Your Workers’ Comp Team Could Learn a Big Lesson from These Award-Winning Programs

Worker-centric practices and policies are an integral part of this year’s Teddy Award winning workers’ comp programs.
By: | December 6, 2018 • 2 min read

Noreen Olson, manager of claims, risk management for Starbucks, a 2018 Teddy Award winner

Worker advocacy, once perceived as a strategy on the fringe, is quickly shifting into the mainstream — a trend evident in the success of the employer programs honored with a 2018 Teddy Award, sponsored by PMA Companies.

Leaders of the winning programs gathered on Dec. 6 at NWCDC in Las Vegas.

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Starbucks Coffee Co., which identifies its employees as partners, has built its workers’ comp program around what it’s really like to be in the shoes of its partners when an injury occurs. Explained Starbucks’ Noreen Olson, manager of claims, risk management, that focus has led to worker-friendly practices such as claims self-reporting, direct deposit of indemnity payments and a well-staffed call center that allows partners to get immediate answers to their questions.

Philadelphia-based Main Line Health (MLH) also established an online self-reporting program, which reduced reporting time by 82 percent, according to MLH’s Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety.

MLH also recast its nurse case manager program, recognizing that its employees were health-savvy enough to direct their own care. Instead, NCMs focus on problem solving and eliminating obstacles.

Ben Evans, associate vice president, risk management and insurance, Division of Finance, University of Pennsylvania

Monmouth County, N.J. takes a worker-centric approach with employees right from the start, using motion capture technology to measure range of motion and evaluate newly hired employees, ensuring they are capable of performing their new duties safely, said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation. Monmouth also provides a robust wellness program to help its workforce stay healthy and improve injury resilience.

The University of Pennsylvania’s workers’ comp staff doesn’t rely solely on data and analytics to spot potential injury risks. It fans out across campus, watching employees in action and brainstorming ways to make their jobs safer and more efficient.

“It’s just all about taking a holistic look,” said Ben Evans, UPenn’s associate VP, risk management and insurance, division of finance. “It’s about talking to the employee. Don’t just look at the claims data … talk to the employee, involve them in the process. They know how the work is performed on a daily basis.” &

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

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.

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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.

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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]