Great Workers’ Compensation Programs Start at the Top

Some of my most popular blogs cover workers compensation. While in the process of writing future blogs, one central element occurred to me.

It is this: A program can only go so far without a strong CEO who supports it. Period. This applies to everything from workers’ compensation to social media.

There is no way around this. Regardless of what you do, you will only get so far without the blessing of the Big Boss. But you need more than that. You need the organization’s leader to be the ultimate cheerleader for improving safety, getting workers to file claims early and return-to-work programs.

When I was a reporter at BNA’s Workers’ Compensation Report in the 1990s, I covered exceptional safety, workers’ compensation and return-to-work programs.

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Regardless of what you do, you will only get so far without the blessing of the Big Boss.
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Finding good comp-related programs was not easy. So I focused on companies with reputations for being well run. My logic was simple. Excellent workers’ compensation programs tended to be a sign of well managed companies in general.

Park-Ohio’s CEO Ed Crawford came to mind. I wrote about Ed when I was a reporter for Small Business News, now Smart Business, in Cleveland.

Ed had a reputation in the Forest City for transforming large dinosaur manufacturing companies with a strong union presence into modern companies.

To transform Park-Ohio, he started the “attitude” campaign. The idea was clear. How management and labor work together depends on their attitude. After outlining what it meant at Park Ohio, he and his employees wore metal pins that read, “ATTITUDE.” So inspired, I requested a pin and still have it nearly 20 years later.

Safety and workers’ compensation, like anything else in the workplace, depends on the attitude of management and employees. Ed’s example impressed upon me that workers’ compensation does not happen in a vacuum.

Show me a company with a lousy workers’ compensation program and I will show you one with piles of Equal Employment Opportunity, sexual discrimination, Americans with Disabilities Act and other human resources complaints. These are all symptoms of a poorly managed organization.

My blog will continue to offer ideas for improving workers’ compensation. But these suggestions always assume that workers’ compensation managers have the support they need to make positive change. Without it, there is only so far you can go.

I believe there are many excellent workers’ compensation professionals trying to improve their companies’ workers’ comp program but to little avail. They find it difficult to convince their bosses that more resources are needed to improve safety and all other workers’ compensation-related efforts. In next week’s blog, I will offer suggestions on how to do just that.

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