The Human Resources Conundrum

by Pete Duvendack
IWIRC Corp.

The following article was originally published more than 12 years ago. However, given our recent increase in new clientele and the education that accompanies our services, I believe this article is once again timely for our readers…

For years, Human Resource departments in large companies have faced an internal Jekyll-and-Hyde syndrome when hiring new employees. One side (recruiting) is in desperate need of employees, with supervisors begging for personnel to meet production deadlines and accountants concerned about overtime pay. The other side (benefits management) is trying to manage workers’ compensation costs on the rise, with pressure to hire only qualified employees physically capable of performing their jobs safely. Both sides have valid concerns, but which side should win out in the end?

Careful examination of the expenses in almost every case shows prudent employers are wise to take their lumps on the front end. Medical expenses for surgical back injuries run between $50,000 and $100,000 alone, with an additional four to six times that to cover the indemnity cost. Very seldom is it worth the gamble to hire an unscreened employee just to meet high production demands, yet the friction continues between the recruiting and benefits sides of HR.

In smaller organizations, it may be a single person dealing with both hiring new employees and managing workers’ compensation costs. These professionals have the opportunity to see the effects when they “jump the gun” and hire an unscreened employee who later shows up with an exacerbation of a previous injury. It only takes one back injury for this smaller company to realize it doesn’t pay to jump the gun.

It’s in a larger organization where Jekyll and Hyde prevail because of the separate sub-departments within Human Resources. Recruiters understand the importance of pre-placement screening, but in many cases aren’t evaluated or rewarded as much for the quality of new hires as they are for the quantity. Many times, they’re under constant duress to meet recruiting demands and are reprimanded when they come up short. Benefit managers are responsible for managing costs, including workers’ compensation. Their efforts are aimed at managing and reducing costs associated with work injury.

These professionals are evaluated on how well they manage costs associated with work-place injuries. Post-offer, pre-employment screening is legal and is one of the most effective ways to manage costs. These sometimes opposing views are what cause the Jekyll-and-Hyde syndrome. As a medical provider specializing in occupational health, it’s a challenge dealing with both Jekyll and Hyde.

The responsibility to resolve the syndrome falls to the HR director or the two sub-departments’ direct reports. Recruiters need to be evaluated based on their ability to recruit the best employees for the job and who represent the lowest risk for the company. The HR director must always support and reiterate the value and need for pre-placement screening. It’s important not to give into pressure created by increases in production. After all, screening out one back injury easily covers the cost of hiring an additional recruiter. iBi

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