Embracing Creative Accommodations Makes Your Business Stronger

Value-based accommodations keep employees happy and help the bottom line.
By: | December 3, 2018 • 2 min read

Failing to find a workplace accommodation for injured or disabled employees could leave you facing significant fines from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, lawsuits, and a declining brand image after word gets out that your company doesn’t step up for its employees in need.

Scott Daniels, director of disability, NBCUniversal & Comcast Spectator

But compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act should be about much more than simply avoiding these consequences. It should be focused on creating an environment for injured or disabled workers that fosters productivity, engagement, inclusiveness and loyalty. At the end of the day, creative accommodations that serve both employee and employer can positively impact the company’s bottom line.

At yesterday’s general session “A Powerful Combination: Return-to-Work Strategy with Value-Based Accommodations,” Scott Daniels, the Director of Disability for NBCUniversal & Comcast Spectator, described how thinking outside the box can lead to the creation of accommodations that aren’t just done out of necessity but help to provide value to your company and drive it forward.

Where to start?

Daniels has said, “It is incumbent for benefit and HR professionals to have direct exposure to the different parts of their organization, experience the day-to-day environments of their workforce and learn firsthand about the evolving needs of their people and the business.”

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Creative accommodations that serve both employee and employer can positively impact the company’s bottom line.

This helps to identify areas where extra support is needed and can be provided through an accommodation. “By prioritizing and solving for the employees’ need, you can simultaneously address a larger business need,” Daniels said.

Specific accommodations vary depending on industry, but culling feedback from a diverse group of peers can reveal new possible solutions for employees in any sector. Engaging multiple stakeholders — including both senior leaders and front-line employees — can not only lead to creative solutions, but will also drive interdepartmental collaboration to ensure awareness, cross-functional perspectives and a better relationship between HR and your business.

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

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]