Jack D’Angelo, BS, MBA, and VP of Employee Health and Productivity (EHP) at Verizon, Inc., gave the opening keynote address Tuesday at the National Ergonomics Conference and Exhibition (NECE) in Las Vegas.
Coming from personal experience and a business perspective, D’Angelo’s presentation Ergonomics, the Board Room and the Bottom Line was a standing-room-only hit.
D’Angelo challenged ergonomists at the conference to explore measurable improvements as well as measure success in ways that differ from what they traditionally use. Getting to the terms and numbers that business managers use, he explained, was necessary to get their support for ergonomics efforts at the company.
When D’Angelo became EHP at Verizon in 2002, he was approached by ergonomics team members who wanted to expand ergonomics efforts at Verizon. Not having a background in ergonomics, he needed compelling business reasons to give his support to the program.
D’Angelo learned about the success at one Verizon facility in Tampa. That facility, with about 11,000 employees, saw a 33 percent decrease in musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in 12 months. In 24 months, ergonomics improvements had decreased MSDs by about 60 percent. While these numbers might sound good to any ergonomist, as D’Angelo put it, "Traditional ergonomic measures do NOT keep corporate executives up at night." In other words, while ergonomists may find injury rates a compelling measurement of an ergonomics program’s success, management doesn’t necessarily see it as such until it impacts the real bottom line. At the time, D’Angelo challenged the Tampa facility to come back with different measures, and they did.
When the Tampa facility looked at putting the benefits of ergonomics into more business terms, they found that the facility had realized a savings of $1,700,000 in direct medical costs over 24 months. Also, they measured $503,685 in productivity improvements during the same time period.
What is so important about these numbers, D’Angelo said, is that these aren’t the numbers that the ergonomist came up with. A half a million dollars in productivity savings is something that the management team figured and thus, they felt it was important to support greater ergonomics initiatives.
D’Angelo also stressed the importance of aligning the ergonomics efforts with other corporate objectives that might already be in place such as Six Sigma, TQM, and employee retention. At Verizon, an important corporate objective is absence management. It was only by tying ergonomics efforts to this corporate objective that the success at the single Tampa facility were realized on a corporate level.
Employee absence at Verizon totaled $600 million annually. By speaking to the important management objective of reducing this cost, the ergonomics team was able to again gain support. The ergonomics program at Verizon decreased the absence rate 15 to 35 percent during the first 18 months. That, said D’Angelo, was a language that business understood.