How Elon Property Management Cut Its Costs Per Claim by 71 Percent

This property management company struggled with low employee morale and high injury rates. Mentoring and a return to work program turned things around.
By: | November 14, 2018

The way Rivka Yablonsky tells it, 2012 to 2014 were tough years. Many of the employees who decided to stick with Elon Property Management after its acquisition of their previous employer’s portfolio “were down in the dumps,” said the company’s senior VP of human resources.

“The economy wasn’t doing well. The property wasn’t doing well.” And as so often happens when employee morale plummets, a corresponding increase in injury and health-related workers’ compensation claims occurred.

“Most of the risk is on the maintenance side,” said Yablonsky.

“The jobs are physically demanding, and the most common high risk injuries are associated with lifting; shoulder and back strain; slips, trips and falls. Before 2014, we had a very, very high level of accidents.”

Not surprisingly, with return-to-work periods up five months in length, the average cost per claim was also high: $13,718 in 2013-2014. But then something stunning occurred. That rate was cut a whopping 35 percent the following year and declined steadily to just under $4,000 this past year.*

“Now they’re typically back the next day or not long thereafter,” said Yablonsky.

She credits the implementation of a light duty program for the dramatic turnaround. When an injury is reported, staff  get on the phone immediately with their broker Prism Insurance Group** and medical staff.  Elon’s light duty description, said Yablonsky, “can accommodate any and all job restrictions including sedentary duty, because we think that’s key to getting them back on the job.”

Reap What You Sow

So much for the back end of workers’ compensation gains. What about that moment when a new hire is seated across from you? Is it a potential accident waiting to happen, or an employee fully equipped with the tools needed to stay safe and accident free on the job? That first half year on the job is typically a high-risk period across most industries, Yablonsky said.

Rivka Yablonsky, SVP, human resources, Elon Property Management

“The vast majority of our properties are cardinal or garden style apartments, which have a very unique set of guidelines. Even if a new employee has a lot of experience at other property management companies it takes time to master our maintenance programs each month.”

That’s why Yablonsky is especially proud of Elon’s Successful Employees through Enrichment and Development (SEED) program, developed three years ago. Since its creation, the program has enrolled approximately 200 new property managers and 100 new maintenance managers. It’s also disarmingly simple: A new employee is partnered with a seasoned employee or “Growth Coach” for six months to provide that new hire with the needed information on how to perform their job duties correctly and safely.

This is more than your typical shadowing program, added Yablonsky. SEED places responsibility on growth coaches themselves to “feel invested in the new employee’s success,” providing not just training but “being there for them,” she said.

“The new hire can call on their fellow maintenance worker or property manager to say ‘How do I do this? What’s the policy on that?’ and that makes it a lot more comfortable for them.”

Yablonsky stresses that the growth coach does more than guide the new hire through the initial on-board term; they follow up for 30 days, for 60 days  whatever it takes to ensure the new hire has nailed down safety procedures without having to turn to their immediate supervisor for guidance.

“They can point out ‘Hey remember when we talked about that?’ And they do remember specific policies, because they’ve had that hands-on training from a seasoned employee instead of relying on general construction or maintenance knowledge.”

Everyone Gains

What’s in it for growth coaches? Well, $50 for participating. But more importantly, as the new hire’s knowledge grows, so grows the growth coach and the company.

“We definitely like to promote from within. So being part of that growth culture program gives coaches the opportunity to show us what they can do. And many of them have been promoted to bigger properties, giving them an added sense of pride and ownership in the company,” Yablonsky said. &

Elon Property Management was an entrant in this year’s edition of the Risk & Insurance Teddy Awards, which honor the very best workers’ compensation programs. Although, in a very competitive field, the company did not win a Teddy, the magazine’s editors thought its program was so strong that featuring it would benefit our risk management audience.

* The average cost per claim for Elon Property Management over the last 5 years declined by more than 71 percent.

  • 2013-2014:         $13,718
  • 2014-2015:         $8,859
  • 2015-2016:         $7,593
  • 2016-2017:         $5,179
  • 2017-2018:         $3,956

** Prism Insurance Group president Ettie Schoor is a multiple-time winner and finalist designee of the Risk & Insurance® Power Broker award in the workers’ compensation category

David Godkin is a freelance magazine writer based in Toronto. He can be reached at [email protected]

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