There would need to be a perfect storm or a revolution of sorts. That is the type of answer I would expect if I asked what would be needed to marry workers compensation, safety and health benefits on a large scale. It is not as if it has not been tried. Every two or three years a vendor or consulting firm touts services or solutions that will support the integration of the two. Nothing has worked.
However, notwithstanding the frenzy created by revolutionary management changes such as holocracy, there is already a movement under way in human capital management that may tear down the silos between HR and Risk Management. In fact, relative to this paradigm shift, holacracy can be seen as just more employee centric; a way for employees to self-select project work based on their own interests and skill versus placement that is more management-led. Regardless of the means, the result is a system that is no longer based on traditional job descriptions or rules and is inherently more fluid. Employees will move between projects and areas of the company that were traditionally siloed. No longer would a company need to hire a Risk Manager, they would hire based on the requirement of a specific skill set or knowledge base.
The shift didn't just happen. There were a number of contributing factors. Technology has played a major role. At Zappos, one of the better known examples of holacracy, the work is well defined, documented and searchable across the company. They have tools and systems that help individuals to chart their course through the system, show where help is needed and that support prioritization of the work to be done. Similar tools can also work in companies with more traditional decision-making and can further be supported through resources that enable skill and knowledge discernment. The automation of the workforce has also driven the need to understand where workers vs machines can best meet the corporate need (see Williswire article Drones in your Human Capital Strategy).
CC Industries is a company that has implemented this type of approach and successfully broken down the barriers between HR and Risk. Ryan Stewart, their Director of Planning, Risk Management and Human Resources attributes a large part of the success to the movement away from traditional roles and job descriptions. As you might hope, the changes in the company have served to align workers compensation, safety, health and wellness.
To be clear this is not just an employer issue. Most consultants work in silos too and vendor solutions for merging workers comp and healthcare with respect to medical management are wanting. Our success stories rely on creative vendor solutions and culture change including merged data warehousing and analytics, along with the close, working partnership with Risk Management.
The one drawback to this shift is in the industries that are mostly impacted. While the alignment of Risk and HR might have significant benefit for blue collar industries, the shift is likely to be more pronounced in the white collar space. Obviously white collar workers are not immune to workers compensation claims or issues of safety: carpal tunnel, spine issues from chairs, vision issues from monitors. And since the dangers of sitting down for extended periods has been linked to health issues it is just a matter of time until companies face exposure for not providing more opportunities for movement on the job. An alignment between HR and Risk Management will certainly help to mitigate such a risk. And for those manufacturing companies with large enough administrative units or trying to understand how automation advancements can lower their costs there is likely a positive ROI in this paradigm shift too.
How quickly these changes will happen in the broader marketplace is unclear. In the meantime we have found an abundance of HR teams that are highly receptive to these changes and continue to work with vendors to create more efficient solutions that are highly customized or at the very least, configurable, for the needs of our clients.