Proactive employers are continually seeking different ways to improve their workers’ compensation programs. The problem is many solutions are expensive, or they take a long time to implement. Both of these barriers can be removed when business interests invest in their supervisors and allow them to become workers’ compensation “advocates.” This process is easy to implement and merely involves a retooling of a training process that is already in place.
Supervisors are often the eyes and ears of a business. They are on the floor, interacting with various employees, and have a good sense of workplace morale and culture. They are also a middleman, or messenger – a conduit of communication for upper management and frontline employees. They are the heartbeat of a company and are in the best position to effectuate company culture change.
When it comes to workers’ compensation, supervisors are in an excellent position to champion workplace safety and be “advocates” for an effective program. This is based on the following:
- They are in a position to identity safety hazards and ensure the situation is corrected;
- They sometimes witness work injuries and can provide detailed information when it comes to claim investigation; and
- They are more often than not responsible for initiating medical care, and treatment to an injured employee following an incident.
Retooling Supervisor Training
Many successful companies have supervisor training in place. The problem is these training programs are often too focused on being “book smart,” and not how to champion causes in the workplace such as safety and effective injury response. Easy steps can be made to change their training to become advocates for an effective workers’ compensation program:
- Immediate support from upper management needs to be given to supervisors when it comes to workplace safety and making change;
- Comprehensive training needs to be provided in terms of understanding the workers’ compensation claims process and the importance of injury mitigation. An emphasis should also include injury reporting and medical response provided to the employee; and
- Training must also include providing the correct response to an employee that goes beyond filling our forms. Any response to a work injury should start with empathy to the injured employee’s condition, which is followed by questions concerning the need for medical care and treatment.
Countless studies demonstrate that most training methods lack the “human touch.” Now is the time to encourage and train supervisors to express care and compassion in all instances. One such study was conducted by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute, which was published in the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation. This study reviewed over 3,000 claims and took into consideration the following data points:
- Timely reporting of an injury – defined by reporting an injury within 20-60 minutes of the incident through telephonic injury managers; and
- An injury response done with respect, and care.
The results indicated that when the post-injury response was completed in a timely manner, and an emphasis was placed on respect for the injured employee roughly 40% less money was spent on the claim, and missed time from work was reduced by nearly 60%. By making simple changes to supervisor training, interested stakeholders can reduce workers’ compensation costs dramatically.
Now is the time for supervisors to become workers’ compensation advocates. Supervisors are already taking training courses. These programs just need to be retooled, with an emphasis on communication and empathy. Training programs for supervisors should include the following elements:
- Tips on providing clear expectations to the injured employee that is done in a fair, and consistent manner. This should avoid being too direct, and considers the person involved;
- Avoid prefacing, lecturing, blaming, personalizing, psychoanalyzing, and confessing language when speaking with someone following a work injury.
- Ensure privacy for the employee following a work injury. This provides the employee with an opportunity to regain their composure;
- Foster an environment that emphasizes creative problem solving and thinking outside the box; and
- Developing cultural and generational competence.
Reducing workers’ compensation costs does not need to be a long and drawn–out process that costs a lot of money. Something as simple as training and empowering supervisors to be workers’ compensation advocates can reduce program costs. The process includes retraining supervisors to place emphasis on the employee and the emotional side of workers’ compensation.
Author Michael Stack, CEO Amaxx LLC. He is an expert in workers’ compensation cost containment systems and helps employers reduce their workers’ comp costs by 20% to 50%. He works as a consultant to large and mid-market clients, is a co-author of Your Ultimate Guide To Mastering Workers Comp Costs, a comprehensive step-by-step manual of cost containment strategies based on hands-on field experience, and is the founder & lead trainer of Amaxx Workers’ Comp Training Center, which offers the Certified Master of Workers’ Compensation national designation.
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