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In a Watson Wyatt Worldwide and Washington Group study, only 36% of respondents stated that they have or plan to implement an integrated disability management (IDM) plan, yet there are lots of reports and data to support IDM as a way to manage costs, strengthening employer-employee trust and demonstrate concern for employee health and well-being. Many employers haven't invested the time to integrate their programs and providers. The plan to create an effective IDM program is manageable when you break it down into its core components. I've found that there are basically six steps to implementing and maintaining a successful IDM plan.
Step 1: Look Inside. Before designing an IDM plan, analyze your current cost drivers, review company policies and workplace challenges and objectives. Know what factors trigger employee absence. Is there a trend or pattern?
Step 2: Integrate Public and Private Programs. A successful IDM plan incorporates programs that are regulated by the Canadian federal and provincial governments as well as private payer components. This includes: workers' compensation, short and long term disability, employee assistance programs (EAP), case management, rehabilitation, and return to work programs. To an injured or ill employee, his condition isn't broken up in increments. Employees don't want to be mired down in red tape of paperwork. This process can exhaust and perplex an employee and shift focus away from the recovery process.
Step 3: Imbed value-added programs. An IDM plan that incorporates return-to-work and rehabilitation elements sees employees return to work more quickly and safely by accommodating transitional duties during the disability recovery phase.
Worksite wellness programs imbedded in an IDM plan help employees adopt healthy lifestyles, identify program early and address medical risk factors.
Employee Assistance Programs offer professional and confidential services that help employees regain or maintain productivity.
Step 4: Track and Measure. IDM plans with great results track absenteeism rates. They include data management and reporting that tracks claim and absence information. In order to allow for easy access of data, analysis and review of program success, you need to track and know how to measure program milestones. Before you start down the IDM path, identify what you want to measure and what qualifies as successful outcomes.
Step 5: Coordinate through a single point of contact. A helpful approach to creating a seamless transition for employees provides a single point of contact through a case worker or disability specialist. When activities related to disability are coordinated, an employer avoids duplication of effort and absences can be monitored and tracked more effectively.
Step 6: Communicate regularly. Remember to develop a communication plan for all key audiences. Employees need to know what is required of them when they are absent or have a disability claim. Knowing the program goals and what's in it for them is important. They need to be updated about changes, processes, who to contact when and why. Make it easy for them and make the messages available in various formats from print, e-mail, web and in-person meetings. Employees learn in different ways. Don't be afraid to leverage social media, if it is a way your employees regularly communicate.
Got questions about how to create an IDM plan or where to start? Call or email me. We're here to help so you can focus on what you do best.
Dave Dickinson, B.Comm, CFP, CLU, CHFC
Experienced Benefits Specialist ready to optimize your group benefits and pension plans.