Graebel is always on the move—it’s the nature of their business, which includes helping Fortune 500 and Global 100 companies relocate their talent and facilities around the world. CLM Fellow Richard Payne explains that the secret to managing risk effectively starts with doing the right thing.
Q. Take us on a tour of your career path.
A. My first job out of college was as a legal assistant to the head of the Division of Workers’ Compensation for Colorado’s Department of Labor. As I was planning the move to law school, I became somewhat dissatisfied with preparing legal memoranda and took what I thought would be a short-term job with Graebel overseeing its workers’ compensation claims. Claims ended up being much more interesting than the legal work I was doing, and working for a family business was fantastic. Before I knew it, I was handling truckers and general liability claims in addition to workers’ compensation claims. One thing led to another and, within a short time, I also was overseeing loss control, safety, and DOT compliance. With the backing of the Graebel family and their complete commitment to safety, risk management, and compliance, the decision to not go back to law school was an easy one. Now I get to tell the attorneys what to do—can’t beat that!
Q. Your company employs “empathic claims- handling alternative dispute resolution techniques.” Can you explain what that means and how it works?
A. In essence, “empathic claims handling” is about handling claims in a humane way, treating injured parties with dignity and respect, and telling the injured party that you are sorry and apologizing for the fact that the incident occurred, regardless of the company’s position on liability for the claim. These are real people who are injured, and showing empathy is just the right thing to do. Because we have our own in-house claims professionals who are Graebel employees, we can react in a much more sympathetic and less bureaucratic manner than many insurance company claims professionals. It also means that we frequently do things such as making advance payments to injured parties even before making an actual liability decision.
Q. What effect does self-administering claims have on your business?
A. Self-administering claims has been a tremendous success for us. It allows us to react much more quickly to claims situations, getting claims professionals out to incident scenes immediately, quickly getting in touch with claimants, and handling situations in a more efficient and timely manner than a typical insurance company can. If we need to have one of our inside claims professionals get on a plane and go out to a scene right away, we do that. The sooner you can react to any type of claim, the better equipped you are to ensure that you obtain pertinent, timely information and conduct a proper investigation.
Q. Do you employ enterprise risk management strategies at your company?
A. The essence of business is taking measured risk. Let’s face it, if companies did not take risk, none of us would have jobs. Our ultimate goal is to see to it that all of our employees understand, recognize, and identify risk and bring it to management’s attention. Once management is aware of the risk, they can make a decision as to whether we avoid it, transfer it, or employ risk mitigation strategies to those risks that we accept. In almost all instances, there is also an “upside” of risk to recognize. Risk management is not simply about avoiding risk; it is about constant communication, collaboration, and ongoing monitoring of risk through identification and training at every level of the organization or enterprise. The vast majority of good ideas come from the ground up and from the employees doing their day-to-day work. To put it into layman’s terms, and to use a phrase from our CEO, our goal is to see to it that all of our employees are “always on.”
Q. Do you think the world is becoming more or less risky?
A. I would like to say it’s becoming less risky, but I don’t think that is the case. While technology and the global marketplace have made our world much more efficient, it also has resulted in constant change. Constant change means inherent and ever-changing risk to which organizations must anticipate, react, and adapt. Change and risk management become key to organizational success. So while I do not necessarily prefer to have a riskier world within which to work, this is likely good for the risk management profession as it raises the awareness, status, and importance of risk management within all organizations.