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The Missing ERM Puzzle Piece

Finally, the benefits of ERM are in reach thanks to the latest breed of risk management information systems.
By: | February 1, 2014 • 4 min read

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The risk management community has talked about the benefits of enterprise risk management (ERM) for years. But an honest assessment of most ERM efforts concludes that execution remains exceedingly difficult.

Finally, the latest breed of risk management information systems (RMIS) such as Willis DataWize, powered by Riskonnect, makes these much-talked-about benefits possible. DataWize empowers risk managers to support enterprise-wide needs, such as risk identification and assessment, crisis response and asset tracking in addition to traditional claim and policy information management.

SponsoredContent_RiskonnectThe new capabilities increase a risk manager’s strategic value to their company and are even earning them board-level exposure through new reporting and dashboard capabilities. George Haitsch of Willis understands the importance of this, both as a former risk manager and through watching the efforts of past colleagues and current clients.

“I’ve seen the new RMIS systems have a significant impact on their deliverables and frankly on their careers,” Haitsch said. “A risk manager can facilitate a high-level conversation with insightful data and analysis, instead of walking into a meeting with a four inch thick TPA report and a spreadsheet on the cover.”

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“It takes work off your desk. It frees up your time to do more strategic things. It’s hard to convey just how much the system alleviates many pain-points experienced by risk managers.”
— George Haitsch, Executive Vice President, North American Practice Leader, Willis Global Solutions

Not all RMIS technologies are created equal, nor can they have the same impact upon a risk manager’s success. Haitsch, now serving as practice leader, Willis Global Solutions North America, illustrated the point with a recent client meeting.

“I went into a meeting with a client who was a longtime user of another RMIS system, and when the client started to see the capabilities of Willis DataWize, an ‘ice-cold courtesy’ meeting turned into an ‘I gotta get that’ meeting in 30 minutes,” he said.

What won that risk manager over? Ultimately, it was the unique capabilities inherent in Willis DataWize–capabilities that would enable this client to transcend traditional policy tracking.

Some of the most important benefits Haitsch sees Willis DataWize, powered by Riskonnect providing his clients include:

Data Collection and Tracking: Any system is only as good as the data that it collects. Willis DataWize enables risk managers to easily configure fields and create custom web-based forms that can be completed by users in the field. Automated tracking, reminders and data controls help to ensure accurate, clean data. Information for renewals can now be collected in weeks, not months, and injury reports can easily be submitted in real time.

“It takes work off your desk. It’s almost as if the system is functioning as a member of your team,” Haitsch said. “It frees up your time to do more strategic things. It’s hard to convey just how much the system alleviates many pain-points experienced by risk managers.”

Underwriting Differentiation: One of the most important responsibilities of a Willis broker is to represent their clients to the underwriting community. “Willis is always working hard on our clients’ behalf to differentiate their risks to the underwriting community,” said Haitsch. Willis brokers leverage the quality data provided by DataWize to support those efforts.

“When a company can present detailed, timely information about their risk profile, it certainly helps build credibility and trust in the eyes of an underwriter,” Haitsch added.

Claim ranking and management dashboard

The Riskonnect claim ranking and management dashboard

Global Integration: DataWize unifies global organizations with one fully integrated system. Most RMIS tools cannot be integrated on a global risk platform. Previously, Fortune 50 users had to buy separate systems from different providers in Europe and patch them together. A risk manager must have a RMIS solution that matches their global footprint.

Board Level Reporting: Risk managers are utilizing DataWize’s easily configured dashboards and reports to produce highly valued information for executive management and directors.

“Board reporting components are simply spectacular!” asserted Haitsch. “The system is truly transformative to a risk manager because it enables them to provide the information that senior executives and directors crave. I’ve seen multiple clients become valued facilitators of board level strategic discussions.”

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A sample benchmarking analysis to show ease of reporting

The Willis Approach

Willis’ primary goal is to empower its clients to be successful when it comes to risk, and it accomplishes this goal by remaining focused and partnering with leading companies to provide best-in-class complimentary service to their clients. The Riskonnect partnership, launched in 2010, demonstrates how providing enterprise-class risk technology helps Willis stand out from their competition.

“Board reporting components are simply spectacular!” exclaimed Haitsch. “The system is truly transformative to a risk manager because it enables them to provide the information that senior executives and directors crave. I’ve seen multiple clients become valued facilitators of board level strategic discussions.”

Ultimately, Haitsch appreciates Riskonnect’s positive response when his clients have asked for custom solutions and RMIS innovations. He said,

“They always want to get to YES.”

Haitsch knows that risk managers appreciate the value of people saying “YES,” from underwriters and TPAs to property managers – all the way up to executive leadership.

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This article was produced by the R&I Brand Studio, a unit of the advertising department of Risk & Insurance, in collaboration with Riskonnect. The editorial staff of Risk & Insurance had no role in its preparation.




Riskonnect is the only global provider of Integrated Risk Management technology solutions. Built on the world’s leading cloud platform, Riskonnect finally allows you to break down the silos and unite your entire organization.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Absence Management

Establishing Balance With Volunteers

It’s good business to allow job-leave for volunteer emergency responders, whether or not state laws apply.
By: | January 10, 2018 • 7 min read

If 2017 had a moniker, it might be “the year of the natural disasters,” thanks to a phenomenal array of catastrophic or severe events— hurricanes, tornadoes, wildfires, ice storms and floods.

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Combined with smaller-scale fires and other emergencies, these incidents tax the resources of local and state emergency services, often prompting the need to call volunteer emergency responders into action.

But as lean as most organizations are already running, volunteer activities can sometimes cause friction between employees and employers. Handling conflicts the wrong way can potentially lead to legal headaches, harm employee morale and batter a company’s reputation.

State by State Variations

Most employers are aware of the various federal and state leave laws protecting their employees, including family and medical leave, pregnancy leave and military leave. But leave laws that protect the livelihoods of volunteer emergency responders are more likely to fly under the radar of some HR managers and risk managers.

Such laws don’t exist in every state, but more than 20 states do have some type of law in place to protect volunteers including emergency responders, firefighters, disaster workers, medical responders, ambulance drivers or peace officers.

Marti Cardi, vice president of Product Compliance for Matrix Absence Management

The laws vary broadly. Nearly all specify that such leave be unpaid, and that employees disclose their volunteer status to employers and provide documentation for each leave. But there is a spectrum of variations in terms of what may trigger an eligible leave. Some, for instance, apply for any emergency that prompts a call from the volunteer’s affiliated responder group. Others may require a government declaration of emergency for the law to be triggered.

While many of the laws do not explicitly require employers to let employees leave work when called to an emergency during a shift, most specify that an employee may be late or even miss work entirely without facing termination or any other adverse employment action.

Some states mandate a maximum number of unpaid leave days that a volunteer can claim. But others may place more significant burdens on employers. In California, for instance, employers with 50 or more employees are required to grant up to 14 days of unpaid leave for training activities in addition to any leave taken to respond to emergency events. For multistate employers, keeping on top of what obligations may apply in each circumstance can be a challenge.

Significant Risks

Large or mid-sized employers may rely on absence management providers to keep them in compliance. For smaller employers though, it may be as simple as looking up a state’s law via Google to find out what’s required. However, checking in with the state department of labor or the company’s attorney may be the best way to get the correct facts.

“I would caution that just because you don’t find something [on the internet], it doesn’t mean it’s not there,” said absence management and employment law attorney Marti Cardi, vice president of Product Compliance for Matrix Absence Management.

For example, Cardi said, an obscure Texas law provides job-protected leave for volunteer ham radio operators called into service during an emergency.

Cardi said employers should task HR to investigate the laws in each state the company operates in, and to ensure that supervisors are educated about the existence of these laws.

“If a supervisor is told by one of his or her employees, ‘Sorry I’m not coming in today … I’ve been called to volunteer firefighter duty for the [nearby region] fire,’” she said, you want to be sure that the supervisor knows not to take action against the employee, and to contact HR for guidance.

“Training supervisors to be aware of this kind of absence is really important.”

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An employer that does terminate a protected volunteer for responding to an emergency may be ordered to pay back wages and reinstate the employee. In some cases, the employee may also be able to sue for wrongful termination.

And of course, “you don’t want to be the company in the headlines that is getting sued because you fired the volunteer firefighter,” she added.

If an employer bars a volunteer from responding, the worst-case scenario may be a third-party claim. Failure to comply with the law could give rise to a claim along the lines of “‘If you had complied with your statutory obligation to give Jane Doe time to respond, my loved one would not have died,’” explained Philadelphia-based Jonathan Segal, partner at law firm Duane Morris and managing principal of the Duane Morris Institute.

“That’s the claim I think is the largest in terms of legal risk.”

Even if no one dies or is seriously injured, he added, “there could still be significant reputational risk if an individual were to go to the media and say, ‘Look, I got called by the fire department and I wasn’t allowed to go.’”

The Right Thing to Do

What employers should be thinking about, Segal said, is that whether or not you have a legal obligation to provide job-protected leave for volunteer responders, “there’s still the question of what are the consequences if you don’t?”

Employee morale should be factored in, he said. The last thing any company wants is for employees to perceive it as insensitive to their interests or the interests of the community at large.

“Sometimes employers need to go beyond the law, and this is one of those times,” — Jonathan Segal, partner, Duane Morris; managing principal, Duane Morris Institute

“How is this going to resonate with my employees, with my workforce, how are people going to see this? These are all relevant factors to consider,” he said.

There’s an argument to be made for employers to look at the bigger picture when it comes to any volunteer responders on their payroll, said Segal.

“Sometimes employers need to go beyond the law, and this is one of those times,” he said. “Think about the case where’s there’s not a specific state law [for emergency responders] and you say to a volunteer, ‘No, you can’t leave to deal with this fire’ and then people die. You as an employer have potentially played a role, indirectly, because you didn’t allow the first responder or responders to go,” he said.

The bottom line is that “it’s the right thing to do, even if it’s not required by law,” agreed Cardi.

“I feel that companies should have a policy that they’re not going to discipline or discharge someone for absences due to this kind of civic service, subject to verification of course.”

Clear Policy

While most employers do strive to be good corporate citizens, it goes without question that employers need to guard their own interests. It’s not especially likely that volunteer responders will try to take advantage of the unpaid leave allowed them, but of course, it could happen.

That’s why it’s important to have policies that are aligned with state laws. Those policies could include:

  • Notifying the company of any volunteer affiliations either upon hire or as soon they are activated as volunteers.
  • Requiring that employees notify a supervisor as soon as possible if called to an emergency (state requirements vary).
  • Requiring documentation after the event from the head of the entity supervising the volunteer’s activities.

If at some point it becomes excessive – someone has responded to emergencies five times in nine weeks, then it’s time to examine the specifics of the law and have a discussion with the employee about what’s reasonable, said Segal. It may also be time to ask specifics about whether the person is volunteering each time, or are they being called.

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In some cases, the discussion may need to be about finding a middle ground, especially if an employee has taken on an excessively demanding volunteer role.

“We encourage volunteers to pick the style that best fits their schedule,” said Greta Gustafson, a representative of the American Red Cross. “Disaster volunteers can elect to respond to disasters locally, nationally, or even virtually, and each assignment varies in length — from responding overnight to a home fire in your community to deploying across the country for several weeks following a hurricane.

“The Red Cross encourages all volunteers to talk with their employers to determine their availability and to communicate this with their local Red Cross chapter.”

Segal suggests approaching it as an interactive dialogue — borrowing from the ADA. “Employers may need to open a discussion along the lines of ‘I need you here this week because this week we have a deliverable on Friday and you’re critical to that client deliverable,’” he said, but also identify when the employee’s absence would be less critical.

No doubt there will be tough calls. An employer may have its hands full just trying to meet basic customer needs and need all hands on deck.

“That may be a situation where you say, ‘First let me check the law,’” said Segal. If there’s a leave law that applies, “then I’m going to need to comply with it. If there’s not, then you may need to balance competing interests and say, ‘We need you here.’” &

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