TBC is a tire wholesale and automotive service-center retail operator that has grown quickly through acquisition, licensing and franchising.
One of the consequences of the growth was the lack of a return-to-work (RTW) policy; decisions were left to individual store managers. With years of experience in the corporation’s risk management department, Tracey Gasper was in an ideal position to craft, implement and support a RTW program, but there was a snag at the last minute.
“In the autumn of 2013, we started discussions with a vendor that handled RTW issues for highly skilled workers,” said Gasper.
“They would place employees into nonprofit groups as a way of getting them back to full work as much as possible. In the middle of that we had a change in the company executive, and the new CEO said that he wanted our employees back in our own locations. ‘No reason they can’t greet customers or answer phones,’ he said. So that was a dramatic change in direction.”
Yet Gasper was not fazed.
“I worked with senior management in our human resources and legal department to develop a policy, then with IT for functionality to create the systems for recordkeeping and payroll.”
The program was limited to the 800 or so stores owned by the company. Franchisees of about 2,500 other locations set their own policies.
Once the policy was authorized and the operational support systems in place, Gasper next had to take it to the streets.
“We had folks back in the workplace, not sitting home getting a check. That is good for them and for us.” — Tracey Gasper, Risk Manager, TBC Corp.
“Feedback varied from our store managers,” she recalled. Most were happy to have a policy in place, and be freed of the burden of managing RTW. But some were reluctant to surrender that authority.
“We were very proactive,” said Gasper.
“We sent out the policy, we had conference calls, and we dealt directly with individual situations one-on-one. I hired a very strong person to be the program coordinator.”
Having that dedicated person helped both in getting recalcitrant managers on board, but also in the implementation.
As soon as the program was up and running, in May 2014, three things happened very quickly, Gasper reported. First, a significant number of employees out on workers’ compensation or disability got cleared by their doctors to resume regular duties. Also, there were more than a few “clean terminations,” for people found to be working elsewhere while still on benefits.
“Word got around fast that we were serious,” said Gasper.
“We have about 10,000 associates; in our last fiscal year we were able to get more than 700 people back to work and saved $1.6 million,” Gasper said.
“So far this year we have handled 313 cases and saved $306,000.”
Whenever possible, workers were assigned back to their home locations, as soon as cleared for light duty. The gains in esprit de corps have been as great as those in dollars.
“We had folks back in the workplace, not sitting home getting a check. That is good for them and for us,” Gasper said.
“The focus can be on the fraud, but that was just a small number. The majority of people wanted to come back. I have had many of our associates thank me for helping them get back to being productive.”
Tracey is also being recognized as a 2015 Responsibility Leader®.
Risk Management School
The company that Tracey Gasper works for is growing fast, organically and through acquisitions. That’s the good news.
The challenge, one of many faced by the risk manager, is that her team is quite young. The most veteran member of the team has been in risk management for about a year.
Gasper recalls the days when she knew little about the property/casualty insurance industry, risk management or the specialty in risk management we know as workers’ compensation.
That’s why she’s turned her department into a mini risk management university, teaching the finer points of concepts like loss reserves and the nuances of regulatory oversight in weekly meetings.
“I’m trying to broaden their horizons so that they are aware of the bigger picture because it plays such a role in the finances of the company,” Gasper said.
Gasper’s Risk All Star nominators at Sedgwick laud her for her work in creating a return-to-work program that has made a huge impact, not only on the bottom line of TBC Corp., but in the lives of injured workers.
“She has been able to keep people working in their respective communities, decrease turnover and inspire other loyal employees,” Sedgwick executives said.