Risk Insider: Scott Daniels

The Power of Creating a Value-Based Accommodation

By: | November 27, 2017 • 3 min read
Scott Daniels, JD, is the Senior Director of Disability Benefits for Comcast, where he oversees disability and absence management initiatives across the enterprise. He received his Juris Doctorate from Touro Law Center in New York. In addition to practicing law, Scott has taught several lectures on the topic of disability benefits to attorneys across the country.

Workplace accommodations. Two words that often spark fear in the eyes of business leaders and human resource professionals. But why? Is it the complex regulatory framework and bevy of conflicting case law? Or maybe it’s the unfamiliar territory and potential litigation threat.

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Whatever the reason, workplace accommodations don’t have to be viewed as a hindrance to your business, but rather an opportunity for employers to better support their people, while simultaneously creating value and positively impacting your bottom line.

So how does an employer do this?

First, know your business

Regardless of your industry, it is incumbent for benefit and HR professionals to have direct exposure to the different parts of their organization, experience the day-to-day environments of their workforce and learn firsthand about the evolving needs of their people and the business.  Job descriptions serve as a foundation, but rolling up your sleeves and going on-site to observe and speak with employees is invaluable. Engaging front line staff and operations leaders can also reveal critical insights into rapidly changing business needs – not only providing direct insight into the needs and pain points of your workforce, but also those of your customers.

Start with the employee experience

Employees are the single greatest asset to an employer.  Look for ways to optimize and improve the support you can provide your people, first, and the business impact will follow.  Are there opportunities within your business operations to provide support through an accommodation that may not only bring an employee back to work faster – but also better equipped to do their job? By prioritizing and solving for the employees’ need, you can simultaneously address a larger business need.  By helping your people achieve their goals, you can help your business do the same.

Take a non-traditional approach

Creative accommodations will vary depending on your industry, but engaging with a diverse group of peers to brainstorm possible solutions can reveal new and exciting opportunities for your employees. Engaging multiple stakeholders can not only lead to creative solutions, but will also drive interdepartmental collaboration to ensure awareness, cross-functional perspectives and most of all, a better relationship between HR and your business.

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Accommodations are not limited to ergonomic chairs, sit-stand workstations and intermittent medical leave of absence. While these are all plausible forms of accommodations, a creative strategy to build, expand and develop new opportunities for employees creates a positive employee experience while driving value for your business partners.

In short, workplace accommodations can be good for your people and your business.  By recognizing opportunities to create meaningful solutions that can increase engagement, productivity and presenteeism, employers can simultaneously bolster performance, loyalty and both employee and customer satisfaction – leading to a positive impact for your workforce and your bottom line.

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]