2023 Teddy Awards | People, Partnerships and Technology Nourish the Roots of a Healthy Workers’ Comp Program at TruGreen

Communication and collaboration are what keeps TruGreen's award-winning workers' comp program purring like a top-of-the-line lawn tractor.
By: | August 9, 2023

Ubiquitous lawn care company TruGreen has more than 200 branches nationwide, serving more than 2.3 million homeowners with vibrant lawns and landscaping.

But TruGreen’s expertise doesn’t stop at keeping green things healthy; it has also made enormous strides building a best-in-class workers’ comp and injury prevention program for the benefit of its 14,000 dedicated workers. And because of this, Risk & Insurance® is pleased to honor TruGreen as a 2023 Teddy Award winner.

TruGreen’s program is led by Ann Mason, the company’s national workers’ compensation manager, described by others as the heartbeat of the workers’ comp program.

Mason ensures all stakeholders have the knowledge and tools they need to serve employees and exceed the expectations she sets for the program.

Her emphasis on accountability, combined with her unique interpersonal skills, highlight Mason’s standout qualities as both a leader and workers’ compensation professional.

“Ann is such a self-starter and self-motivator,” said Carol J. Pearson, deputy general counsel for TruGreen. “We’re so appreciative of her hard work.”

TruGreen partnered with Gallagher Bassett in 2017, and Mason has taken an active role in developing and guiding the course of that relationship.

Ann Mason, national workers’ compensation manager, TruGreen

She keeps an open-door policy, understanding that partnership is a two-way street, and welcomes feedback from the TPA’s resolution managers to further streamline the organization’s workers’ comp processes.

“She’s a one-woman shop, so for a company of our size, to have Ann’s knowledge and commitment to the workers’ comp program is incredible. The employees, and their welfare, are her utmost priority, and she holds Gallagher Bassett accountable to achieve that,” said Pearson.

A Culture of Safety

Preventing injuries is at the core of Mason’s mission.

TruGreen’s in-house safety program sets standard risk prevention protocol for their field associates. The team reviews the program regularly to identify trends and determine what needs to be adjusted to keep their associates safe and productive.

For example, they keep employees apprised of weather conditions, such as summertime heat that could result in injury, and risk factors at a customer’s house, such as whether they should expect to work around a family pet. The safety program also guides and protects associates with defensive driving measures.

Starting in 2020, TruGreen piloted an AI dual-facing camera system that detects in-cab and external risks in real time and, recognizing the value in standardizing this technology, has since decided to implement it across its fleet.

This visibility allows the workers’ comp and safety teams to identify procedural misses and coaching opportunities.

By the end of 2023, all production vehicles will have this technology installed and functioning.

For Pearson, the cameras enable the workers’ comp team to engage with claims sooner, further driving the program’s impressive results.

“It’s been really important to look at our drivers, in evaluating their injuries, to see how they were actually performing in the vehicle. Then we can jump on critical claims with the safety organization, the workers’ comp organization, and the legal organization — all working together to work on those quickly because we have a look inside the cab,” Pearson explained.

Supporting RTW Through Provider Connection

Mason and her team also identified, in 2017, that it was challenging to get light-duty releases from treating physicians in a timely fashion because of the nature of their claims and associated work duties.

TruGreen’s front-line associates are full- and part-time lawn care specialists who work seasonally or year-round service based upon geography, so it wasn’t always easy for providers to understand the various roles available for light duty.

In order to assist doctors’ decision making for returning associates back to work, TruGreen made their job descriptions and light duty positions available to medical providers through established service instructions.

Service managers have direct access to light duty position documents and instruct employees to bring them to the appointment. Even if injured workers forget to bring the documents to their appointment, in-network care providers already have access to this information.

TruGreen found that by providing these resources, doctors were more comfortable with their decisions and more willing to release associates back to work as soon as possible.

This effort toward directed care where possible is a strength of Mason’s and TruGreen’s programmatic strategy.

“Our managed care penetration percentage is where our true pride is,” Mason said.

“We take full advantage in our full direction of care states where we successfully average 92% in bill penetration, which is above the benchmark of 80%. We have maintained a high penetration rate for the past four years. In all categories of direction of care [full, partial or none], TruGreen has either met or exceeded the industry benchmarks.”

Taking on Legacy Claims

One of the first projects TruGreen and Gallagher Bassett undertook together was a large scale effort to reduce legacy claims.

“TruGreen and Gallagher Bassett collectively drive for improvement through continuous and open communication,” said Gallagher Bassett’s Director of Client Services Bridget Bonsonto. “Ann Mason has had a strong focus on closure of legacy claims since inception.”

“In 2014, TruGreen separated from ServiceMaster as a standalone company. We did not take any liabilities with that separation, so it was a fresh start, but when we transferred TPAs to Gallagher Bassett in 2017, my focus was on the legacy claims,” Mason explained.

The program started with 98 legacy claims at various stages of stagnancy. For Mason, the problem was not simply that the claims existed, but that there wasn’t a specific plan in place to close them.

Mason noted that while no workers’ comp program wants to sustain a tail of claims, garnering year over year expenditure increases, the difficulty of transferring legacy claims between TPAs and adjusters is rife with potential pitfalls – ranging from medication management to documentation issues.

“That was one of the pieces that stood out for me, really managing those legacy claims going forward,” she said. “Once the TPA starts with those claims and the process of switching over and bringing those claims along, it’s a little difficult for the resolution managers to get a handle on those old claims and manage them from that point forward.”

Pearson encouraged Mason to make her own way when she recognized the challenge presented by the legacy claim holdover. “It’s always a challenge to pick up the ball when it’s been carried by others, and to pick up where that prior TPA left off,” Pearson said. “When we did that, we recognized that early on we would need to put some special focus on that.”

Bridget Bonsonto, Director of Client Services, Gallagher Bassett

To manage these issues proactively, Mason and the TruGreen team instituted separate quarterly legacy claim reviews outside of the usual regular quarterly claim reviews. “It was specific and focused on the closure strategy for those claims. We brought over about 98 legacy claims and today there’s seven remaining. And there’s only one from 2014,” Mason said.

The legacy-specific reviews are geared towards continuous improvement through continuous assessment. “As she’s made these great strides, she adds older claims to that review,” said Pearson. “But her focus on pulling those out was instrumental at getting those closed as efficiently as she has.”

The methodology behind the legacy claim reviews was Mason’s brainchild, in partnership with TPA Gallagher Bassett.

New Layers of Technology

Underpinning much of this progress in recent yearsis the integration of TruGreen’s technology with Luminos, Gallagher Bassett’s risk management information system (RMIS), in order to support TruGreen’s ability to make real-time, informed decisions on each specific focus area.

Luminos’ tools and benchmarking capabilities support TruGreen’s ability to target focus on cost-driver claims, and to identify focus areas to improve the program’s overall total cost of risk.

TruGreen has integrated the technology with their own internal system via data feeds to identify trends, create safety initiatives, and produce OSHA recordkeeping documents.

The integration included existing risk assessment assets and tools internal to TruGreen, minimizing friction among program staff.

A Program Build on Relationships

While Mason places high value on the insights the TPA’s RMIS technology offers, it is the people at Gallagher Bassett she values most. She ensures that each Gallagher Bassett employee on the team knows her personally.

“I truly feel that making a personal connection with every single one of our resolution managers, of which we have about 25, is really important,” said Mason.

As a primary communication method, Mason holds plenary all hands sessions with the resolution managers, to help them understand what TruGreen’s expectations are for the program, which are then followed up by one on one sessions.

“I meet with them individually so that I know their personality, how they work, and so I can explain the importance of the expectations. I have an open-door policy. They’re the ones on the frontlines handling the claims, so if there’s something that could change to help them, I want to have that healthy discussion,” Mason explained.

Thanks to the open-door policy, the resolution managers are able to address issues that they can’t resolve immediately by leveraging their relationship with Mason. “We talk it out on claim reviews and individual meet-and-greets. They strive to make sure that our KPIs are in line.

“I also take a look at their pending claims on a regular basis, because I want to make sure that Gallagher Bassett is holding up their end of the bargain for these resolution managers,” she said.

Collaborating for Success

Mason has worked side by side with Bonsonto over more than three years, but that hasn’t dimmed the desire for robust governance.

The partnership is built on a common understanding.

“She’s come from the employer side, so she understands what I’m looking for,” Mason said.

“We review our KPIs on a monthly basis, in an effort to determine where our opportunities lie and what reminders need to be in our quarterly newsletter for the Gallagher Bassett adjusters. And when I meet with them individually, I explain the KPIs and why we’re asking what we’re asking.”

“Beginning in July we’re implementing the clinical concierge program, which means any associate who has a work-related injury will receive a text within two hours of the report, so from an early intervention standpoint that’s going to be a great tool,” Pearson said.

“Ann is holding Gallagher Bassett accountable for that and watches all of the metrics.”

The results speak for themselves. TruGreen’s workers’ comp program decreased claim volume by 4.5%, followed by a three percent decrease in lost time claims as of the end of 2022.

That beats the benchmark for the percentage of claims closed with an 8% jump (69% in 2021 vs 77% in 2022).

TruGreen has also made strides in another pernicious area, reporting lag.

“The industry average is five days, but because we have such a robust program — our managers are advised to make sure that they report injuries as they happen — so we have an average of 2.5 days, exceeding the industry average,” said Mason.

“Early intervention is the key and that’s the reason that we focus on that.” &

The Teddy Award, established in 1994, was named in honor of President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, who introduced the first piece of significant workers’ compensation legislation in the U.S. The Teddy Award honors employers across the country for achieving excellence in workers’ compensation and injury prevention.

To view the four winners selected for 2023, visit here.

Nina Luckman is a business journalist based in New Orleans, focusing primarily on the workers' compensation industry. Over the last several years, Nina has served as Editor of Louisiana Comp Blog, a news site she started in 2014 under the auspices of a group self-insurance fund. She can be reached at [email protected].

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