Risk Insider: Monica Manske

Now Is the Time to Effectively Partner with Leadership for Safety Initiatives

By: | July 17, 2018 • 2 min read
Monica Manske is the Sr. Manager of Workers’ Compensation and Employee Safety at Rochester Regional Health. She has spent her entire career in the insurance industry with experience as carrier, employer and is active in workers’ compensation advocacy. She can be reached at [email protected]

You, as the risk or safety manager, identified a way to enhance the safety of your organization, reduce risk, or even eliminate potential harm. The solution will require a financial investment and possibly ongoing budgetary support. But an obvious solution to you may not be as easy a sell to your CFO or C-suite.

How do you get buy-in for your program? Is it a program? Or is it an initiative? Planning in the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle may be detailed and time intensive, but putting the time in early will save time, energy and frustration later on.

One of my “Aha!” moments was when my executive asked me, “How do you define success?”  Define it, be very specific.

Defining your program and what you wish to achieve is your first step. Outlining the specifics of the program reduces the likelihood of scope creep. For example: Implementing a slip resistant safety shoe program which will reduce your workplace slip and fall events.


Benchmarking other organizations will expose you to the options within the program and the anticipated return on investment. Is there a best practice?

One of my “Aha!” moments was when my executive asked me, “How do you define success?” Define it, be very specific.

Review the big-picture organizational impact. Plan for the unexpected. Consider all of the angles.

  • What is the timeline for implementation?
  • Will there be training needs or a policy?
  • Will your program cause additional work for other departments?
  • What will the communication needs be and with what frequency?
  • Who are your stakeholders?
  • If there is an impact on front-line staff, engage them and their leaders while developing your plan.
  • Do we need a trial?
  • How will the program be administered on an ongoing basis?
  • What role or job is responsible for the administration?

In planning your PDCA — Check, what is your check?  When and is there a schedule?  What measurements are you going to review at the check?

Partnering with executive leadership truly is a collaboration. I recommend engaging senior leadership early in the idea stage. This could be the executive that has oversight of the area that may be impacted, or it may be the entire executive leadership team.

Float the idea and what you are attempting to resolve first, gauge their interest in it being explored. This brings the executive leader in as part of the process and there are no surprises. Once you have done your homework and developed your proposal, then bring it back to the executives for review.

Know as you enter into this venture that timing is important, as there may be competing organizational priorities.  Within this process, you will have engaged front-line staff, their leaders, the executive leader who has oversight and possibly the executive committee.  Through this engagement, many of the outstanding questions may be answered which will facilitate your formal proposal.

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]