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Ownership Failure: If Other Operations Were Treated Like Workers' Comp

By Barry Thompson

Monday, February 8, 2016 | 385 | 0 | 0 min read

Imagine yourself a manufacturer purchasing a machine to enhance your production line. Imagine a salesperson closing the deal by providing a 1-800 number to call and report any new machine operators.

Barry Thompson

Barry Thompson

Imagine hiring a worker and bringing them to this machine with no training and no awareness of the expected process. Imagine turning the machine on, reporting to the 1-800 line, assuring the worker that someone from the machine company will be contacting them, wishing “good luck” then walking away. If this scenario could ever happen in reality, ask these questions:

– Might the employee be frustrated, to the point of seeking retribution?
– Is your trust in the machine company foolish?
– What outcome would you expect from that production area?

This absurd example illustrates complete failure on the part of the employer… failure to craft an end-to-end production process and failure to secure the employee by defining a job while shaping the expectation, technical training and awareness of that employee. This is pure “ownership failure”

Think it could never happen at a real company? Think again. Ownership failure is common in even the most otherwise sophisticated companies when it comes to Workers’ Comp. Of course, any employer with a simple “report it and forget it” WC claim attitude makes this obvious. However, even employers who presume best-practice standards are unaware that they still fail to own their WC process. Consider this simple test for your company representing just a few ownership failure indicators:

-Can any non-claimant employee explain your WC process beyond the simple “report to supervisor” requirement?

-Do your line-supervisors have more end-to-end WC responsibilities than just taking an initial report?

– Do you have an internal WC coordinator as the main employee contact who facilitates every WC aspect directly with employees?

-Is return to work activity evident with evaluations and paper trails on every lost-time claim?

-Do designated medical facilities communicate with your WC coordinator on all claims?

-Do your management ranks know the cost of workers’ comp as they would know the cost of raw materials or as they would understand your profit margins?

If your answers are “no” then there is likely much you have ignored and given up in terms of WC ownership opportunity. Your employees likely see WC as an outside vendor-managed program.

Quick Tip: Brand, Bundle and Own Your WC Program

Here are some high level concepts that are proven to succeed:

-Give your WC program a brand name that signifies your company and transcends any insurer or TPA that might be involved. Own it. Your population needs to respect it at the same level as their actual employment requirements and job duties.

-Combine WC awareness, visibility, training and intervention with other aspects that your employees experience, including: safety, benefits, wellness, production meetings, performance reviews, orientation, etc. Bundle your WC program within the very fabric of your employees’ job.

-Create and sustain a WC process that is all encompassing, more internally managed and replete with internal “warm touches”. The standard vendor claims protocol should be a smaller sub-set of activity, almost a necessary evil, within your program. This aspect is at the core of your employees’ trusted bond that they will be taken care of.

-Don’t worry about being too employee-friendly. The best part about crafting your own super WC program is that it becomes a positive part of the employee’s expected job, and anyone who strays from the expected process is easily identified, interrupted and/or invites denial and defense. Bad actors should be sensed by everyone, not hidden away in the secrecy of a disconnected claim process. The employee culture should understand that abusing the WC process is as plainly wrong as abusing the attendance policy or perpetrating company-theft.

Do you have opportunity to better own your WC program? It is a basic concept that will make a huge difference.

Barry Thompson is a renowned Risk Management Consultant with roots in a 1982 claim adjusting desk and branches bearing the fruit of a career-focus on improving Workers’ Compensation. He is Founder and President of Risk Acuity, LLC as well as creator and operator of ClaimAnswer.com. He began publication of his blog, Quick Tips, in 2004. Each edition brings a unique independent employer-focused source of Workers’ Comp advice, information and ideas.

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