The Operation Varsity Blues scandal has heightened reputation management concerns across the higher education community. Seeing how quickly any college or university can suffer reputational damage, and how lasting that damage can be, underscores how valuable an institution’s reputation is, and how critical it is to safeguard it.
The book Reputation management: The key to successful public relations and corporate communication by New York University professors John Doorley and Helio Fred Garcia opens with a quote from Warren Buffet who addressed a group of Salomon Brothers managers in 1991 after the firm became mired in a high-profile trading scandal: “If you lose dollars for the firm by bad decisions, I will be very understanding. If you lose reputation for the firm, I will be ruthless.”
Although numerous surveys show that many leaders of higher education institutions place the same value on reputation as Buffet does, effectively managing these risks remains elusive. In fact, most cannot even define what reputation is.
Defining Reputational Risk
In the article How to Manage Reputation Risk, Nir Kossovsky addresses the definitional ambiguity directly. “From your boardroom and C-suite to the SEC and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, everyone agrees reputation risk exists, yet few can describe it. However, this isn’t as difficult as it seems.” Kossovsky defines reputation as the expectation of behavior that is set by stakeholders. “Customers have expectations when they buy products or services, employees have them when they accept jobs, vendors have them when they partner, creditors and investors have them, and even regulators have them.” For colleges and universities, this extends to the communities that house them, the potential pool of students and parents considering attendance, research partners, and the other organizations that interact with them.
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An analysis of the 2017 Public Entity Employee Safety & Loss Control Survey by Frank Altiere III, RIMS fellow and president of PMA Management Corp., highlights the importance of strategic loss prevention. “Now more than ever, the best strategy is to take a holistic approach to risk management to prevent claims from occurring in the first place with loss control strategies,” he writes. The most successful safety strategies cited in the survey involved employee safety training and improving the safety culture.
While 3 out of 4 survey respondents indicated that they planned to conduct more training, a majority also indicated that their safety programs were either underfunded or significantly underfunded. With that being the case, it’s hardly surprising that respondents listed “Developing strong safety attitudes among managers and supervisors” as the top challenge to workplace safety.
Risk pools to the rescue
Given the desire to improve safety culture through training and the reality of shrinking budgets of members, the services of loss prevention specialists associated with risk pools are especially timely. The ability to deliver training to member organizations that may not be able to otherwise afford it is a tremendous benefit. To truly change a culture, however, it may take more than training. Fostering the engagement of employees will go a long way toward developing the strong safety attitudes members demand.
“A hallmark of a strong safety culture is employees who are engaged in safety and are empowered to advocate for a safe culture,” Altiere notes, citing studies that confirm the dramatic effect engaged employees have on safety incidents. While these benefits are well documented, the steps necessary for actually engaging employees seem far less obvious. “Keep in mind that employee engagement must be earned, and that leadership is critical to engagement,” Altiere warns.
Pairing loss prevention resources with audit technology could be the key to creating engaged employees for your members and fostering sustainable safety cultures that deliver lasting improvement.
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Whether you’re an organization whose business is handling claims for others or one that administers its own claims, claimants are your customers. Viewing claimants through this lens will help focus your efforts on strengthening relationships and delivering better support. You also have the opportunity to go a step further and establish your reputation as truly customer-first. How? Through a straightforward branding exercise.
Before dismissing branding as something far removed from the claims world and better left to marketing and advertising executives, consider that every customer interaction further establishes an organization’s brand. Your reputation for customer service — however good or bad — is out there. You can continue with the status quo, or you can take control and push the narrative.
“Think about it,” says the Insurance Thought Leadership article 3.5 Ways to Deliver Happiness in Claims. “The claimant is going through your process during a time of grief, hardship and huge loss. Your process should not add to the stress. Your process should be easy. It should work to deliver a little happiness for them during this time. You want your beneficiaries to tell stories to their friends, family or other loved ones about how seamless your process was.”
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Another Groundhog Day has come and gone. Or has it?
In the movie Groundhog Day, weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) is forced to relive the same day, over and over again, no matter how he tries to change the outcome. The Environmental, Health and Safety Newsletter recently compared the latest release of the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries with previous years and observed a similar phenomenon.
The article notes, “The latest census is remarkably consistent with the previous reports. People continue to die in numbers, proportions and circumstances much as they did the year before, and the year before that and the year before that. There are a lot of Groundhog Days in how we’re getting killed on the job.” Even worse is the fact that these factors are no secret. “The same hazards keep killing workers,” the article continues. “What’s most likely to kill someone is not a trick question. It’s an open-book exam.”
If something as critical as lowering workplace deaths can get trapped in an endless cycle of no progress, it shows just how immovable some of these challenges can be. Lack of desire or effort isn’t always to blame.
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We all want reassurance that the work we do matters—that we’re contributing in a way that matters. Author, consultant, and speaker Norman Marks, in a blog post titled Internal audit needs to perform in a way that matters to the board and top management, puts forth a series of questions that prompt those guiding internal audit to consider whether their efforts actually support leadership’s ability to set and achieve organizational objectives.
“Internal audit can help leaders with assurance that their people, systems, and processes are able to deliver the desired results – and advice and insight on how to improve them further,” Marks writes. “But do we?”
Contributing greater value to the board and top management by serving as a knowledgeable and respected advisor may require a shift in thinking about the role that internal audit plays within the organization. It is also likely to necessitate a change in audit planning and practices. Audits themselves must be seen as a critical component of a more holistic and continuous approach to identifying and analyzing risk, evaluating the effectiveness of controls, and proactively addressing areas of weakness.
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For risk and safety professionals, the new calendar year brings with it a renewed focus on improving their organization’s culture of safety. Whether looking to put a new safety program in place, make wholesale changes to an existing program, or build upon previous successes, many organizations face the challenge of ensuring that their employees are fully participating in safety efforts.
A recent EHS Today article takes a look at a potential solution for involving people across an organization in this process: safety assessments.
How safety assessments differ from safety audits
To Build Safety Culture, You Must Get People Talking provides an overview of a 2018 Safety Leadership Conference session — “Distracted Drivers R US — Assessment RX for Success” — led by Walter Fluharty, vice president of EHS and organizational development at Ohio-based Simon Roofing.
Where static surveys may be seen as yet another safety-related requirement, focus group-based assessments followed by the completion of self-assessments are more likely to drive engagement and add value.
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Conducting internal audits isn’t typically an activity that any organization looks forward to. First of all, internal auditing takes time—something neither risk and safety departments nor supervisors and employees “on the ground” have in abundance. Internal audits also come with the headaches of coordinating the efforts of multiple departments and people at far-flung locations.
And when all of the hard work of gathering completed audit forms is done, data must be consolidated in a format that—fingers-crossed—will prove useful in determining the actions that will result in measurable change. It leaves one to ask, “Is it worth the effort?” … read more
Risk management information system (RMIS) solutions have come a long way in the three decades since their introduction. As they improve, Michelle Kerr reports in a Risk & Insurance article, “[T]he way risk managers use them — and the way they influence the practice of risk management — continues to evolve.” This evolution has led many to rethink their concept of what the systems can do. “They’re looking at the broader picture of how RMIS can be used to transform their organizations,” Kerr notes.
Increased flexibility and the extended capabilities of cloud-based RMIS solutions are now expanding into areas far removed from typical risk management. The ability to quickly create challenge-solving solutions that leverage the power of a highly configurable RMIS can allow all parts of an organization to innovate. In the Kerr article, Brian Van Allsburg, vice president risk management with Compass Group puts it this way, “The question really — the sky’s the limit — what can we do with this system that would make us unique?”
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The importance of establishing a near miss culture is clear. The OSHA and National Safety Council Alliance, a cooperative program, puts it this way: “History has shown repeatedly that most loss producing events (incidents), both serious and catastrophic, were preceded by warnings or near miss incidents. Recognizing and reporting near miss incidents can significantly improve worker safety and enhance an organization’s safety culture.” Effective near miss programs can prevent more serious incidents from occurring.
A previous post highlights some of the challenges surrounding this issue. Fear of reprisal or embarrassment, difficulty in the reporting process, and a sense of futility if reports don’t result in tangible changes. Each challenge presents obstacles when trying to establish a near miss culture.
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Compass Group sought to transition from a successful claims-based, post-loss program to a pre-loss model that focused on the further reduction of workplace injuries and enhancement of a strong, organization-wide culture of safety.
With adaptable audit functionality, convenient online and mobile access, and company-specific branding of audit forms, Compass is now using Origami Risk to promote a safety culture that engages all of its companies’ associates rather than being enforced from the top down.
Compass Group used Origami Risk’s highly configurable audit tools to address several challenges they faced in using audits as part of a pre-loss, behavior-based approach:
- Accommodation of the various types of facilities in which Compass Group companies operate
- Development of question sets for each of industries serviced by Compass Group companies
- Consideration of the heavy workload of facility managers
- Integration of company-specific branding to promote audit adoption
- Weighted scoring to target specific safety issues at one or more locations