The 2018 Teddy’s Have Taught Us One Important Lesson: Be Human

By: | November 24, 2018 • 2 min read

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

I’ve learned a lot of things from my boss, Matthew Kahn, who is the publisher of our magazine. I’m paraphrasing a bit, changing the order of his words, but one of his workplace mantras is: Be Professional, but Be Human.

I think that guidance from Matthew applies so very well to our 2018 Teddy winners, the workers’ compensation risk managers we honor in our November issue as well as at the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo every year.

In so many cases, the executives running these Teddy-winning programs had the humanity to look past numbers, dissolve useless methods and silos and get to the root of the matter. That being said, what is it that humans want and need?

In the case of the team at Starbucks, the winners recognized people want to be treated like adults.


Why sustain a system of supervisors reporting injuries? Why not let the workers, or the partners, to use Starbucks’ parlance, report their own injuries? Just think of how much ownership that adds to the process.

If a partner/worker is given the responsibility of reporting their own injury, they are that much more likely to take more ownership of the process of getting healthy and becoming more fully productive.

“Treat me like a human,” is what the souls of those workers are saying.

The University of Pennsylvania, Monmouth County, N.J. and Main Line Health — also winners. Look at their profiles and you will see this thread running through all of them.

Matthew’s words bear repeating. Be professional, but be human. &

Learn more from this year’s Teddy award winners:

Starbucks’ Workers’ Comp Program Earns a Teddy Award for Its Exceptional Employee Advocacy

In just four years, Starbucks Coffee Company changed the way workers’ comp claims were handled by placing the process in the hands of their partners.

This Is How Face-to-Face Interactions Transform Your Company’s Safety Performance and Program Awareness

The University of Pennsylvania turned the University’s workers’ comp program around, giving it a unified identity and the structure it needed to succeed.

For This Award-Winning County, Employee Safety Begins Before the Job Offer

Monmouth County, New Jersey, used a combination of advanced technology and safety-and-wellness programs to lower claims 44 percent and losses by 76 percent from 2009 to 2017.

How a Sprawling Health System Slashed Injuries by 24 Percent

For Main Line Health’s workers’ comp team, reducing employee injuries meant ditching the adversarial approach and pivoting to advocacy claims management.

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]