As the workers’ compensation system becomes increasingly complex, many HR professionals are dedicating an excessive amount of time to managing employee injuries – but should industry leaders focus on their core competencies instead?
Here, HRM asked two claims management experts to share their thoughts on HR’s relationship with injury claims management and offer their opinion on the value of outsourcing.
“The single biggest challenge for organizations and employers is that very few firms have the resources to hire someone in a full-time position to manage employee injury claims,” says Ross Wace, former VP of HR for We Care Health Services and current COO of Isthmus Legal. “It’s just a small portion of what an HR professional’s job duties entail.
The problem is, when an injury occurs, it has to take precedence over everything else – which means other aspects of an HR professional’s job may be neglected while they’re managing an injury claim.
“To be able to follow best practices when an injury occurs, an HR professional would be required to drop everything and put real focus on managing that injury and managing that individual back to work,” argues Wace, “but they rarely have the ability to just stop everything else.”
Aligning the skill set
Even if HR professionals were able to drop their other responsibilities, it would be a poor allocation of resources, argues Isthmus Legal cofounder Neil Sharma.
“Why is there this expectation that you can hand something that requires a lot of knowledge and skill to an HR person that does not possess that?” he asks.
“Their core competency, their speciality, is human resources management,” he stresses. “They’re experts in that area – they’re there to retain, to hire, to track the best talent, to create the policies to make a happy and productive workforce – why would you want to stick something else on there?“
Sharma says organizations unfairly load HR with the responsibility simply because it involves employees when in reality, their time and expertise would be more effective if directed elsewhere.
“It’s not just the mistake of HR people, it’s the mistake of management to think HR people can do all that,” he told HRM. “If you turned to the head of sales and asked them to start managing claims, they’d tell you it made no sense, it’s not productive and it’s not their core competency.”
Aside from the financial and operational reasons, Sharma says HR leaders are also bound by certain professional obligations that could make managing a claim difficult.
“The challenge for HR professionals – who in my experience are typically people with high integrity and a strong moral compass – is how can they can they be expected to advocate in an unbiased manner and remain reasonable to the demands of both the employer and employee when their phone rings and someone advises them that John Smith or Joan Smith just had a major accident,” asks industry expert Sharma.
“The reality is, that in a situation with a workplace injury, it may become impossible to remain impartial and unbiased,” he adds.