2017 NWCDC

People First

For Nordstrom, putting employees first isn’t a tactic, it’s a mission statement.
By: | December 7, 2017 • 2 min read

There is one key golden rule in the Nordstrom employee handbook: “Use good judgment in all situations.”

It sounds a little old-school, but that makes sense coming from a 116-year-old retailer.

From a workers’ comp standpoint, the other key rule is to treat the company’s 72,000-plus employees with the same level of care as customers, said Janine Kral, the company’s vice president of risk management. Kral delivered the keynote address at the 26th annual National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference & Expo on Dec. 6 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Janine Kral, vice president, risk management, Nordstrom

“It’s as simple as keeping the employee at the front-and-center of everything we do,” said Kral, who leads a 75-person risk management team that includes 29 people dedicated to the company’s self-insured, self-administered workers’ compensation program.

That employee focus has always been a core value for the Nordstrom family and for the risk management team, said Kral. The company’s decision to self-insure three decades ago was actually driven by the dissatisfaction of injured workers.

Clearly Nordstrom was a proponent of employee advocacy long before that term joined the lexicon of industry terminology.

Claims examiners are trained to use a customer service approach to claims and to be active listeners. Nordstrom doesn’t encumber them with excessive rules, instead empowering them to rely on their good judgment

“The more rules you have, the further away you are from the customer,” said Kral.

Active listening also helps claims examiners identify high-exposure claims and determine which cases might benefit from nurse case management. Kral said the company’s claims examiners do an excellent job of looking not only at the initial facts of a claim, but also think ahead to what could impact outcomes down the road.

Nordstrom selects service partners carefully to ensure that everyone shares the same values and level of care for employees.

“If one person is negative, it can all go south,” said Kral.

Being employee-focused doesn’t mean that the company never denies claims, said Kral. But when they do, they have solid footing to explain why. And in some cases, the company has taken steps to help employees outside the scope of workers’ comp even when a claim wasn’t compensable.

“The more rules you have, the further away you are from the customer.” — Janine Kral, vice president, risk management, Nordstrom

In one case, said Kral, a 22-year-old employee was paralyzed from the neck down. The claim was ultimately determined to be non-work-related. But the company took the step of getting a special van to give him more mobility.

“As an industry, we need to get back to [focusing on] the worker in workers’ compensation,” said Kral.

Nordstrom’s longtime focus on a employee-centered program provides ample proof that the approach makes good business sense.

By the numbers:

  • Total cost of risk as a percentage of sales has decreased by 11 percent over the past five years.
  • Actuarial claim projections have also decreased by 15 percent over the past five years.
  • 107 percent closure ration in 2016.
  • Less than 500 indemnity claims in 2016 (out of 75,000 employees)
  • 48 percent decrease in narcotic prescriptions over the past two years. &
Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

Janet Sheiner, VP of risk management and real estate at AMN Healthcare Services Inc., sees innovation as an answer to fast-evolving and emerging risks.
By: | March 5, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

As a kid, bagging groceries. My first job out of school, part-time temp secretary.

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

Risk management picks you; you don’t necessarily pick it. I came into it from a regulatory compliance angle. There’s a natural evolution because a lot of your compliance activities also have the effect of managing your risk.

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


There’s much benefit to grounding strategic planning in an ERM framework. That’s a great innovation in the industry, to have more emphasis on ERM. I also think that risk management thought leaders are casting themselves more as enablers of business, not deterrents, a move in the right direction.

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

Justified or not, risk management functions are often viewed as the “Department of No.” We’ve worked hard to cultivate a reputation as the “Department of Maybe,” so partners across the organization see us as business enablers. That reputation has meant entertaining some pretty crazy ideas, but our willingness to try and find a way to “yes” tempered with good risk management has made all the difference.

Janet Sheiner, VP, Risk Management & Real Estate, AMN Healthcare Services Inc.

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

San Diego, of course!  America’s Finest City has the infrastructure, Convention Center, hotels, airport and public transportation — plus you can’t beat our great weather! The restaurant scene is great, not to mention those beautiful coastal views.

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

The emergence of risk management as a distinct profession, with four-year degree programs and specific academic curriculum. Now I have people on my team who say their goal is to be a risk manager. I said before that risk management picks you, but we’re getting to a point where people pick it.

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


The commercial insurance market’s ability to innovate to meet customer demand. Businesses need to innovate to stay relevant, and the commercial market needs to innovate with us.  Carriers have to be willing to take on more risk and potentially take a loss to meet the unique and evolving risks companies are facing.

R&I: Of which insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion?

Beazley. They have been an outstanding partner to AMN. They are responsive, flexible and reasonable.  They have evolved with us. They have an appreciation for risk management practices we’ve organically woven into our business, and by extension, this makes them more comfortable with taking on new risks with us.

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

I am very optimistic about the health care industry. We have an aging population with burgeoning health care needs, coupled with a decreasing supply of health care providers — that means we have to get smarter about how we manage health care. There’s a lot of opportunity for thought leaders to fill that gap.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

Professionally, AMN Healthcare General Counsel, Denise Jackson, has enabled me to do the best work I’ve ever done, and better than I thought I could do.  Personally, my husband Andrew, a second-grade teacher, who has a way of putting things into a human perspective.

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

In my early 20s, I set a goal for the “corner office.” I achieved that when I became vice president.  I received a ‘Values in Practice’ award for trust at AMN. The nomination came from team members I work with every day, and I was incredibly humbled and honored.

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

The noir genre, so anything by Raymond Chandler in books. For movies,  “Double Indemnity,” the 1944 Billy Wilder classic, with insurance at the heart of it!

R&I: What is your favorite drink?


Clean water. Check out Water.org for how to help people enjoy clean, safe water.

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

Liqun Roast Duck Restaurant in Beijing.

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

China. See favorite restaurant above. This restaurant had been open for 100 years in that location. It didn’t exactly have an “A” rating, and it was probably not a place most risk managers would go to.

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

Eating that duck at Liqun!

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

Dr. Seuss who, in response to a 1954 report in Life magazine, worked to reduce illiteracy among school children by making children’s books more interesting. His work continues to educate and entertain children worldwide.

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

They’re not really sure!

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