned panel discussion on race and social injustice.  How was that experience for you and what did you personally take-away from it?
Johnson: This panel discussion experience was in three words…emotional, difficult and vulnerable. It was truly one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. Typically, this type of dialogue and sharing doesn’t happen in the workplace, so quite frankly I was very nervous about how it would be received. I was quite pleased that Numotion and the leadership team were willing to tackle this head-on. Our company, our communities and our nation are indeed ready for change. I feel I have a responsibility to continue to impact that change and am incredibly proud to work for a company that shares in that vision.
Richardson: What do you hope Numotion employees learn from this type of dialogue and how do you hope it impacts the culture at Numotion and beyond?
Johnson: It’s great to be part of a company that values this change. I believe that Numotion will continue to lead in this area and our employees will continue to get involved in respectful dialogue and understand that it’s not enough to just acknowledge racism exists, but push themselves (and others) to become proactively anti-racist. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach to doing this and the dialogue will continue to evolve in depth and width. Getting involved doesn’t require a grand plan or gesture … but simply a willingness and an open heart. I think this dialogue is especially impactful to Numotion due to the diversity of the customers we serve. If we continue to execute on a true culture of inclusion, the impact to our Numotion family, our extended families, our customers is exponential! We may not be able to change the entire world, but we can certainly have an intentional impact on the lives we touch! 
Richardson: What has been the response from employees to the open dialogue and the D&I efforts in general?
Johnson: The response has been really positive overall and quite embracing because it’s a continuation of ongoing discussions around D&I at Numotion. Employees are sharing, while others are truly listening to understand, questions are being asked and answered, emotions are being stirred up, bonds being formed and day by day our Numotion family is becoming even closer and more aware. I am confident Numotion’s ongoing D&I efforts will continue to grow and compliment this.
Richardson: What is one thing you want to make sure that Numotion continues to do as it moves forward with its D&I programs?
Johnson: Continued transparency and openness. This is critical. We must keep the dialogue going from all levels of the organization. 
Richardson: You have been a champion of Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) throughout your career. What are ERGs and what positive impact can they have on an organization?
Holton: Employee Resource Groups can have a direct and significant impact on the inclusion and diversity of a company. They provide a safe forum for employees to interact with other employees with like affinity. Having that is so important. In any organization, it is hard for employees who fall into the minority on any dimension of diversity to bring their entire authentic selves to work every day. I have found that ERGs help employees to find others who share similar traits and can understand where they come from based on shared experiences. This helps tremendously to increase the level of inclusion that employees experience within their company. I also have found that ERGs can be powerful allies in helping a company to increase its representation of the various dimensions of diversity. The advocacy that employees display when they share their experiences across their personal and professional networks impact potential future Numotion employees way more than hiring managers or recruiters ever could.
Richardson: What ERGs exist at Numotion right now and what are the plans for the future?
Holton: We put in place the Numotion Women’s Network a few years ago and we are in the process of launching the Numotion African-American Network. At the time we established the Women’s Network, we did it with the understanding that it would be the first chapter of many ERGs to come in the future. We believe that the right time for any specific ERG to “launch” should be determined by our employees. I have had some experience in the past in introducing ERGs to a company where none had existed before, and one of our biggest learnings was it was important for the need to bubble up naturally from employees in order for the effort to stick most effectively. At Numotion, just as we saw a groundswell of interest in starting the Women’s Network a few years ago and the African-American Network now, we expect to have additional networks launch in the future. And all of these will be in addition to the Employee Consumer Council a form of ERG we have had in place. This group, made up of a number of employees who are disabled, are instrumental in providing feedback on products, services, and what we can do as an employer to be even better at supporting the disabled community.
Richardson: You champion Numotion’s Employee Consumer Council. What is the focus of that group and how does it contribute to the company’s overall D&I initiative?
Roy: The Employee Consumer Council consists of 11 Numotion employees who utilize CRT for mobility. The ECC was created to provide insight and feedback from the consumer perspective to departments inside Numotion as well as serve as a resource and advocate to our peers outside of Numotion. Some of our goals include improved service to our customers, creating educational resources, and driving better access for employees with disabilities. One focus has been to create a library of “Pro Tips” for people new to CRT. Another has been to standardize accessibility in all our locations across the country, creating more inclusive workspaces. The ECC is also working hand in hand with other departments to eliminate unconscious bias and increase the number of employees working for Numotion who are living with any type of disability. Approximately 26% of American adults live with some disability, and we want Numotion to be a reflection of the larger society.
Richardson: You champion the Numotion Women's Network. What is the focus of that group and how does it contribute to the company’s overall D&I initiative?
Baker-Warner: The mission of the Numotion Women’s Network is to empower, develop and mentor all women by creating opportunities through innovation and modeling. The Numotion Women’s Network creates opportunities for the women at Numotion that foster leadership, creativity, diversity of thought, and career development through ongoing learning opportunities, programs and activities. While the NWN is targeted for women, it is not exclusive to women. As with all ERGs at Numotion, anyone can join. This is an important part of this aspect of the company’s D&I efforts. We are about increasing awareness of challenges faced by women and raising the dialogue to create actions that will drive real change in creating more leadership opportunities and establishing programs for the development and growth of the women of Numotion. As the first ERG at Numotion, we recognize the obligation we have to set the tone and we have already seen much success in our efforts to provide opportunities for employees to develop, learn, innovate and grow.
Richardson: Numotion already had a position on diversity before, so why update it now?
Holton: Because the environment around us evolves and it is important to be precise with words on what is most critical. Our updated D&I statement, Embracing Uniqueness, states: “Promoting an environment where everyone, from every unique background, can do their best work is the right thing to do. We strive for a workplace that reflects the communities we serve and we do not tolerate discrimination against our employees, customers and partners regardless of ethnicity, disability, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, age, citizenship, marital or veteran status. Maintaining our standing as the industry leader in CRT comes from having a workforce with a diverse mix of minds, backgrounds and experiences, and we are committed to cultivating an inclusive work environment based in open dialogue, active listening and ongoing definitive actions.” We expect this statement will serve as a great enabler to our employees and customers, helping them to unambiguously understand our company’s perceptive on diversity & inclusion and why it is so important.
Richardson: Any good articles or books you would recommend for people who want to learn more about D&I?
Holton: I think that any book or article that gets you to think differently about topics you are not overly familiar with is good for advancing D&I competency. From a traditional D&I point of view, the book There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in The Other America, had a lot of impact on me. It paints a vivid picture of the challenges placed on some individuals by the systems of others. From a non-traditional source, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, is a fantastic book on understanding the disposition and approach that can bring differently-thinking people together in even the most adverse of conditions.  Similar to engaging in dialogue about the topic of D&I, just about any article or book you read on it will be a good opportunity to extract learnings that can be leveraged.   
Justin Richardson, Executive Director of the Numotion Foundation


Justin Richardson, Executive Director of the Numotion Foundation

Justin Richardson is a manual wheelchair user of seventeen years and thirteen-year veteran of the seating and mobility industry. He has deep perspective and experience as a former ATP, operations manager, communications and customer experience leader. Currently Justin also serves as the Executive Director of the Numotion Foundation and sits on the Board of the North Carolina Spinal Cord Injury Association.