2015 Risk All Star: Michael Payne

All the Right Moves

Call him the mover. That essentially was the challenge, in a nutshell. To relocate the Annapolis, Md., headquarters for iJET International.

Michael D. Payne, Organizational Resilience Manager, iJET International

Michael D. Payne, Organizational Resilience Manager, iJET International

The kicker: iJET had less than a year to make the move. Not terribly complicated, you say? The important detail to keep in mind is that iJET specializes in helping multinational enterprises identify threats and mitigate risk. They are there to respond to customer emergencies in single-digit seconds. Such a company could ill afford 10 seconds of disruption to its services during a move. Not only could it destroy its reputation; it could impart unintended risk to clients.

In this way, a seemingly pedestrian facilities move became proof of concept to external clients, and a true test of the organization’s new internal risk management efforts. The goal, then, was to have one shift of employees finish up in the old facility, and the next shift begin in the new site, with zero seconds of interruption, including the Global Integrated Operations Center, the firm’s client-facing, incident-responding nerve center.

And that’s exactly what happened, thanks in large part to Michael D. Payne.


Typical reasons necessitated the move itself. The lease was nearly up. Bandwidth and electricity generation were becoming inadequate. The organization was growing and exceeding the physical space of the old facilities. And yes, that’s facilities plural; the headquarters consisted of a number of buildings spread out with perhaps a quarter-mile between them.

Payne was already working on an update on the organization’s crisis management, emergency response, risk management and business continuity plans, and he saw the logic of pairing the update with the move — a pairing most people wouldn’t have dared to take on.

“While it was a tremendous amount of risk, it was also a tremendous amount of opportunity,” he said.

The efforts were tested almost immediately in both internal and external ways at the new HQ.

Within six months of the move, while some of iJET’s top clients were onsite for an advisory meeting, the facility was struck by lightning. Outside utilities were down for two days.

In April 25, 2015, the Nepal earthquake occurred, taking more than 9,000 lives and injuring more than 23,000. Such an event is an “all-hands-on-deck” for iJET staff to respond to client needs, and they didn’t miss a beat.

Then within six months of the move, while some of iJET’s top clients were onsite for an advisory meeting, the facility was struck by lightning. Outside utilities were down for two days.

“That would have been a very embarrassing event,” Payne recalled — had the iJET facility gone dark. Instead, with the backup generator kicking on in milliseconds, he wonders if some iJET employees even knew that the lightning hit occurred.

He can laugh about it now — how his scheduled practice for the new BCP and emergency preparedness efforts were pre-empted by these real-world events.

Clients can rest assured, too, that Payne is also in charge of their companies’ responses to massive potential disruptions. In his position, he also serves as a global operations incident manager and leads efforts during significant “surge” events, like massive natural calamities, political strife and terrorist attacks.


Payne’s experience makes him well qualified. He previously oversaw the planning and implementation of risk-related programs for 17 nuclear power reactors, and spent 21 years with the U.S. Army and Special Forces, during which time he managed intelligence operations centers for U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed missions and trained the U.S. Marine White House Security Force.

For a professional with that background, what’s orchestrating an HQ move, right?


R9-15-15p26_Intro_Allstar4-2.inddRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and/or passion.

See the complete list of 2015 Risk All Stars.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

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