2016 Risk All Star: James Colorado Robertson

A-Plus in Risk Management

James Colorado Robertson, assistant director of risk management at Louisiana State University, bleeds his alma mater’s colors, purple and gold.

James Colorado Robertson, assistant director, risk management, Louisiana State University

James Colorado Robertson, assistant director, risk management, Louisiana State University

The fighting Tiger enrolled at LSU as an undergraduate student in 2003 and never left.

He obtained two degrees there, was hired to create the university’s enterprise risk management plan before he graduated and helped build the first stand-alone public higher education insurance program in Louisiana in 25 years.

“Risk management finds you,” Robertson said. “I don’t think you find risk management.”

When he became an LSU employee, new legislation allowed the university to self-insure for the first time in 25 years.

Insurance autonomy would reduce costs so the college could reinvest its savings to benefit its 31,000 students. But the process was harder and filled with more challenges than anyone predicted, including approval and certification from the five different state offices.

Extensive negotiations, more than 1,200 pages of plans, and the daunting task of placing and creating the many contractual arrangements that other insureds take for granted: brokerage service, third party administration, loss control services, insurance market relationships and many more.

Workers’ compensation was also newly written to insure more than 13,000 full-time employees.

Robertson also drafted an entirely new set of risk management policies for LSU and introduced a Total Cost of Risk Model to demonstrate the value of investment in risk management.

“He wants LSU to be empowered by risk management,” said Nancy Sylvester, managing partner, public sector at Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., who has worked with Robertson for about five years.

“Every day I go to work, I take the passion and thankfulness for what LSU has given me and I try to return that by doing the best job I can do in risk management.” — James Colorado Robertson, assistant director, risk management, Louisiana State University

“I don’t want you to think I was out there doing this alone,” Robertson said. “If it wasn’t for the vision and commitment our senior leadership provided, I don’t think any of this would have been possible.”

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“Colorado has been a vital component in the development and success of LSU risk management,” said Brian T. Nichols, associate vice president for administration and IT, and CIO at LSU. “I believe it is this commitment and passion that has allowed Colorado to lead some of the most innovative improvements to the risk management program at LSU.”

Last year, Robertson led the effort to place the first foreign travel policy for LSU employees while also driving improvements to foreign casualty and response programs.

It was a timely move that came into play this summer when four LSU students were in Nice, France, celebrating Bastille Day and a terrorist plowed a truck into crowded streets killing 84. The students were unharmed, but the new protocol enabled LSU to contact them immediately and offer counseling if needed.

“Every day I go to work, I take the passion and thankfulness for what LSU has given me and I try to return that by doing the best job I can do in risk management.” &

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AllStars2016v1oRisk All Stars stand out from their peers by overcoming challenges through exceptional problem solving, creativity, perseverance and passion.

See the complete list of 2016 Risk All Stars.

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.

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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]