Opinion | The Teddy Awards Are Back and These Companies Are Showing Just How Strong Workers’ Comp Can Be

By: | August 18, 2021

Michelle Kerr is Workers' Compensation Editor for Risk & Insurance, and chair of the annual National Comp conference. She can be reached at [email protected]

The pandemic fog still wavers. But we’ve been fortunate to see the return of a few of our favorite things. One of mine, without a doubt, is the Teddy Awards, Risk & Insurance’s annual program honoring workers’ comp excellence.

This year we honor four exceptional entities: Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, JetBlue Airways, The City of Philadelphia and General Mills.

You’ll learn more about all of them soon.

I’ve had the privilege of overseeing the Teddy Awards since 2003. While there are many facets of what the judges look for, the core criteria we look for are innovation, teamwork, performance and sustainability.

Sustainability took on a deeper meaning this year. Without exception, the criteria states, “all past winners have developed what could be termed ‘living’ programs — those with unlimited adaptability, and with the potential to sustain continued forward progress and results, even as the organization grows and changes.”

Growth and change, sure.

But what about crisis?

This year’s applicants came to us battle-tested in a way we’d never encountered before. That gave us an up-close look at their adaptability in the face of not just the day-to-day, but in the face of a global threat to life and health. These companies did not fall short of the mark.

There’s no one secret to sustainability. At Saint Peter’s Healthcare System, collaboration is a part of it. Saint Peter’s Employee Health team coordinates interdepartmental assignments to support faster return to work and optimal recovery. That same spirit allowed the organization to adapt during the pandemic, reassigning furloughed employees to help fulfill new temporary roles created by the pandemic, for the benefit of the safety and health of all.

For JetBlue Airways, part of the secret is an uncompromising commitment to company culture. The company has established a university program to teach its culture, complete with a hotel to house its students. In the throes of a crisis, leaning on the company’s culture and values as a compass enabled it to make the right decisions to keep its crewmembers protected.

The City of Philadelphia’s program covers 44 departments that run the gamut of government functions—from health, streets and finance to prison, aviation and parks and recreation. For Philadelphia, communication has been a key piece of the puzzle, adding pandemic coordinator services to further educate employees and manage COVID-19 responses.

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General Mills’ program has undergone significant transformation in recent years, including a shift in company mindset. By moving to a culture focused on the employee experience, General Mills laid the foundation for a program that can adapt and leverage opportunities for improvement that go far beyond mitigating OSHA recordables.

You’ll be reading more about these companies, in the pages of Risk & Insurance and online in the coming months.

You’ll also have the opportunity to hear from them in person, at the National Comp conference at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this October. Join this year’s Teddy Award winners on the morning of Oct. 21 for a special Q&A presentation. I hope to see you there. 

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]