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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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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]