Firm, Fair and Friendly
When we think of brand we tend to think of a company’s crafted image or marketing message. But it’s been my experience that a workers’ compensation program can have a brand.
Mine is “Firm, Fair and Friendly.” Do you know what yours is?
If your brand is Delay, Deny and Defend then perhaps you should read on!
Chances are your company has a mission statement. How does your program fit into that framework?
Most companies articulate their ethical business practices and respect for customers, vendors and employees. Are you following those statements?
Close your eyes for a minute and imagine how you would describe your workers’ compensation program. If you can’t find the words then you most likely do not have a brand.
I have always felt that workers’ compensation walks a tight rope.
I have seen every sort of program. Some fight everything, some accept everything and some ignore the whole thing.
At some point in the process we see employees becoming claimants and litigants and the employer the defendant.
At the root of it all, is the employer-employee relationship. Regardless of the claim’s details, the employment relationship is changed and needs to be managed.
I have always felt that workers’ compensation walks a tight rope. To maintain balance, about 10 years ago I began to work in an environment that I describe as FIRM, FAIR and FRIENDLY. Since that time, I have worked to maintain that brand.
That means being…
FIRM in the jurisdiction in which you do business, keeping to the local jurisdictional differences and not merging multiple jurisdictions into one program.
FAIR in the way everyone is treated. The same process applies regardless of who you are, what you do for the company or how long you have been an employee.
FRIENDLY in helping each employee manage their own recovery and return to work. That means providing all necessary information to help them navigate the process, including knowing the benefit programs that accompany workers’ compensation.
If FMLA is involved along with any other disability programs, help the injured worker coordinate what is needed. The fewer problems they have the fewer issues arise in the claim. The more information you give them the more comfortable they are.
The brand works for all decisions and each interaction. Before a task is done or letter is sent I can ask myself if I am being FIRM, FAIR and FRIENDLY.
If I am not, I re-write the letter or think about another way to do something. The last part of FRIENDLY that we have to think about is the language we use to talk about claims, employees, lawyers and adjusters.
Watch for negative language in everything you do. Employees should always be employees, lawyers should be legal counsel and the employer should be the employer.
If we start to refer to employees in negative terms then we have lost the respect that each of us deserves. If we remember that the claim is a life altering event for the employee, perhaps we will be more FRIENDLY, FAIR and FIRM.