Risk Insider: Eric Copple

Managing Agendas

By: | March 10, 2016 • 2 min read

Eric B. Copple CIC, CRM is a risk management adviser for Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Throughout his 20 years of brokerage experience, he has helped clients build effective risk management systems to stay on the road to success. He can be reached at [email protected]

I once applied to handle risk management for a chimpanzee sanctuary. I felt especially qualified to manage risk for chimpanzees, having spent eighteen years on the brokerage side of the insurance business.

The director began the interview by espousing the virtues of the organization, its mission, the facilities, and especially the chimpanzees. A facility tour followed, where the best and the brightest were on display to exemplify the perfect happiness, autonomy, and function of the organization.


As we rounded a turn, the director pointed out a chimp named Louie. Louie seemed very friendly, and began waving before we were even within 20 yards. Wanting to show that I fit in, and in fact, was already an insider, I waved back at Louie enthusiastically, and expressed my amazement at his friendly demeanor.

The director replied that in reality, Louie was not especially friendly. Louie had an armpit fetish and was always interested in getting a visitor to wave so that he could admire a new armpit!

Organizations owe it to their shareholders, employees, and customers to be sold out to the accomplishment of their mission; then the purpose and the tasks become clear.

As my hand began to drop to my side, Louie became agitated with my non-compliance, and began to scream and hurl objects at our golf cart. The director continued her gushing praise of the organization and their clients, as if her previous revelation was not strange at all.

I began to question the basis for my expertise in behavior-based risk-management. I knew of root-cause behaviors, but this was something different: Louie had an agenda.

Like Louie, people have agendas. Those agendas often drive their actions and behaviors.

Organizations also have an agenda or a mission, but this does not always drive the actions and behaviors of people. If an organization is still passionate about its mission, it needs to be intentional about aligning the agendas and behaviors of its employees and others around that mission. This is called culture building, and although culture is a buzzword in management right now, it rarely gets the attention it deserves from the risk management department.

Aligning or influencing behaviors is essential to culture building. And culture building is essential to managing risk.

I heard Atlanta-based author and pastor Andy Stanley tell a group of church leaders, “Preaching doesn’t create behaviors, systems do.”

I see very few organizations formally creating systems to influence behaviors.  Stanley went on to say that effective systems must include an allotment for the behaviors of those in charge, rewards (or lack thereof), consequences (or lack thereof), and communication content and style.

I believe that a mission-oriented organization must actively build systems to produce the behaviors it wants out of the people for whom it is responsible.

It seems that much like the human world, Louie the chimpanzee had a personal agenda. When the agenda of the organization, or in his case the visitors to his habitat, did not comply, he became uncooperative and belligerent.

When organizations are not creating systems to align behaviors behind their mission, they allow too much leeway for personal agendas to take the lead.


Organizations owe it to their shareholders, employees, and customers to be sold out to the accomplishment of their mission; then the purpose and the tasks become clear.

Is your organization at risk of being controlled by personal agendas? Well thought-out culture building systems could be your best risk-management tool.

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]