Risk Insider: Jack Hampton

Higher Education Risk Managers: An Uphill Battle

By: | June 6, 2016 • 3 min read
John (Jack) Hampton is a Professor of Business at St. Peter’s University, a core faculty member at the International School of Management (Paris), and a Risk Insider at Risk and Insurance magazine where he was named a 2018 All Star. He was Executive Director of the Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS), dean of the schools of business at Seton Hall and Connecticut State universities, and provost of the College of Insurance and SUNY Maritime College in New York City.

Mainak Sarkar, 38 years of age, was described by his high school teacher and mentor as calm, smart and unassuming.

“Mainak was a level-headed, intelligent student and never gave any indication of abnormal behavior.” He graduated from one of India’s elite engineering institutes where admission is fiercely competitive and students face huge pressure to excel.

He came to the United States to get his doctorate from UCLA. How did he do?

Not well. Recently, he shot and killed his estranged wife in her suburban Minneapolis home, then drove 2,000 miles to California where he shot and killed his professor before taking his own life.

Risk managers have a staggering problem on their hands if they are ever going to make enterprise risk management inroads across the full Academy. There is no other way to see it.

Individuals who knew him in the U.S. speculated that he “may have been demoralized by the long struggle to earn his doctorate.” A common problem. More than half of doctoral candidates never finish their dissertation.

This is one story that makes me think that risk managers working in higher education have their work cut out for them. I have another.

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In 1996, Professor Alan Sokal submitted a paper to a scholarly journal published by Duke University Press. The title was, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.”

What impact did this single paper have on modern science?

None. Sokal subsequently announced that his paper was outright nonsense presenting silly quotations about mathematics and physics.

He sought to show that a serious scholarly journal would publish, “… a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense … structured around the silliest quotations … he could find about mathematics and physics.”

Risk managers have a staggering problem on their hands if they are ever going to make enterprise risk management inroads across the full Academy. There is no other way to see it.

Colleges and universities are firmly in the hands of faculty and administrators who are in denial when it comes to risks threatening higher education. Last year Sweet Briar, a historically renowned college in Virginia, announced it would close.

The news activated its alumni but otherwise barely rippled the post-secondary waters. Last week Dowling College, less prominent but equally important to its students, took the same drastic step.

Many colleges and universities are on the brink of a crisis caused by high tuition, excessive student borrowing, failure to graduate students within a reasonable time frame, and inadequate job skills after graduation.

Solving these problems is within the scope of enterprise risk management. Unfortunately, as I think they would acknowledge, risk managers are largely paralyzed to help with problems on the academic side of the house.

The requirement to perform obtuse research is a disaster for higher education. It rewards professors for writing nonsense in journals that add little to our knowledge and have almost no practical value.

It distracts everybody from the valuable role of helping develop the knowledge, values, and skills of students. This is the ERM challenge for higher education.

What can we do? Not much about Mainak Sarkar. But wait a minute. Did Sokal violate the ethics of the Academy? Maybe yes, maybe no.

This would be a good topic for a scholarly publication. Perhaps I will get started on that article and leave to other ERM advocates the task of addressing the problem of attracting bright, energetic, and enthusiastic young teachers to the ranks of the professoriate.

Maybe somebody will publish my findings.

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]