6:29 pm - Sunday February 26, 2017

Workers’ Comp Injuries are a Symptom of Leadership Failures – Predictive Analytics Won’t Fix That

Board roomThe injury that happened yesterday is never the cause of your organizations problems, it is the symptom of an internal leadership crisis.

The ongoing buzz in the workers comp arena is Predictive Analytics – in fact you can’t go anywhere without hearing how this is going to revolutionize the industry. Given the right “data sets” we will have enough information in our coffers to predict down to the millisecond the outcome of the injury. I continue to be a skeptic, mainly because I see this as another version of our inability to call a spade a shovel – we continue to build a world that is focused on the “Why stuff happened” instead of addressing the “What was done” to cause it to happen. Data, even good data is irrelevant if we cannot use it to direct or affect a positive change in behavior.

The Wrong Question

I believe when employees are injured we focus on the wrong question, we become fixated on the Why?

“Why did the employee get injured? Why did the employee stick his hand in that machine? Why won’t he cooperate with our return to work request? Why is the claim costing so much? Why did our cost increase by double digits? Why is the system not working for us and seems to be working for the employee? Why did the judge throw out what seemed like a good decision?”

The question we fail to ask ourselves is, What? – What did we overlook, accept or condone that lead to the employee’s injury? By overlooking the “What” we instead create vehicles to support our Why. Find the answer to the What and you will never have to crunch the numbers or ask the Why.

The long standing solution in workers comp is to attempt to Legislate and Predict the Why – causing us to completely miss the What. We haven’t figured out that we cannot legislate leadership, we cannot insure leadership, and we cannot predict injury value until we address leadership failures. Every injury starts with a Human Resources decision – accepting this means we address the root cause of the organizations deficiency. Fixing this, fixes your injury cycle.

The number one reason why injury management fails or doesn’t work efficiently, we lack the courage and leadership integrity to address what’s really going on in the fiber of the organizations structure. Like any disease that is festering, symptoms rise to the top – but we often ignore the signs until it’s too late to create an actionable cure. The symptoms are: near misses – injuries that almost happened or wasn’t as severe as we thought it would be; litigation – the employee feels the need to sue you; Employees faking injuries – employees deciding to lie about their injury or the symptoms of their injury; Supervisors – making poor injury management decisions that leaves you shaking your head in disbelief and Culture – walking into your corporate door everyday knowing there will be a new pile of injuries waiting on your desk. We bury our heads in the sand denying that leadership is at the core of our injury issues and we instead focus on the symptoms – we transfer our anger to the doctors, the workers comp system or to the injured employee, instead of shining a light on ourselves.

To reinforce our leadership inadequacy, the workers comp system comes up with systematic profit center tools to help us mask the really glaring leadership issues within our organizational fiber. The industry creates surface tools, usually to add another revenue stream to the already taxed system. Today’s tool is Predictive Analytics, yesterday’s tools were the Experience Modification, Return to Work Programs, Safety Handbooks, Standard Operating Procedures, Injury Management Handbooks and other tools of the season that we create to avoid having honest forthright discussions with employers. Despite all of these “tools” employees are still injured every day – by the millions, so how is that process working for us? Do we need another tool to tell us that we are screwing up? I would think that over a million injures each year already validates that we are screwing up royally.

The Missing Honesty

Imagine if an insurance agent could say to an employer – “You’re screwing up because you don’t spend enough money On-boarding and training your employees the day they arrive at your front door. You make poor hiring and retention decision and you promote the wrong people to supervise the mess.” Earthquake – you would be fired, booted out the door and a new agent who was willing to bless the mess would be hired in your place. So instead of saying what’s really hard, we decide to do benchmarking, analytics and comparison studies, having the numbers is great – but guess what you can’t predict the totally out of control supervisor that creates a hostile workplace that results in injuries and symptom magnification. You can’t predict that the genuine hate of the job. You can’t predict  that the supervisors attitude is hampering the employees’ recovery. You can’t predict that the malingering employee hates working for your company but he has no other options, so rather than cooperate with the doctor he magnifies his symptoms. You can’t predict that the employee’s socio-economic condition is the key factor to their inability to recover. You can’t predict the human ego in the workers compensation process. Even if you can predict the human ego – we don’t have the balls to have the honest discussion with the employer when you see the glaring inadequacies in their internal leadership structure. Instead we sugar coat the discussion by saying you’re not as bad as those folks down the street. Or we tell employers they can be better if they manage their claims effectively – that’s the lie of the workers comp century. They would be better if they found out what was causing employees to get injured in the first place and applied the same resources and diligence used to manage the injury to preventing the injury. We as an industry prefer to pit the data against the reality on the ground. The data isn’t going to make people change – it only allows them to spin the lie into their own reality.

The Power of Data – Telling the Truth

Starting today, I would like to ask you to say what’s true to employers – tell them, your leadership failures is the reason your employees are injured. We need to ask with forthright conviction – what are you going to do to correct the leadership deficiencies within your organization and how can I help you do it? We need to take the data and have the hard discussions – starting with the What, we need to ask employers:

  • What causes employee to get injured?
  • What causes them to have no loyalty to your organization or the job you hired them to do?
  • What causes them to feel that a settlement check is validation for the injustice of the injury?
  • What did we do in the hiring process that assured us they would be injured today?
  • What value did you instill the day the employee arrived at your company? What have you done to maintain the value proposition?
  • What are you doing in the on-boarding process that’s preventing the employee from understanding the importance of safety?
  • What have you done to evaluate the employee’s core competency and what have you done to match the employee to the job you’re asking them to do?
  • What can you do to instill an understanding of fairness and human value to your supervisors, so they understand the importance of effective supervision?
  • What have you done to define what a good employee looks like and what a bad hire cost your company in real dollars and cents?
  • What have you done to continually validate the job you’re asking the employee to do on a daily basis?
  • What are you willing to invest and sacrifice so your employees remain injury free every day?

Let’s start there – this list could go on and on but let’s just start by asking these basic What questions and stop asking the employer Why. Why allows us to blame everyone but ourselves for the inadequacy of the leadership team. The data without the “What” is just numbers on an Excel spreadsheet.

Leadership Backbone

True organizational leadership allows us to address the deficiencies in an honest way – it allows us to create solutions that aren’t based solely on numbers but on genuine on the ground corrective actions. Take the numbers to the problem – call the shovel a spade and the spade a shovel. My fear about Predictive Analytics is, it will be used to benchmark risk and predict premiums but it will never be used to address a cure for the illness. Combining data with hard hitting honest discussions allows the employer to start a dialog within their organization that creates a shift from blame to change. The injury itself is the symptom – the disease is the lack of management focus on how they demonstrate employee value and how they instill a culture of safety from the board room to the stock room. The cure is a keen understanding of the value we instill in the employee, their supervisors and the organization from the second everyone arrives at the doorsteps to long after they exit our door.  

Every employer wants to stop employees from getting injured but few employers have the courage and willingness to address the real issues that caused the injury in the first place and even fewer are willing to create a leadership culture that starts with making sure employees are safe every day. Too many employers create a culture that doesn’t focus on the employee’s core competency and value proposition as key ingredients to successful injury prevention. If we don’t add value to the employee we can’t expect them to value our organization when they are injured and listening to outside influences telling them to sue the pants off your company. Leadership means that we don’t create a vehicle that will be used to focus on the injury statistics and diverts the focus from the what.

I challenge you to ask employers, “What did you do as an organization that overlooked, accepted or condoned the behavioral beliefs that lead the employee to have an injury? What are you going to do to correct these entrenched beliefs starting today?” The answers will rewrite the organizations workers comp statistics.

As industry professionals, if we are willing to ask employers – what they are willing to sacrifice or change to keep employees safe, we will begin to move the needle towards lower injury rates. If employers are not willing to sacrifice something to keep employees safe or if they are unwilling to commit real might to finding the answers to what causes injuries, then don’t expect analytics to make any impact or create a long lasting change. If employers spend all of their time telling you why the employee is the root cause of the injury they will never address the leadership disease that is at the heart of their issues. We can’t have our “no injury cake” without a willingness to sacrifice something to create the utopia that every employer is seeking. The utopia has nothing to do with Predictive Analytics – it has everything to do with the What.

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Filed in: Claims Management

2 Responses to “Workers’ Comp Injuries are a Symptom of Leadership Failures – Predictive Analytics Won’t Fix That”

  1. March 31, 2013 at 11:04 am #

    That’s a great article. I’m a licensed adjuster and private investigator in NC sense the mid 1980 and you are saying the same thing I have been preaching for decades. The one issue you did not touch on here is the legal system and the extreme influence it has on legislation much like it has on many of today’s issues. When comp became a huge money maker for both plaintiff and defense neither side has a motive to advance positive changes in the law.

  2. Margaret Spence
    April 3, 2013 at 12:13 am #

    Thank you and I agree with your comments. This is a cycle with a lot of players in the mix.

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