Thursday, September 29, 2011

Does a "Culture of Caring" Have A Place in High Turnover Businesses?

The California Workers' Compensation and Risk Management conference that began on Monday and ended on Wednesday in Dana Point, California, had many sessions about claim management from various levels - macro to micro.

The overall theme in each of these claims management sessions was communication: early and frequent communication with the injured worker and the relay of that information to various sources tasked with management of the claim.

While most of the presentations on communication focused on gathering and timely dissemination of information, one aspect that was lightly touched on and which I think makes a bigger difference in claims management is that the communications with the injured worker reflect a "culture of caring."

The "culture of caring" was coined by author and New York broker Adam Friedlander in his book "How to Save Big on Workers' Compensation" (which I reviewed in an earlier blog post).

Friedlander argues that, "If you need to get an employee back to work, you need to take care of that with the employee by the culture you establish and by the follow-up you do that shows you want the employee back."

Early return to work is almost universally acknowledged as the single biggest factor in controlling claim costs.

Friedlander's axiom may not be entirely applicable to a business with traditionally high employee turnover, such as a fast food business that relies on low wage, young labor.

At the conference, Michael W. Simmons, El Pollo Loco's director of risk management, said the chicken-fueled fast food franchise does its best to ensure that it never breaches its $250,000 deductible by using a team to quickly react to each claim within the first three days of the accident, before the case ever reaches an attorney.

"There is a very fine line and a very delicate balance there where we want to trust our employees, but clearly we have also got to verify their intentions," Simmons told our reporter. "Of our employees, we have 165 restaurants, 4,600 employees, and about 120% turnover at that employee level. For us, we are seeing new employees of up to 6,000 a year. So for us, it is very important that we trust but verify."

I don't know what the experience is for a fast food chain such as In 'N Out Burgers, which boasts one of the highest pay and benefits schemes for its employees and one of the lowest employee turn over rates in the fast food industry. Does the way In 'N Out Burgers treat its employees also result in lower workers' compensation costs?

I did some quick research to see if I could find some answers to this, but couldn't get the answers in time for my blog deadline. I'm hoping that someone from In 'N Out Burgers can provide me with some comparison data that would give me an indication of whether or not overall employee treatment has an effect on workers' compensation experience.

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