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Employers of choice are building health capital and enjoying a better return

04 December 2007 Carol Adams, Momentum Collective Benefits

A discerning new working generation, a growing knowledge economy and global competition for skilled resources are just some of the key drivers to new thinking with regard to human risk management in the corporate world – particularly amongst companies that nurture the vote of employer of choice. Add to this the fact that businesses have realized that genuinely taking good care of people - from a health, wellness and people development perspective - means lower risk to the business, better performance and greater profitability at the end of the day.

And slowly the bottom-line evidence to support this thinking is emerging from proactive and innovative medical aids, risk management schemes and health management and employee assistance providers.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that a proactive approach to the management of risk is becoming commonplace in companies seeking to be employers of choice. Says Carol Adams, National Manager of Disability of Momentum (pictured right), “In our experience and through extensive interviews with leading companies in South Africa we see that businesses are looking for partnership, customization and innovation. An off-the-shelf product offering is no longer enough for a more sophisticated people-centric business world. Companies want expertise in this regard and they are prepared to pay a price for it.

Many progressive companies are building new business intelligence – intelligence around workplace risk, around absence and it’s causes, around the state of health of its workforce through health risk assessments and claims experience on both the medical aid and group risk schemes. While much of this intelligence is still disparate, it is beginning to give business new insight into how to create a healthier and more productive working environment – and more importantly how to reduce, if not eliminate, risk.”

The proactive approach to risk management as it pertains to disability and death is multifaceted. Carol Adams’ view is that a proactive approach should create information sources that allow for early notification of any potential health risk that could lead to disability. This could include health risk assessments, absence management, tracking of medical aid claims, workplace risk assessments, and regular scheme analysis to identify common claims that might be workplace related. Often any one of these triggers will mean intervention long before the expiry of the waiting period.

Says Carol, “Where potential cases are identified, early intervention and active case management are required. This is important as it prevents the person from sinking even further into an illness mindset. We have seen that when we get to people six months after notification their probability of reintegrating into the workplace reduces by 60%. Success of rehabilitation is very dependent on the correct mindset.”

Rehabilitation and return to work is first prize for both the company and the employee. For the employee return to work means continuation, belonging, financial security and purpose. For the business it means retention of skilled staff, a reduction in the payment period and possibly the prevention of a claim. And if the problem is workplace related, the company has the opportunity to remedy greater medium to long-term risk. But more importantly today rehabilitation and return to work is driven by genuine employer care. And in this rehabilitation and return-to-work support the insurer no longer plays the role of cost cutter but rather one of a valuable business partner and a key aspect of an employer’s reputation.

“Besides the emotional and psychological reasons to return to work, individuals should also be financially incentivised to return to work,” says Carol, “and this is why Momentum offers to proactively manage rehabilitation services that will ensure a return to work.

A proactive approach is not just about cost. It’s a completely new way of thinking, thinking that focuses on the well being of the employee, that places caring for people at the heart of a business and that seems to be delivering more impressive results for all. In this scenario the risk fund transforms into a transitional fund, one that supports people back to full functionality and wholeness in the workplace.

The emerging emphasis on health and wellness as integral aspects of employer value propositions and being an employer of choice means that we are entering a period where employers are consciously building a new kind of capital – health capital – and with this they are beginning to see new results. And it is in these companies that a new proactive risk management model is in the making.”

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