Opinion | In Workers’ Compensation, True Success Begins with Trust

By: | November 17, 2019

Michelle Kerr is Workers’ Compensation Editor and National Conference Chair for Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected].

“It’s my story, from my heart.” That’s what Michelle Casciato said when she read the Risk & Insurance® profile of the Teddy Award winning workers’ compensation and safety programs of her employer, the City of Surprise, Ariz.

Casciato, who graces our November cover, is the City’s claims adjuster and safety analyst. When R&I asked Casciato to chat about the City’s winning program, she didn’t talk much about metrics or analytics. She didn’t talk much about incident investigations or claims closure or utilization review. She didn’t talk about any of the things you might expect when you’re discussing a best-in-class workers’ compensation program.

Instead, Casciato spoke about building rapport with her people, about how much she values them and cares about them. She spoke about earning their trust. Casciato’s colleague, Brett Jeziorski, also spoke eloquently about the importance of trusting those employees in return.

Why is trust so vitally important for the health of your workers’ comp program? Well, in case you’ve been successfully hiding under a rock for quite a few years, you might’ve noticed that trust is in short supply everywhere. According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, 64% of respondents agreed that Americans’ trust in each other is shrinking. Nearly half said their fellow citizens just aren’t reliable anymore.

The worst thing about mistrust is that it closes doors, said Jeziorski. “One of the reasons why a lot of people do go get legal counsel is because they have questions that aren’t getting answered. Then the next thing that they see is an ad on TV for an attorney’s office. ‘Injured on the job? Give us a call.’ ”

With trust, employees are more likely to follow treatment protocols, because they believe that every stakeholder on the team is committed to a full, safe, speedy recovery. With trust, there’s no need to phone 1-800-LAWYERS because injured workers know they will get the answers and the help they need. With trust, employees are more motivated to report safety hazards, because they have confidence that their employer will take it seriously and address it ASAP.

A full 70% of respondents to the Pew survey noted that low trust levels make it harder to solve problems. Quite right. Only a few years back, Surprise was spending about $1.5 million annually on its workers’ comp program. By placing a value on trust, Surprise was able to grow its workforce aggressively while driving superior recovery outcomes, boosting morale and shrinking its annual costs down to a jaw-dropping $250K.

Read the profile of the City of Surprise, and then read the other four profiles of companies approaching their workers’ comp challenges from an employee-forward mindset and see how they’re succeeding in incredible ways.

Pew gave respondents the option to include written comments. One respondent wrote: “Trust is the glue that binds humans together. Without it, we cooperate with one another less, and variables in our overall quality of life are affected (e.g., health and life satisfaction).”

Those who attended NWCDC earlier this month no doubt returned to their employers with a briefcase full of ideas to discuss and to try. But before you run with any of those ideas, take the temperature of trust in your organization. An environment of mutual trust is vital for those new ideas to take hold and thrive. &

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