When your employees get hurt, whether it’s a twisted ankle or a smashed finger, their comfortable routine is changed. How you and other supervisors respond to these injuries greatly affects your employees’ attitudes and how quickly they return to work. Instead of just handing them forms and a treatment slip, talk to them and explain a few things. Following are some important—and cost-free—ways to show that you care.
Offer reassurance. Just a few kind words will help them relax. It’s too late to tell them to be careful; that will only make them feel worse. Tell them that accidents happen; they are part of life. Assure them that it was not their fault, that you are sorry they were hurt and, most imoprtantly, that they are not going to lose their job. Explain that they won’t have to pay for treatment and that if they miss too much work, they will get some disability payment.
Show concern. Many employees assume their managers are disappointed with them since they can no longer do their job. Tell them that you care and will do all you can to help them. Say this from the heart. Let them know that you will miss them and look forward to having them back. People want to feel needed, so tell them they are important to the company. Say the words.
Look at the big picture. Your goal is to retain loyal, productive, long-term employees. Building them up and reassuring them will pay off. Remember that keeping this employee will prevent you from having to place an ad in the paper and starting over.
Educate your employees. The more your employees understand about what is happening, the better. Explain what their benefits are if they are off work. Not knowing their financial status is terrifying for many people. If you do not fill them in, they are more susceptible to believing rumors and half-truths spread by their coworkers.
Follow up. Let your employees know that you are paying attention! Be aware of their medical appointments and tell them when you have spoken with their physician. It can be helpful to say, “I spoke with the doctor, and he says that you are coming along nicely. He is pleased that you are following the instructions on the ice pack and the home exercises. He feels you will be back to full duty within a week. Good job!” The more you know about what happens at the clinic, the more likely your employees are to be honest with you and with the doctor.
Employ counter-intelligence. Workers may hear exaggerated reports of how much money others made milking a Workers’ Compensation injury. Most companies ignore this, which is not an effective strategy! Tell employees about a case where a worker with a minor injury got a lawyer, expecting big returns that never came. Detail the lost work time, the numerous doctor visits for multiple exams and reports, the lawyer’s large cut and, ultimately, the employee’s small net gain. Explain how tough it is to find a job with the cloud of a contested Workers’ Comp report hanging over you. Tell them that employees who don’t go through this shady process feel good about themselves, instead of feeling like suckers.