Column: Risk Management

Retooling Reschooling

By: | May 2, 2017 • 3 min read
Joanna Makomaski is a specialist in innovative enterprise risk management methods and implementation techniques. She can be reached at [email protected]
Topics: ERM | May 2017 Issue

I fondly remember my high school home economics classes where we learned to cook, sew and do wood work. In fact, my high school years were on the cusp of the gender shift, when girls were finally allowed to join the boys in wood working classes.

We also had an elective class where we could learn to type using a typewriter — that crazy contraption that was thought only to be a fad and for which I saw little future use.

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I never did take the typing class.

Fast forward to today — how deeply I regret my naive, limited thinking and decision. How I wish I took those 8th grade typing classes. There isn’t an hour of any day when I am not hunting-and-pecking at a keyboard. How I still suffer.

It is clear the world around us is ever changing. How we do and make things, how we make money is changing — ever evolving. Tools are smarter, more connected, intuitive.

Like it or not, we have entered the high speed digital transformation highway and there is little room for a U-turn for any industry.

This is a transformation affecting all of our computing devices and tools — devices that connect to each other, talk, take directions from each other, and learn lessons, each exploiting the deep pool of data they collect and store. Technology research firm Gartner suggested that by 2020 there will be more than 26 billion connected devices globally.

This new technological paradigm takes advantage of rapidly growing internet connectivity and rich data. It is poised to drive out inefficiencies, optimize resources and (ideally) help workers do their jobs better and more safely.

Like it or not, we have entered the high speed digital transformation highway and there is little room for a U-turn for any industry.

Brilliant risk management capabilities such as personal protective clothing that is equipped with worker vital sign sensors have now been unlocked.

This sensor data empowers field, remote and centralized workers in real time, allowing critical information to be shared with support entities, including emergency responders if the worker experiences any health issues. This used to be equipment reserved only for science fiction movies or space exploration.

Even with this blunt reality unfolding before our eyes, very important people seem to be resisting change. Maybe out of pure politics or nostalgia for simpler times we see attempts to resurrect industries and jobs that are no longer viable.

Maybe some don’t realize that keeping dying jobs alive on life-support systems such as subsidies and incentives is simply unsustainable.

There is no question that this technology transformation can empower some workers; but it also threatens others. This can put at risk traditional roles, leaving workers behind.

Such a technological transformation cannot occur without a wholesale cultural transformation. Digitization is indeed a change of tools, but it is also a change of workplace models, hierarchical relationships, customer experiences, competitors and most importantly, mind-set.

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To be successful, culture change starts at the top. Leadership and a devoted implementation team are prerequisites to effectively move an organization to a more flexible, less hierarchical, more autonomous digital culture where employees can truly be creative. A workplace environment not to be feared, but revered.

Knowing this, getting early worker engagement, retraining and finding new ways to adapt existing skills should be much easier.

Just because the typewriters left the shop floor doesn’t mean you can’t adapt and develop digital skills such as using a digital speech interface to do all your typing. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Teddy Awards

The Era of Engagement

The very best workers’ compensation programs are the ones where workers aren’t just the subject of the program, they’re a part of it.
By: | November 1, 2017 • 5 min read

Employee engagement, employee advocacy, employee participation — these are common threads running through the programs we honor this year in the 2017 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards, sponsored by PMA Companies.

A panel of judges — including workers’ comp executives who actively engage their own employees — selected this year’s winners on the basis of performance, sustainability, innovation and teamwork. The winners hail from different industries and regions, but all make people part of the solution to unique challenges.

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Valley Health System is all-too keenly aware of the risk of violence in health care settings, running the gamut from disruptive patients to grieving, overwrought family members to mentally unstable active shooters.

Valley Health employs a proactive and comprehensive plan to respond to violent scenarios, involving its Code Atlas Team — 50 members of the clinical staff and security departments who undergo specialized training. Valley Health drills regularly, including intense annual active shooter drills that involve participation from local law enforcement.

The drills are unnerving for many, but the program is making a difference — the health system cut its workplace violence injuries in half in the course of just one year.

“We’re looking at patient safety and employee safety like never before,” said Barbara Schultz, director of employee health and wellness.

At Rochester Regional Health’s five hospitals and six long-term care facilities, a key loss driver was slips and falls. The system’s mandatory safety shoe program saw only moderate take-up, but the reason wasn’t clear.

Rather than force managers to write up non-compliant employees, senior manager of workers’ compensation and employee safety Monica Manske got proactive, using a survey as well as one-on-one communication to suss out the obstacles. After making changes based on the feedback, shoe compliance shot up from 35 percent to 85 percent, contributing to a 42 percent reduction in lost-time claims and a 46 percent reduction in injuries.

For the shoe program, as well as every RRH safety initiative, Manske’s team takes the same approach: engaging employees to teach and encourage safe behaviors rather than punishing them for lapses.

For some of this year’s Teddy winners, success was born of the company’s willingness to make dramatic program changes.

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Delta Air Lines made two ambitious program changes since 2013. First it adopted an employee advocacy model for its disability and leave of absence programs. After tasting success, the company transitioned all lines including workers’ compensation to an integrated absence management program bundled under a single TPA.

While skeptics assume “employee advocacy” means more claims and higher costs, Delta answers with a reality that’s quite the opposite. A year after the transition, Delta reduced open claims from 3,479 to 1,367, with its total incurred amount decreased by $50.1 million — head and shoulders above its projected goals.

For the Massachusetts Port Authority, change meant ending the era of having a self-administered program and partnering with a TPA. It also meant switching from a guaranteed cost program to a self-insured program for a significant segment of its workforce.

Massport’s results make a great argument for embracing change: The organization saved $21 million over the past six years. Freeing up resources allowed Massport to increase focus on safety as well as medical management and chopped its medical costs per claim in half — even while allowing employees to choose their own health care providers.

Risk & Insurance® congratulates the 2017 Teddy Award winners and holds them in high esteem for their tireless commitment to a safe workforce that’s fully engaged in its own care. &

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More coverage of the 2017 Teddy Award Winners and Honorable Mentions:

Advocacy Takes Off: At Delta Air Lines, putting employees first is the right thing to do, for employees and employer alike.

 

Proactive Approach to Employee SafetyThe Valley Health System shifted its philosophy on workers’ compensation, putting employee and patient safety at the forefront.

 

Getting It Right: Better coordination of workers’ compensation risk management spelled success for the Massachusetts Port Authority.

 

Carrots: Not SticksAt Rochester Regional Health, the workers’ comp and safety team champion employee engagement and positive reinforcement.

 

Fit for Duty: Recognizing parallels between athletes and public safety officials, the city of Denver made tailored fitness training part of its safety plan.

 

Triage, Transparency and TeamworkWhen the City of Surprise, Ariz. got proactive about reining in its claims, it also took steps to get employees engaged in making things better for everyone.

A Lesson in Leadership: Shared responsibility, data analysis and a commitment to employees are the hallmarks of Benco Dental’s workers’ comp program.

 

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