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Workers' Compensation & Return to Work Programs: 3 Reasons for Failure and How to Overcome Them (Part 3)

Posted by Gary Jennings on April 12, 2017 at 11:09 AM

Click HERE for Part 1

Click HERE for Part 2

In the two previous blogs, we mentioned three reasons why many Return to Work (RTW) programs are not successful. They are:

  1. The leaders who can make it happen are not willing to lead,
  2. The program lacks incentives and rewards for the people most responsible for its success, and
  3. It is treated as a “shiny object” program rather than a behavior change.

This third and final blog in the series will cover the final topic:


While working in the corporate world, you may see senior leadership roll out new ideas, concepts, and programs that have a short shelf life because leadership moves on to another “shiny object”. In some cases, the leaders have good intentions. In other cases, these programs are intended to address a short-term issue that has arisen, which leads to the program being forgotten once conditions improve. On other occasions, the program may be the program du jour that we have seen over the years, meeting a perceived need that an industry pundit has identified and solved for their financial benefit. In fact, the word “program” has been used to describe so many quickly forgotten ideas that it has developed a negative connotation.

If that is the case, how does senior leadership convince everyone that this is a real goal or project that will live on and not just a brief blip in the corporate history? Leaders must convince everyone that both the problem and the solution to the problem is real. Senior leadership must give the RTW program:

  1. Top-level attention in discussions and presentations
  2. Sufficient resources (people, processes and systems) to reasonably accomplish the goals or program that has been presented
  3. Clear target dates for completion of various steps toward the desired state, some of which must be short-term to demonstrate continuing commitment
  4. Regular reports on accomplishments and targets met, and
  5. A method for maintaining resources for the program when other tempting ideas (“shiny objects”) surface. 

Some corporations and public entities have a good reputation for identifying problems and solutions and sticking to their guns to make things happen. Others do not, so they must continuously emphasize the program so that it is recognized as something that is going to be a new behavior, not just another program du jour

All three of the reasons presented that lead to unsuccessful RTW programs are certainly not exhaustive, but rather some of the most basic. Hopefully you will provide your recommendations on ways to address these and other barriers that will lead to success.