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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Expectations Must Adapt to Change

In the "old days" the US workers' compensation system,  meet or "exceeded exceptions." Looking backward we recognize an aggressive and dedicated work ethic, that the government, private industry and labor," managed to embrace into a "Grand Bargain" called Workers' Compensation. 

Times have changed. In the past the corporate and executive workplace was a formal "tie and jacket" environment. Seasoned member always gripe how things have changed for the worse and long for a return to the comforting and familiar "good old times." 

Expectations and habits make it difficult to even recognize that that while things appear to change they actually are just somewhat different. I hear the cry daily from colleagues, that the US is becoming a Third World country because of the dramatic changes that are occurring in our society.

Original Logo
Apple will be celebrating
40 years in April 2016
In the decades ahead, the majority of youngsters of today will be working in jobs that don't even exit in today's economy, shared or otherwise. 

Apple, celebrating its 40th year, did a presentation on Monday on NEW technology and a changing world. Dressed in their relaxed business uniforms of a dark color blue/black shirt/blouse and jeans or a dark color dress, the executives of the richest company in the world, presented a peak into the future, ie. targeted at moving millions of old PC users into the an iPad-Pro world without a mouse; changing how we view "television," and provided insight into a new dedication to "health," "environment," and "privacy."

Yes, workers' compensation will be different going forward. It doesn't necessarily mean that change is bad, it is just different.

Today's guest post is authored from David DePaolo* (

Exceeding the Expectation

My new MacBook Air arrived yesterday to my surprise.
David DePaolo

It wasn't supposed to be here until this afternoon.

Recall that on Thursday I decided to speed up my old computer with some coffee. Seeing that afternoon that recovery was futile I ordered up a "new" refurbished MacBook Air. Free delivery was estimated to occur March 22, but I could pay an extra $22 for "next day" delivery on 3/21.

I was already upset about frying the old box and having to purchase a replacement (let alone the hassle in moving all of my data over), and spending the extra money to guarantee a delivery date didn't sit well.
And it wasn't necessary: Apple made a reasonable promise and then exceeded my expectations based on that promise.

Getting the new MacBook Air yesterday meant I wasn't quite ready to set it up - I left my back up drive at home, our senior IT guy was working from home and meetings all day would not allow me to get up and running that day.

I just KNEW that moving to the new computer would be a long, painful process.

I opened up the machine, turned it on, went through a couple of steps to set up language and location, then used Apple's Migration Assistant to move from the old computer to the new one in about an hour and a half, without the necessity of monitoring...

All that anxiety wasn't necessary:  Apple made a reasonable promise and then exceeded my expectations based on that promise.

And the new computer is noticeably faster than the old one. The old box had a battery that was dying, using up valuable system resources to try and monitor the warn down lithium-ion. In addition the new machine has a slightly faster processor and more memory - I'm sure that contributes as well to the noticeable performance increase.

But not THAT much: Apple made a reasonable promise and then exceeded my expectations based on that promise.

In case you haven't noticed, there's a theme this morning: exceeding expectations.

How often can you look at workers' compensation and say we, as an industry (or even a company) exceed the expectations of employers and their covered workers?

We defend workers' compensation as a sacrosanct institution because its been around over 100 years and is a linchpin to a modern economy: spreading the risk of financial disaster and providing medical care to those in need.

But the industry is routinely chided, particularly of late, for failing to meet those basic expectations.

And, hypocritically enough, when alternatives are proposed the industry uses the same arguments that critics throw at work comp against those alternatives: non-covered injury types, exclusion of pre-existing conditions, limitations on physician choice, restrictions on medical care, inadequate indemnity, etc.

Indeed, if you ask nearly anyone that hasn't yet gone through the work comp gauntlet you'll find that expectations are exceedingly low. Mistrust, pervasive fraud, denied benefits - those are, unfortunately, the expectations that we've come to understand.

Expectations are actually easy to establish because the ones providing the service or product get to define what they are from the outset.

For instance, Apple told me to expect the computer on Tuesday, and I felt that was reasonable so I accepted it. Heck, if they told me I would get the box on Thursday I would have been happy.

In workers' compensation we don't often enough do a good job of setting expectations. Some of those expectations are dictated by law such as waiting periods, or timeliness of indemnity checks, or types of conditions covered.

Other expectations are of our own doing: initial contact, communications, delivery of service; we have control over setting those expectations.

And we have control over meeting or exceeding them too.

It's easy to pontificate about setting and exceeding expectations, but it's another thing to actually performing to those standards, and that takes discipline.

In the computing industry, discipline is dictated by competition. The Digital Age bar of expectation is now set so high because of competition that the customers of these products and services expect nearly instant gratification, even with hardware. In my case, Apple was able to do it by delivering a machine ahead of time and making the transition unbelievably simple and quick.

Stanford law professor Alison Morantz has studied Texas non-subscription for years. She just released a new paper, still undergoing the editorial process, which shows that, at least with her cohort, companies save a significant amount of money over Texas subscribers (and Texas is already a reasonably priced work comp state), and that these company workers seem to be better off (though she admits that more study is needed on outcomes).

The study is divisive of course. The old guard hasn't yet attacked the study per se - it's too fresh - but the same old arguments are used to deride opt-out in general. And opt-out proponents say, "I told you so."
Maybe it's all about expectations. Maybe those that participate in work comp have been so lax, so lacking in discipline, for so long, that work comp has deteriorated to meet those low levels of expectation, and when something comes along that exceeds that low bar we can't help but be critical and attack it.

Because someone else is doing something fresh, exciting, and perhaps way better than the stalwart.

Before you think I'm an opt-out proponent, I'm not. I frankly don't care how benefits are delivered, what mechanism is used for work injury protection, or why.

I only care that there is some system in place that is a reasonable cost to business, and provides some adequate measure of protection to workers.

It can't be all things to all people all the time. But a good work injury protection scheme can be most things to most people most of the time. It's a low expectation bar.

We just need to exceed it, whether by traditional comp, or an alternative protection system.

*David DePaolo is a former practicing Workers' Compensation attorney. He founded and grew WorkCompCentral into the most respected news and education service in the workers' compensation industry. He is a regular public speaker on workers' compensation to industry trade shows, educational seminars, radio and television.