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Trends in the Workers Compensation and Disability Landscape

By Kevin Silva, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Voya Financial

Kevin Silva, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Voya Financial

What’s a major external trend that’s impacting the workers compensation and disability space?

One trend is the growing number of state and local laws and mandates around leaves of absences. As a result, the criteria for various paid leaves are becoming very different in many states and local governing bodies—some of which better support employers, however, it’s not consistent across the country.

Since not all laws and mandates get consolidated as consistent laws at the federal level, employers have to align to a lot of governing bodies and continually evolve their offerings, all while ensuring they are supporting their employees’ unique needs. For example, employers who have employees in more than one state should be thinking about enhancing their leave offers, such as paid family leave, parenting bonding leave and caregiver leave, at an organizational level to remain attractive and consistent.

What are some of the recent internal trends that help support the disability landscape?

A recent trend includes bringing in new programs and support to accompany already existing benefits and policies.

As an example, we have a company initiative called program ‘Voya Cares,’ that was designed to ensure we are doing everything that we can, both internally with our employees and externally with our customers, in matters related to serving employees with special needs and disabilities. We want to ensure that both employees and the people we serve are appropriately served by our offerings. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it positions Voya Financial as “America’s Retirement Company,” serving all Americans with diverse needs.

Through Voya Cares, we recently collaborated with Wellthy, which is a healthcare concierge service that focuses on helping employees with disabilities as well as caregivers with complex, chronic or ongoing care needs. Wellthy provides support and resources to help people with disabilities and working caregivers save time, money and reduce their stress.

"Understanding diversity enables our company to better serve our customers and fulfill our vision of becoming America’s Retirement Company® for all Americans"

This is just one example. Each person’s situation is unique and it’s up to employers to help employees with the support they need for those unique situations. Asking employees to self-identify helps internal benefit providers understand, in aggregate, some of the support they need to provide to their employees.

What are the strategic points that you go by to steer the company forward?

One of my biggest passions and strategic points that I steer the company forward with is considering diversity in everything, including the diversity of our employees, customers and our product offerings. I continually educate myself via outside resource groups, which provide inside enlightenment that is critically important. Understanding diversity enables our company to better serve our customers and fulfill our vision of becoming America’s Retirement Company® for all Americans. And, having that understanding of diversity also enables us to work towards a common goal together as we help American’s retire better.

Could you shed some light on the approach that you follow while choosing the right solution provider?

We work with organizations like National Down Syndrome Society, Disability: IN and others that represent sharing best practices around diversity. We turn to these subject matter expects to learn about benchmarks, and they also provide us with great insight, education and guidance that add to our decision making.

What does the future hold for workers compensation and disability landscape?

We need to think about our employees and how they are engaged in a way that encourages their commitment and productivity. Employee commitment for instance is now viewed as a two-way treatment and employers should create a culture that empowers its employees. You do that by investing in people, and that entails more than just compensation and professional development. Investing in employees and the work environment that surrounds them is equally as important, so community, diversity and social responsibility programs all give employees a sense of community and sense of purpose that is critical to employee engagement.

When you talk about the future, there is awareness needed to effectively address mental health. We have found that depression, stress and other mental health issues are major concerns for employees, and these conditions tend to be the top three reasons for absences and in many instances even medical leaves. So it’s important for employers to understand all of this.

We are seeing adoption of more programs that support the personal needs of people with disabilities and special needs, and caregivers. These types of programs provide a sense of caring, reduce stress and increase productivity, and they also generate loyalty and commitment as they are critical components to retention in a very tight labor force.

What would be the single piece of advice that you could impart to your colleagues to excel in this space?

The most important thing for Chief Human Resources Officers or for any C-suite executives to understand is how to care for others and particularly how to care for employee populations. Caring for employee groups and understanding their needs and concerns and how you address and support them to unlock their full potential in the workforce is essential. Also within that context is understanding their aspirations, how to invest in them and how to connect those aspirations with the company’s strategic plan—all of those thoughts integrated as a whole are key concerns for a C-suite officer.

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