In her session at the National Workers’ Compensation and Disability Conference in Las Vegas, Patricia Hostine, U.S. Director of Disability Management, Flex-N-Gate Corp, stressed that worker communications have a direct impact on losses and, if you can tailor your message properly, your communications can make the claim go as smoothly as possible.
It’s important to understand that claims are all about perspective and all parties involved have a unique way of looking at them. For the employee, though, we must remember that this injury and the items related to it is the single most important factor in their life at the moment. Knowledge and understanding of the morale element and how your interaction with the injured employee impacts their attitude is essential to properly manage your safety culture.
Developing Effective Workers’ Comp Claim Messaging
Now, more than ever, it’s important to develop clear, understandable and respectful communications to your injured workers. With the abundance of information on the Internet and the influx of advertising about how companies and attorneys will help the worker get “what they deserve” related to their workers’ compensation claim, your workers are going to seek information and help elsewhere if it is not coming from you.
Before you can develop effective workers’ compensation claim messaging, you must answer a few questions:
- Why are you sending it?
- What is the message?
- Who delivers this message?
- Where is the message housed?
- When is the message delivered?
- How often and by which method will you send it?
Once you have determined this information, you can start formulating your message – a message that’s not only starts the claim with clear communication, but that is also rich with your beliefs and your brand.
Start by identifying the claims environment you’d like to create, including your behaviors or, in other words, how you’d like to communicate information. To that you want to add your beliefs/your philosophy. More simply, if you could write a tagline for your workers’ compensation program, what would that be and how would you communicate that? Themes could include, we pay what we owe, we dispute what is not compensable by law, we treat all claims with respect and we maintain costs without jeopardizing treatment.
Next, establish your competencies. What is your specialty? Hostine notes that this is more about attitude and perspective than it is about knowledge. The right attitude can make the employee feel taken care of and on board with your program.
Finally, you have the information to determine your identity and your mission, which will drive your message. For example, your identity may make continuous communication and employee education the core of your message. Your mission could include items like firm claims handling, fair and respectful decisions, friendly information and assistance.
Structure Your Communications
Hostine offers the following tips when developing your materials:
- Remember that words have meaning. Choose them wisely. Phrases like “cut off” causes emotion, so it’s recommended to use something like “terminating wage loss”. Another example would be using the phrase “valued employee” versus “claimant” in your communications.
- Acronyms confuse employees. Remember that your workers do not know the same jargon that you do. Spell everything out so they can have a clear understanding.
- Tailor the message to the audience so they understand it. Remember who is reading your communications. What is their reading level? Use the appropriate words to match it.
- Watch for mixed messages that can confuse employees.
- Treat all decision making equally and communicate appropriately. You should treat an entry level employee the same as you would treat the executives.
Remember, knowledge is power for the worker. It is best practice to communicate firm, fair and friendly, while providing the right information from the time the accident occurs to the return-to-work phase.
Safety National’s “Conference Chronicles” showcases the educational content from risk management industry events around the nation, providing highlights from sessions so that those not attending can benefit from the insights and trends shared by industry thought leaders.