Column: Workers' Comp

Time to Act on Diversity

By: | February 19, 2015 • 2 min read
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.

As the executive director of the Puget Sound Workers’ Compensation Trust in Renton, Wash., Clairmonte Cappelle is keenly aware of the racial and ethnic diversity shift occurring among students in school districts across the nation.

But when the executive director of the self-insured workers’ comp pool for 35 school districts attends workers’ comp conferences and other functions, he hasn’t noticed a corresponding diversity shift in his industry’s workforce or leadership.


He isn’t hearing industry discussions on specific strategies that might improve claims outcomes when injured workers come from a minority group.

Cappelle’s observation matters, because today’s students of various hues and cultures are our future workers and workers’ comp claimants.

The National Center for Education Statistics projected last year that 2014 would mark the first time that whites would make up less than 50 percent of the total number of students enrolled in public schools while the percentage of minorities grows. Their parents are already a growing segment of our workforce.

Recognition has spread that the insurance industry and workers’ comp service providers need to respond to our country’s changing demographics, but where are the strategies for moving forward?

Some have mentioned that the workers’ comp industry needs to respond, but there hasn’t been discussion on strategies for making that happen.

Cappelle, by the way, isn’t looking at this as a social justice issue. He’s looking at it as someone who must make business decisions to position his organization for success.

It would be helpful to have information on, for example, whether treatment compliance and claims outcomes improve when an injured worker interacts with adjusters, nurse case managers or doctors who understand their cultural sensibilities.

Is there claimant input that would speed claims resolutions, but gets lost when adjusters don’t understand differences in communication styles?

The safety side is more familiar with this. The American Society of Safety Engineers, for instance, has long sponsored forums to help overcome cultural and language barriers when addressing Spanish-speaking workers.

There have also been discussions about insurer communications with millennial employees and information on meeting the health and safety needs of aging workers.

A smattering of recent industry conference sessions have also addressed workplace diversity, with an industry leader or two expressing opinions on how diversifying the workforce can provide a competitive advantage as the insured-client population diversifies.

I have heard at least one CEO for a major third-party administrator discuss the potential advantages of meeting an increasingly diverse U.S. workforce with claims managers who can navigate cultural variations. And the title of “chief diversity officer” has been around for a few years at some major insurers.


Recognition has spread that the insurance industry and workers’ comp service providers need to respond to our country’s changing demographics, but where are the strategies for moving forward?

“Now that we have identified this as a challenge for us, I am not seeing what the next steps are for us to meet the challenge,” Cappelle told me. “That is the piece that I think is lacking.”

He is right. The country’s changing demographic makeup has been in progress for decades. Just recognizing and discussing the issue is no longer enough.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 Risk All Stars

Immeasurable Value

The 2017 Risk All Stars strengthened their organizations by taking ownership of improved risk management processes and not quitting until they were in place.
By: | September 12, 2017 • 3 min read

Being the only person to hold a particular opinion or point of view within an organization cannot be easy. Do the following sound like familiar stories? Can you picture yourself or one of your risk management colleagues as the hero or heroine? Or better yet, as a Risk & Insurance® Risk All Star?


One risk manager took a job with a company that was being spun off, and the risk management program, which was built for a much larger company, was not a good fit for the spun-off company.
Rather than sink into inertia, this risk manager took the bull by the horns and began an aggressive company intranet campaign to instill better safety and other risk management practices throughout the organization.

The risk manager, 2017 Risk All Star Michelle Bennett of Cable One, also changed some long-standing brokerage relationships that weren’t a good fit for the risk management and insurance program. In her first year on the job she produced premium savings and in her second year is in the process of introducing ERM company-wide.

Or perhaps this one rings a bell. The news is trickling out that a company is poised to dramatically expand, increasing the workforce three- or four-fold. Having this knowledge with certainty would be a great benefit to a risk manager, who could begin girding safety, workers’ comp and related programs accordingly. But things sometimes don’t work that way, do they? Sometimes the risk manager is one of the last people to know.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance.

In the case of 2017 Risk All Star winner Steve Richards of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company, the news of an expansion spurred him to action. He completely overhauled the company’s workers’ compensation program and streamlined its claim management system. The results, even with a much higher headcount, were reduced legal costs, better return-to-work experiences for injured workers and a host of other improvements and savings.

The Risk All Star Award recognizes at its core, creativity, perseverance and passion. The 13 winners of this year’s award all displayed those traits in abundance. Sometimes it took years for a particular risk solution, as promoted by a risk manager, to find acceptance.

In other cases a risk manager got so excited about a solution, they never even considered getting turned down. They just kept pushing until they carried the day.


Butler University’s Zach Finn became obsessive about what he felt was a lackluster effort on the part of the insurance industry to bring in new talent. The former risk manager for the J.M. Smucker Co. settled on the creation of a student-run captive to give his risk management students the experience they would need to get hired right out of college.

The result was a better risk management program for the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and immediate traction in the job market for Finn’s students.

A few of our Risk All Stars told us that the results they are achieving were decades in the making. Only by year-in, year-out dedication to gaining transparency about her co-op’s risks and learning more and more about her various insurance carriers, did Growmark Inc.’s Faith Cring create a stalwart risk management and insurance program that is the envy of the agricultural sector. Now she’s been with some of her insurance carriers more than 20 years — some more than 30 years.

Having the right idea and not having a home for it can be a lonely, frustrating experience. Having the creativity, the passion and perhaps, most importantly, the perseverance to see it through and get great results makes you a Risk All Star. &


Risk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2017 Risk All Stars.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]