ORC Sightlines

September 2008

In this issue:

Leveraging the Value of Investing in Health

We are on the threshold of a transformation in our health care system, according to health and productivity consultant Ron Loeppke, MD, MPH. A radical change from a reactive ‘sick-care’ system to one based on proactive wellness is on the horizon, and in fact is already under way at the grassroots level.

Speaking to attendees at a meeting of ORC’s Physicians Group, Dr. Loeppke identified three converging trends affecting employers and occupational health program managers:

Chronic illness is the most important reason for rising health care costs: 133 million Americans now have one or more chronic illnesses, and 75 percent of what we spend on health care is due to chronic illness. Dr. Loeppke suggests that a solution to this problem is to develop a culture of health in the workplace, much as many companies have successfully incorporated safety consciousness and behavior into their corporate cultures. The first step in building a culture of wellness is to assign responsibility for it at a high level. Companies have chief financial officers whose job is to steward financial assets; the welfare of human capital requires similar attention.

At the top of the list of health problems costing companies millions of dollars in direct health care costs—and three times as much in absenteeism and lost productivity—are back and neck issues, depression, and fatigue, conditions that often may be the product of stress. Stress and other psychological issues also are at the root of habits that lead to disease, e.g., smoking, alcohol abuse, and obesity.

Nearly all the members of the ORC Networks speaking with Dr. Loeppke said their companies are investing in health and productivity, but there is more to do. One member noted that changing culture means looking even beyond the workplace, to the family and the entire society. Dr. Loeppke called for more documentation of what is working and better data to help determine causation.

To learn more about ORC’s network for corporate medical professionals, contact Ann Brockhaus, 1-202-293-2980.

Green Chemistry: Building in Sustainability at the Front End

Since the 1960s, when the world started to wake up to the dangers of pollution, we have relied almost entirely on a single strategy for managing the poisonous by-products of our modern lives: cleaning them up. We spend billions and billions of dollars to clean up discharges and process waste materials, but we continue to produce and discard products made out of toxic materials. In the U.S. alone, 60,000 plastic bags are thrown away every five seconds. In the same five seconds, two million plastic beverage bottles are discarded. Some 426,000 cell phones are retired every year. The state of California has decided that it’s time for another approach.

California’s Green Chemistry Initiative was started last year to develop policies that would encourage elimination of toxic materials at the front end, so we won’t have to figure out how to clean them up later. The term “green chemistry” refers to consideration of public health and the environmental effects of chemicals during the design of new products and processes. Maureen Gorsen, director of the state’s Department of Toxic Substances Control, explained the initiative to members of ORC’s Western Occupational Safety and Health Network at its meeting earlier this month. According to Ms. Gorsen, green chemistry has the potential not only to reduce the impact of toxic chemicals on our environment, but also to reduce waste and save energy.

The first phase of California’s initiative was a series of meetings and symposia resulting in a report that described 818 potential actions. That report is available at www.dtsc.ca.gov/pollutionprevention/greenchemistryintiative. Several themes, or “key elements,” run through all of the hundreds of options set forth in the report, which the Department of Toxic Substances Control is using as a framework for follow-up work. Interagency teams have been set up to study each of the key elements:

The department’s comprehensive set of policy recommendations for the governor are expected soon.

Transforming the HR Function

The September issue of Talent Management features an article by Edward Lawlor on reinventing the HR function. ORC’s executive vice president and COO of global consulting, Jodi Starkman, was asked to provide a companion article on how the HR function can review its strategic direction, structure and resources, and systems and procedures; cost and capabilities; and ultimately, its contribution to the organization. The audit process Jodi describes includes an extensive data-collection/discovery phase that looks at organization structure, roles, processes, practices, technology, and documentation. As an example of the kinds of information that can come out of such an exercise, the article outlines the learnings from an audit ORC recently conducted for the HR function of a large global service organization. The list illustrates how valuable a thorough HR audit can be in identifying the key strategic and operational issues that need to be addressed to make HR a value-adding player in the business.

To read Jodi’s piece, “The Ins and Outs of an HR Audit,” go to http://www.talentmgt.com/assessment_evaluation/205/index.php


Preparing the Next Generation of Diversity Champions

It’s an exciting time for diversity and inclusion. New people are coming into the field, and the field is undergoing great changes as organizations reassess progress and come to grips with new challenges and complexities. To take diversity efforts to the next level, next generation diversity champions must know how to make deep, sustainable change in their organizations. With this in mind, ORC Worldwide has drawn from over 45 years of experience in diversity, organization development, and change management to create a valuable learning experience for new diversity professionals as well as others becoming involved in building and leveraging a diverse workforce.

The seminar, Next Generation Strategies for Diversity and Inclusion, will be offered twice in 2008: on December 3 in New York and December 10 in London. In this interactive seminar, participants will learn to:

For more information, please visit: http://www.orcworldwide.com/hr/edi/seminar.php

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