Column: Workers' Comp

The Engagement Factor

By: | August 31, 2015 • 3 min read
Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

Employers face a crisis with recent studies showing that worker disengagement has reached 70 percent.

Fortunately, I’m an engaged worker, according to a predictive tool that helps employers learn more about job recruits and existing employees by measuring their “sense of good judgment” in more than 70 areas.


I learned of the predictive tool called the Judgment Index while reporting on integrated disability management. Renee Mattaliano, VP and practice lead of workforce management at HUB International, told me how employers can apply the index to learn whether a certain job will engage a specific job recruit.

The more engaged a worker, the less likely they are to be injured. The more engaged, the sooner they will return to the job should they suffer an injury.

That’s valuable insight for an employer.

Predictive information about how people will behave is being applied across more areas. A non-traditional loan company, for example, now uses a judgment tool to lend money to recent college grads lacking credit histories.

That tool evaluates grade point averages, SAT scores and colleges attended, among other data. It then determines the value credit applicants will place on their obligation to repay debt.

“Who you are is going to drive what you do.” — Roger D. Wall, chief marketing officer, The Judgment Index

Such technology is opening up a world where employers and others will know much more about us, including what we value.

“Who you are is going to drive what you do,” said Roger D. Wall, chief marketing officer for the Judgment Index.

Interest in how worker engagement might be measured and its influence on disability management led me to accept an offer to learn firsthand how the Judgment Index works. That involved having to prioritize several, sometimes odd-seeming, statements according to how much I agreed with them.

From the lengthy results report, I learned that managing difficult people is not one of my strengths. No surprise there.

But I am very strong on absorbing information, processing it and solving problems. I’m an engaged employee, according to the index results, because I value work and have a high degree of reliability. I also am process- or task-oriented.

The outcome also showed I rank strongly for self-care by paying attention to my physical, mental and emotional health. Obviously, the index didn’t ask how many needless calories I nervously consume at my desk while writing.

Still, information about my attitude toward my overall health could prove valuable to an employer customizing a wellness program or building a return-to-work strategy for my specific needs.

It can provide a lot of information about how you might behave under certain circumstances, as well as advice when improvement or caution may be necessary.


For example, the Judgment Index showed I am “moderately idealistic.” I might be good at helping team members see new possibilities for improving things, but I must make sure my ideas are backed by convincing evidence so people with a strong realist bent don’t write me off as naive.

No wonder I’m engaged by my work. The job allows the moderately idealistic in me to write about how the workplace might be made better.

Now, what to do about the 70 percent who don’t value their work as much as I?

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]