Tom Peters the business guru, thought leader and author of the #1 national best-seller In Search of Excellence, says “Excellent firms don’t believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change.”
Excellence is something all businesses talk about and aspire to. But how do you achieve excellent performance and results? Now that is a tougher question to answer. One starting point is to identify meaningful performance metrics across your industry that pinpoint and measure the most important predictors of outcomes and to compare or benchmark your performance against your industry’s standards and your peers. Benchmarks can serve as a basic quality measurement tool for improving performance, and thus outcomes. Tracking over time will further allow you to continuously measure your performance, and hopefully improve from one time period to the next.
At the recent Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) annual conference, one such industry performance measurement was discussed: the rate of attorney involvement in workers’ compensation cases. Preliminary findings indicated that, among the states surveyed, the median average national rate of attorney involvement in workers’ compensation cases was 36%.
In most instances, when workers are supported and cared for through the workers’ compensation process, they feel less need to seek attorney representation. Non-litigated claims also typically close more quickly and cost less. For these and other reasons, this metric becomes a significant measure of performance as an indicator of care and advocacy for the worker, overall cost of the claim, and the speed with which the injured worker is returned to full function and the case resolved.
Sedgwick has a core philosophy of caring counts℠; we believe in advocacy for the injured worker throughout the claims process. Sedgwick is also committed to industry best practices and takes continuous quality improvement seriously. The Performance360 (P360) team within Sedgwick under the leadership of Darrell Brown, Chief Claims Officer, is charged with measuring performance against standards and leading internal efforts to make continuous improvement in claims performance resulting in improved outcomes for both the injured workers and our client employers.
Using the above example to demonstrate how to benchmark for excellence, the P360 team compared companywide performance for attorney involvement in claims against the industry average to determine how Sedgwick compares to the industry performance benchmark. Sedgwick’s claims colleagues provide excellent service on each claim within our caring counts philosophy and deserve tremendous recognition for their professionalism and commitment to service. This commitment in part directly makes a positive impact on lower litigation rates.
This one example of a benchmark is significant for three reasons. First, it quantifies how we are currently doing. Secondly, it compares current performance against industry performance, and finally, it identifies a benchmark to begin the process of working to achieve even better results in the future. Continuous improvement means never being satisfied with current performance – you can always do better.
Aristotle said, “Quality is not an act, it is a habit.” Thus, ingraining quality into everything we do is a habit and a reason why the P360 team was created. Much like a garden, quality also requires constant attention and tending, so that it grows throughout the organization.
What are the next steps in achieving quality and excellence through benchmarking? The benchmark standard is known, and the organization’s current performance is also known. In this case, next steps are to identify what actions can be taken to impact the influencers causing some workers to feel they need legal representation for their claims, and then to take specific actions to address those issues and concerns. Improved quality and outcomes can be tracked and measured by the benchmarking standards. Future benchmarking will provide a new measurement, reflecting our efforts to continuously improve quality and performance outcomes and directly benefit injured workers and our clients.
A closing thought from Jack Welch, who served for more than two decades as the CEO of General Electric when the company’s performance and value increased more than 4,000%. “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.” Learning to continuously grow and improve quality and performance is one of the many things we do at Sedgwick.
Jon Wroten, Senior Vice President, Regulatory Compliance & Quality, Sedgwick