by Gerald Kline –
Humans are arguably the most valuable and important resource engaged in the furtherance of a company’s goals and success. Nothing gets done without a human involved at some point in the process. Until we are replaced by AI and robots, without humans, business does not get done.
Yet unlike other more traditional resources, humans can be difficult to quantify, bring online and maintain. Most companies recognize both their value and challenges and have a commitment to the management of this resource through human resource departments.
But there is little doubt automation has and will continue to eliminate jobs. Positions susceptible to automation, such as electronics assemblers and word processors, will drop significantly. While other areas will see growth in demand for humans, such as healthcare, statisticians, mathematicians, and software developers, this give and take brings a new kind of pressure on resource management.
Humans as a resource are not as easily commoditized or exploited. Care, trust, commitment, benefits, morale, stability, opportunity, compensation, training, management and many other issues come into play and raise the importance of humans as a resource far above that of traditional resources.
As difficult as managing human resources can be, proper human resource management becomes key to the success of a business. Economists have carried out a number of experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder and found that happy employees are around 12% more productive than employees who were not happy in their positions. Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” enjoyed stock prices that rose an average of 14% per year from 1998-2005, compared to 6% for the market overall.
Sometimes it is difficult to maintain a caring and nurturing environment for employees. An important part of human resources is management of workers’ compensation claims. This can be a complicated, expensive and sometimes contentious circumstance that both the employer and employee must navigate. It is the nature of work comp that a claim is made and a defense must be contemplated. Thus, where the best human resource programs nurture and develop the employee and the relationship between the employee and the employer, a work comp claim can put the two on opposite sides.
The degradation of the way employers and employees perceive each other through the lens of a work comp claim is even more of an issue in California. Per WCIRB statistics, California still has a significantly higher share of premiums compared to its share of the workforce. California work comp insurance premiums, indemnity costs and medical costs remain the highest in the country.
Claims in California settle more slowly than in other states, and California loss administration and adjustment expenses are also the highest. With this kind of financial pressure, it is understandable that an employer might start to see injured workers as bad actors. However, this will only further the gap between the employer and the employee finding common ground and maintaining mutual respect.
When the dynamic of the relationship shifts from one that should be mutually beneficial to one of distrust and animosity, problems escalate. Rather than a spirit of “we are all in this together,” the feeling becomes one of “us vs. them.” Employers see the injured worker as a freeloader and the employees see the employer as wanting to spend as little as possible for their health. This has a splash effect on other employees and can lead to deepening problems between employees and employers.
This is a big reason why as soon as an employee files a claim of industrial injury, the insurance company steps in and relieves the employer of the need to deal directly with the injured worker in the management of the claim. This enables the employer to maintain its commitment to the employee as a valuable resource and shifts disputed issues and litigation of the claim to the insurance company.
The benefit of such protocols illustrates the importance of keeping the adversarial nature of a litigated work comp claim from impacting the relationship between the employee and the employer. It also serves to reinforce the importance of not letting the fact that an employee is litigating their claim of injury diminish or change the opinions or perspective the employer and employees have of each other.
Although California has some of the highest work comp costs compared to other states, thanks to the efforts of excellent attorneys such as the team at Bradford & Barthel, that gap has been narrowing. So whatever the issue is, whenever possible, leave the litigation and argument to the lawyers. A good employer saves its time and effort for remembering how important happy employees are to the heath of the company and treats them like the indispensable resources they are.
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