Integrated Disability Management

Thinking Outside the Absence Silo

Employers are increasingly looking at employee engagement and its role in disability management and return to work.
By: | July 27, 2015

Linking employers’ growing interest in worker engagement with an integrated disability management strategy can improve return-to-work outcomes following workplace injuries and non-occupational illnesses alike.

When engaged employees suffer an illness or injury they are more motivated than disengaged workers to return to the job, said Renee Mattaliano, VP and practice lead of workforce management at HUB International.

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While that intuitively makes sense, the concept is also backed by quantitative research showing that engaged employees perform work tasks in a safer manner and rebound sooner from absence-causing illnesses and injuries.

A Gallup examination of 192 worldwide organizations with 1.4 million employees conducted in 2012, for instance, revealed that companies with engaged employees experience 48 percent fewer safety incidents, 37 percent less absenteeism, and a productivity increase of 21 percent, among other improved performance outcomes.

Sophisticated businesses in recent years have grown increasingly interested in worker engagement because of its impact on several components of corporate performance such as employee turnover rates, customer service satisfaction, and profitability.

A “Global Human Capital Trends 2015” report produced by Deloitte states that “this year, employee engagement and culture issues exploded onto the scene, rising to become the No. 1 challenge around the world.” Deloitte’s survey of businesses worldwide found that 87 percent percent believe the issue is important, while 50 percent called it very important.

“This year, employee engagement and culture issues exploded onto the scene, rising to become the No. 1 challenge around the world.” — Deloitte, “Global Human Capital Trends 2015”

Heightened business interest in worker engagement has included greater appreciation for its influence on absenteeism and disability management, said Karen English, a partner at Spring Consulting Group, an employee benefits and risk management consultancy.

“The concept is out there, it’s a matter of how much employers tie it all together,” English said.

Under one strategy tying employee engagement to absence management —whether absences are driven by workers’ compensation claims, short-term or long-term disability claims, or leave laws — HUB International advises employers to match the hiring of workers with roles that will specifically engage those employees.

To help employers do that, HUB International partners with Judgment Index, a company providing a predictive tool that helps businesses hire “the right person for the right job.” The tool “measures an individual’s judgment capacity as it relates to decision-making, stress management, how work is valued, and so forth,” according to a HUB paper on absence management.

The predictive tool, also named the Judgement Index, is neither an integrity test, a personality profile, IQ test, nor an emotional balance test, said Roger D. Wall, Judgment Index’s chief marketing officer.

The “values-based assessment” evaluates one’s judgment capacity and the strength of decisions they are capable of making, Wall said. It can help a prospective employer determine how motivated a prospective employee is and how well they fit a specific role, he added.

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“We can tell you how motivated they are and what is their value of work,” Wall said. “If a person has a low value of work going into a work environment they are not going to be as engaged. And if a person becomes disabled (and) he doesn’t have a good value or work morale, he is going to be less inclined to go back to work.”

Completing the index takes a few minutes and requires subjects to rank or prioritize statements the subject deems most positive or agreeable.

Evaluating potential employees during the recruitment process with the goal of reducing absences or disability durations remains an innovative approach, said a disability-management consultant who asked not to be identified because they did not have corporate approval to speak.

For HUB International, applying the Judgment Index tool is a part of a comprehensive absence management approach that aims to integrate across workers’ entire “employment life cycle,” starting with their recruitment.

Employers are increasingly disregarding traditional corporate silos to develop comprehensive strategies for absence and disability management, HUB’s Mattaliano said. They are doing so by evaluating employee data regardless of whether it is generated by workers’ comp and disability claims, health and productivity measurements, group health outcomes or leave programs.roberto_sidebar.indd

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.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]