2017 NWCDC Keynote Preview

Caring for Workers ‘The Nordstrom Way’

Learn about Nordstrom's approach to injured worker advocacy during the 2017 National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo.
By: | June 9, 2017 • 3 min read
Topics: NWCDC | Retail | Workers' Comp

Janine Kral is known for her passion when it comes to contributing to risk management’s overall improvement and for fostering workers’ compensation and risk management programs.

Kral, the VP of risk management at Nordstrom, will deliver a keynote address focusing on injured worker advocacy during the 2017 National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo to be held Dec. 6- 8 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

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Nordstrom is a nationwide retailer characterized by a culture that emphasizes superior customer service — a hallmark that extends to caring for its injured workers.

While injured worker advocacy is currently a hot topic in workers’ comp, particularly among leading-edge employers looking to improve worker engagement, Nordstrom’s workers’ comp program developed by Kral has long embraced the practice.

“Janine is a seasoned risk manager who built a risk management program focusing on internal and external customer service, including employee advocacy,” said Denise Algire, director, risk initiatives, and national medical director at Albertsons Companies. “I am excited to hear and learn from her presentation.”

Kral oversees 75 employees responsible for mitigating a broad array of exposures and reducing Nordstrom’s total cost of risk.

Her group manages claims litigation, purchases insurance, assures regulation compliance, implements loss prevention practices, mitigates employment-related risks, improves business resiliency by coordinating crisis management and emergency response plans, and works to overcome business continuity challenges.

Kral’s tenure at Nordstrom began 30 years ago when the retailer specifically hired her to improve its workers’ comp program and to make certain its injured employees were well cared for.

Today, workers’ comp is only one part of her risk management purview, which now includes a workers’ comp director she collaborates with.

Taking care of injured colleagues isn’t just the right thing to do, according to Kral. It also has practical implications.

Janine Kral,VP, risk management, Nordstrom

“We believe that if you engage the employee and get them to trust that you really are looking out for their best interest — even though sometimes you have to make decisions that are not popular with them — then the decision is going to be easier and they may accept it better, if you have established that trust from the beginning,” Kral said.

At NWCDC, the veteran risk manager will discuss the strategies her team employs to make worker advocacy happen, the outcomes experienced, and how the customer-service philosophy described in the book “The Nordstrom Way,” could just as easily describe the employer’s recipe for managing workers’ compensation injuries.

Nordstrom practices for engaging injured workers includes recognizing which ones will need additional help and understanding what are they looking for.

“We expect our employees to have a relationship with our customers, and every customer has different needs and every employee has different needs,” Kral said. “So [we start by asking] how can we support them when they have a need, when they are injured on the job.”

To make certain that philosophy coupled with other workers’ comp practices continually produce positive results, Kral’s risk management department relies heavily on measuring outcomes.

Metrics reviewed include the number of claimants who seek attorney representation. Evaluating such information helps Kral’s risk management department gauge its worker-engagement performance as well as evaluate the impact on factors such as claims duration.

Kral’s involvement in risk management stretches beyond Nordstrom.

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She has served on the Workers Compensation Research Institute’s board for 20 years. That involvement began when Kral started volunteering her input on WCRI claims research results that proved useful for benchmarking Nordstrom’s program.

“I got so excited about it I kept calling them to say ‘what about this, what about that,’ ” Kral said.

She was later instrumental in encouraging Aon to develop a benchmarking study that allows retail-industry clients to see how their workers’ comp and general liability programs compare against their peers.

“She has been very passionately involved in different risk management groups,” said Algire, who is also an NWCDC program co-chair. “She has been a leader in different employer associations. She collectively shares information about what Nordstrom has done with other employers.”

Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

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By: | July 27, 2017 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

My first job was at the age of 15 as a cashier at a bakery. My first professional job was at Amtrak in the finance department. I worked there while I was in college.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

A position opened up in risk management at Wawa and I saw it as an opportunity to broaden my skills and have the ability to work across many departments at Wawa to better learn about the business.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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The advancements in analytics are a success for the industry and offer opportunities for the future. I also find value in the industry focus on emerging and specialty risks. There is more alignment with experts in different industries related to emerging and specialty risks to provide support and services to the insurance industry. As a result, the insurance industry can now look at risk mitigation more holistically and not just related to traditional risk transfer.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?

Developing the talent to grow with the industry in specialization and analytics, but to also carry on the personal connections and relationship building that is a large part of this industry.

Nancy Wilson, director, quality assurance, risk management and safety, Wawa Inc.

R&I: What was the best location and year for the RIMS conference and why?

I have had successes at all of the RIMS events I have attended. It is a great opportunity to spend time with our broker, carriers and other colleagues.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

I think the biggest challenge facing most companies today is related to brand or reputational risk. With the ever-changing landscape of technology, globalization and social media, the risk exposure to an organization’s brand or reputation continues to grow.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

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The changing consumer demands and new entrants into an industry are concerning. This is not necessarily something new but the frequency and speed to which it happens today does seem to be different. I think that is only going to continue. Companies need to be prepared to evolve with the times, and for me that means new risk exposures that we need to be prepared to mitigate.

R&I: Are you optimistic about the U.S. economy or pessimistic and why?

I try to be optimistic about most things. I think the economy ebbs and flows for many reasons and it is important to always keep an eye out for signs of change.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

I am fortunate to have opportunities professionally that make me proud, but I have to answer this one personally. I have two children ages 12 and 9 and I am so proud of the people that they are today. They both are hardworking, fun and kind. Nothing gives me a better feeling than seeing them be successful. I look forward to more of that.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

This is really hard as there are too many favorites. I do prefer books to movies, especially if there is a movie based on a book. I find the movie is never as good. I have multiple books going at once and usually bounce back and forth between fiction and non-fiction.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

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I have eaten at a lot of different restaurants in many major cities but I would have to pick Horn O’ Plenty in Bedford, PA. It is a farm to table restaurant in the middle of the state. The food is always fresh and tastes amazing and they make me feel like I am at home when I am there. My family and I eat there often during our trips out that way.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

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R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

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R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

My husband, kids and I recently did a boot-camp-type obstacle course up in the trees 24 feet in the air. Although I had a harness and helmet on, I really put my fear of heights to the test. At the end of the two hours, I did get the hang of it but am not sure I would do it again.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why?

The first people that come to mind are those who are serving our country and willing to sacrifice their own lives for our freedom.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

Every day is different and I have the opportunity to be involved in a lot of different work across the company.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

My husband and children have a pretty good sense of what I do, but the rest of my family has no idea. They just know I work for Wawa and sometimes travel.




Katie Siegel is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]