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Is Collaboration Overrated?

This week’s post is brought to you by [Jim Bryant]( Collaboration is used extensively today in both the private and public sectors, with considerable focus on the lack of collaboration and the impact on many aspects of our family and work environments. As a matter of fact, the term “collaborator” used to have a negative meaning when used in wartime to describe actions of someone who is working against your goals with your adversary. Is “collaboration” just another term we are using to describe what one would expect to receive from a stakeholder involved in absence management? Do we really know who is invested in the results being achieved using the solutions that are associated with the many aspects of this industry? Really think about it. Anyone who has a long tenure in the absence management industry is required to speak the languages of Information Technology, Legal, Risk Management, Human Resources Systems, Finance, Employee Relations, Employee Benefits, Training and Operations. Looking back I can actually say I have seen all these groups collaborate, and believe it or not, it was on…absence management. With multiple conferences, industry groups, articles, blogs, studies and even products focused on absence management integration or coordination and analysis of data associated with why employees are not at work, one would think we would be further along the curve to solving these problems – + Why aren’t my employees at work? + If my employees are at work, are they engaged and performing at a level that will deliver the financial results the employer has forecasted? Anyone who has been in this industry long enough has been at a conference table and saw the look in their customers eyes when they say, “I need your help. I’m being asked questions that require data that I don’t have, or if I do have it, I can’t interpret it in a way that we can use to make business decisions.” I think we all agree that compliance with the complex regulations for Federal and State leave laws are important to an organization. Failure to meet these requirements could impose considerable financial risk on an organization. However, you can mitigate these risks with training, technology and analysis to ensure improvement. When you add in the coordination of claims for workers’ compensation and disability with leave laws, and then add an additional topping for the ADAAA, many employers just throw up their hands and outsource to one of several groups who are willing to take on the employer responsibilities in these critical areas of productivity. As you would expect, there are many organizations that have been providing outsourced leave administration for years. There are others who have either been consolidated into competitor organizations or have exited the industry, leaving employers to ask the question, "Is it better to continue to outsource or use software and utilize the existing benefits team to administer leave? You may be wondering where I’m going with this discussion…The point is often times it doesn’t really matter who is providing the administration of employee absence. What matters is selecting the right tool for your organization, training your staff and reviewing the processes to ensure continuous improvement. The important part to remember is that absence data and mastering the management of that data will always be the responsibility of the employer. We also know once you own something it also becomes your responsibility to translate and distribute that data so that everyone in your organization becomes a collaborator for a successful absence management program.