Michelle Kerr

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]

2016 NWCDC

Ideas Worth Stealing

For the 2016 Teddy Award winners, employees are a key part of the secret to their success.
By: | December 1, 2016 • 2 min read

Engaging employees to help prevent injuries, and to drive down claims costs and lost time was a common theme among the winners of the 2016 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Awards.

Representatives from three of the winning companies shared their strategies on Thursday morning during the “Steal these Ideas!” session at the 25th National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo.

Hampton Roads Transit engaged its employees with a safety perception survey to better identify where to direct their efforts.

“Workers are advocating for themselves,” said Jennifer Massey, corporate director of safety, health and claims management, Harder Mechanical.

“We learned that employees did not feel that they could speak about safety issues,” said Danielle Hill, human resources compliance manager, Hampton Roads Transit.

HRT used the survey results to identify further strategies for improvement, and now conducts town hall meetings to keep the dialogue open.

Harder Mechanical Contractors engages employees in the return-to-work process immediately, clearly communicating the benefits of remaining at work during recovery.

Workers, in turn, talk to their treating physicians and insist that they not be taken off work.

“Workers are advocating for themselves,” said Jennifer Massey, corporate director of safety, health and claims management, Harder Mechanical.

Excela Health markets its safety initiatives aggressively, engaging employees to police themselves and each other.

Laurie English, senior vice president and chief human resource officer, Excela Health, said it’s not uncommon for an employee say to another, “You better not let the safety department see you – you have the wrong shoes on!”

The panel was moderated by Roberto Ceniceros, senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chairman of NWCDC, and John Santulli, executive vice president of PMA Cos., the sponsor of this year’s Teddy Awards.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the 2016 Teddy Awards.

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]
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NWCDC: Women in Workers' Comp

In Pursuit of the Missing 33 Percent

On the eve of the NWCDC, nearly 400 gathered for insights on what's standing in the way of closing the gender gap.
By: | November 30, 2016 • 4 min read
Topics: NWCDC | Workers' Comp

As a young employee of the Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. (now Cigna) in 1972, Susan Colantuono looked around and puzzled at why all of the company’s rank-and-file employees were women, and yet the ranks of management were filled only with men.

Possessed of the potentially disastrous combination of boldness and naivete, Colantuono, all of 22, fired off a memo to the CEO, advising him of the disparity.

To his credit, CEO Henry Roberts took the memo in stride. In fact, he took the matter quite seriously, and the company put in place numerous initiatives designed to support the goals of female employees, including the country’s first on-site workplace day care.

Within a mere four years, a fair percentage of the company’s management positions were filled by women.

Susan Colantuono, author, speaker, CEO of Leading Women

Susan Colantuono, author, speaker, CEO of Leading Women

Fast forward 40 years, however, and that progress needle hasn’t moved nearly as far as Colantuono imagined it would have by now, and she’s made it her mission to understand why.

Colantuono, author, speaker, and CEO of consulting firm Leading Women, shared what her research revealed during the 3rd annual Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation leadership forum, held in conjunction with the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® in New Orleans on Nov. 29.

Top female executives have long stressed the role of mentoring in women’s professional development. But Colantuono said that not all mentoring efforts are created equally – particularly between the sexes.

The advice that mentors commonly give, she said, falls into one of three buckets: personal growth, engaging others and business acumen. Women have received plenty of advice on the first two: speak up, project confidence, set goals, build interpersonal skills, find mentors, network, create a personal brand.

But most women aren’t given much advice, if any, on business acumen. It’s what Colantuono calls the “missing 33 percent” of women’s professional development.

“Understand how your function fuels the growth of the business.” — Susan Colantuono, author, speaker, CEO of Leading Women

The result: The last four decades of business advice given to women has been geared toward helping them move from their early career years into middle management. But it has left most of them ill-prepared to take the next step into the realm of senior executives.

The qualities related to that elusive 33 percent, according to research, account for at least 50 percent of what the C-suite is looking for in potential executives. Engaging others — where women typically outperform men — only accounts for 26 percent of what chief executives value most.

“Engaging others, we tend to double down on that, sometimes to the exclusion of [all other objectives],” said Colantuono.

The Language of Power

The C-suite perception is that women don’t know what’s going on in the industry, don’t have business or financial acumen, and are so focused on doing their jobs that they’re not capable of next level thinking.

That puts the onus on women leaders to develop their business acumen and to demonstrate it effectively.

“Embrace your identity as a leader,” said Calontuono, and take action to fill in the missing 33 percent.

It’s important to keep in mind that the path to the executive level, she said, isn’t all about promotions. It’s about shifting identity and others’ perceptions.

To advance professionally, she said, women leaders should focus on:

  • Developing strategic acumen.
  • Establishing a track record.
  • Cultivating an executive presence.
  • Developing external strategic relationships.
  • Honing executive level communications skills.
  • Seeking out mentoring that earns sponsorship.

Colantuono added that women also need to learn to speak in a way that connects with C-level executives — what she calls “speaking the language of power.”

“What you see depends on where you stand,” she said, explaining that women leaders must learn to look at their organizations from the CEO’s point of view.

Colantuono gave the nearly 400 attendees a 45-minute MBA crash course, parsing the finer points of cash, growth, return, quality, customer churn and more. She encouraged attendees to start paying attention to earnings calls and to other company news.

Women leaders stand to gain a great deal from understanding how such news impacts returns and profitability, and how their own programs do as well.

“Understand how your function fuels the growth of the business,” she said.

Through a series of workshop exercises, she encouraged the workers’ comp professionals in attendance to discuss their roles using the language of the C-suite.

It’s a habit that women leaders can leverage to gain buy-in for new initiatives or investments, but it will only become second nature with practice.Try it while pitching ideas or giving progress reports, she suggested.

“Every day,” said Colantuono, “[look for opportunities to] shift your language to the language of power.”

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]
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2016 NWCDC

The Claims Experience, Reimagined

For Disney's Tim East, the way forward is to change the way we think about — and talk about — workers' compensation.
By: | November 30, 2016 • 3 min read

Fast approaching its centennial anniversary, The Walt Disney Co. witnessed an extraordinary amount of change, with more dips and twists than any of its own amusement park rides.

Tim East, a director of corporate risk management for the company, has been on that ride with Disney for more than four decades. He says it boils down to three things: Change is going to come at us. Change is hard. But, ultimately, change is good.

“Change is going to be an unrelenting force,” East said on Wednesday in the opening keynote address of the 25th National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo in New Orleans.

It requires the workers’ comp industry to adapt, and to make a solid commitment to continuous improvement, he said.

The change can begin with language.

“Dairy products and chopped meat go through processes. People should not be processed.” — Tim East, director of corporate risk management, The Walt Disney Co.

Employers have been advised for years to refer to their people as “injured workers” rather than claimants. But East took that concept further, noting that Disney refers to its claims adjusters as workers’ comp representatives.

“The worst thing we can call somebody is a loss adjuster,” he said, because it sends a message to injured workers that they’re just numbers in need of adjustment.

“The labels you give people reflect how you think about them,” said East.

But that point extends beyond people. The claims process, for instance, should be reframed as the claims experience, he suggested.

“Dairy products and chopped meat go through processes. People should not be processed,” said East.

It also shifts perceptions when employers stop talking about return to work, and start talking about “recovery while working.”

East went so far as to say that we should drop the term workers’ comp altogether, and start calling it worker recovery – an idea he credits to blogger Bob Wilson, president and CEO of WorkersCompensation.com.

If we make that change, said East, we shift the entire perception of the goal of workers’ comp, placing the emphasis where it more rightly belongs.

Walking the Advocacy Talk

East supports an advocacy-based claims model, with the goal of building trust and holding organizations accountable for results beyond cost containment.

“We’ve become so focused on red flags, that we can’t see the people behind the red flags – people that need our help,” East said.

Some in the industry might be surprised by other employee-focused recommendations East had to share, including eliminating unwarranted fraud investigation, clamping down on the overuse of utilization review, and engaging in fewer of what East calls “cheap denials” of claims.

He also advises employers to do everything within their power to make sure that injured workers have access to actual people who can answer their questions.

“Why is it so hard to talk to a human being in the workers’ comp industry?” he asked, noting that the No. 1 complaint he hears from union leaders is that injured workers can’t get to a real live person.


Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]
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