Words mean things. They are a fundamental tool in our communication arsenal. From words we derive substance. From words we determine intent. From words we calculate and assess. From words we set our ultimate expectations. And while this may sound funny coming from me, we should be careful with the words we use, particularly when they are intended to represent what we do.
I am convinced more than ever that the workers' compensation industry needs to change those words it uses to describe itself. Our name leaves an incorrect impression, that compensation is the primary motive, task and outcome. ”Compensation” puts the focus on monetary reward, when it should be elsewhere. We see the results of this all the time.
Our website is open to all, and while we primarily serve employers and the workers' comp industry that serves them, we have a healthy dose of injured worker traffic as well. The injured workers are very active on our Discussion Forum. Over the years I have been bothered when I see a new injured worker find their way to the forum, give a general description of their accident, and then often ask the question, “How much will I make?”
The better question would be, “How do I get better?”, or “How do I manage this complex and frustrating system and get back to work?”
Our office receives a steady stream of phone calls from people who do not understand what workers' compensation is. Their questions are sometimes centered on receiving compensation, even if they have never had an on the job injury. Some have been injured at home or elsewhere, but hold out hope that compensation is available to them, since they were a “worker”. One young lady, gainfully employed, simply had financial issues and wanted to know how she could get workers' compensation to help in her predicament. When informed what workers' comp was, she responded with, “Oh, I have to get hurt first?” The industry name conveys the wrong message to those people.
The industry itself is influenced by this notion. We spend a vast amount of time and resources managing and litigating both medical and compensation, with comparably little effort toward restoring the value and purpose of the workers' we deal with. You are far more likely to hear from today's overworked adjustor the stated desire to “settle and close” rather than to “recover and return”.
The reality is that our industry needs to shift to a recovery mindset, and that shift should start with a new name. Workers' Compensation should be called Workers' Recovery. That name sets a tone and expectation for the injury management needed for today. We need to break the growing disability mindset, and a system that restores an injured workers' self worth, improves their self value, and returns them to a productive contributory role in society should be represented by a worthy and accurate name.
Workers' Recovery. A new name and mindset for the next 100 years. Words do indeed have meaning.
And if you are wondering why I, as someone with more than a decade invested in a highly desirable domain name that reflects the current industry, would encourage such a change, I would tell you simply because it is the right thing to do. I would say that if I were to be successful in making our own domain name obsolete, than the world will be better for the effort. It's not likely to happen. It would take legislative acts across the country and buy in from many stakeholders. Even if I were to be successful in my quest, it would take years to propagate the change. Today you will still often hear someone say “workman's comp”; a phrase that went out of style 40 years ago (so many web searches use that phrase that we incorporate it in our website title).
So I am willing to take the risk. Standing on principle is the right thing to do. Besides, we already own the domain WorkersRecovery.com, just to play it safe. After all, I might have principles, but I'm not stupid….
Robert Wilson is President & CEO of WorkersCompensation.com, and "From Bob's Cluttered Desk" comes his (often incoherent) thoughts, ramblings, observations and rants - often on workers' comp or employment issues, but occasionally not.
Bob has a couple unique personality characteristics. He firmly believes that everyone has the right to his (Bob's) opinion, and while he may not always be right, he is never in doubt. Enter at your own risk, and like all of our blog areas, we encourage you to read the disclaimer at the bottom of the page.
We're not responsible for this guy.....
Bob is an accomplished speaker for the workers' compensation industry. He is available for conferences, corporate events, children's birthday parties and Bar Mitzvahs. You may access his Speakers Brief here.