Thursday, September 8, 2011

What can you learn from an old name tag?

I was cleaning out a drawer the other day and came across an old name tag. Time has yellowed its face a little and the pin clip has separated from the back, but the old logo and print are still very readable.  

When I started at WorkSafeBC as a vocational rehabilitation consultant (VRC), this was an essential part of my kit. Before lanyards, swipe cards, and security gates became the norm in industry and at WorkSafeBC, this little name tag was something I wore when I went to visit injured workers in hospitals, schools, and jobsites. 

Back then VRCs were expected to make at least two presentations every quarter. I took this requirement as a challenge. I would arrange to speak to employer groups, chambers of commerce, and rotary luncheons (not as easy as it sounds). My presentations focused on rehabilitation and return-to-work outcomes but the questions always strayed into areas of assessments, experience rating, claims policy and prevention/regulation. I usually wore my own name tag to such events. It was my introduction and it drew a little more attention than those sticky “Hello, my name is” labels ubiquitous at such events.    My name tag from the early 1980s

You will note the name tag doesn’t say “Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant.” Even if it did, I am certain every audience I spoke to considered me “that guy from WCB.” I think this reaction was cunningly intentional on the part of the vocational rehabilitation leadership of the day.  I learned very quickly that in order to have credibility with these audiences, I had to live up to that billing — I had to know more about every aspect of our business. 

As anyone who has tried presenting or teaching something knows, the process of preparation and delivery deepens your knowledge. I read and could quote from George Nelson Wright’s Total Rehabilitation — the vocational rehabilitation bible of its day. I prepared examples from my own experience of successful training-on-the-job initiatives. I  also learned to anticipate the questions that would be asked including those outside my own role. 

When I could, I would co-present. I would bring along others to answer the tough questions and I would learn from them. My credibility depended on giving correct answers and on delivering on any commitments for further information I would make; more importantly, that credibility would make a difference in creating return-to-work opportunities and fostering a safety culture that ultimately protects workers.    

Finding that name tag reminded me that regardless of my role, I am the face of WorkSafeBC to every employer, service provider, worker or representative I meet. The lesson, however, is not specific to me. If you work in the world of workers’ compensation, you need to know about primary prevention, walk the talk when it comes to safety, understand how insurance works, and believe in rehabilitation/return-to-work. No one can know all the answers but every time you facilitate an answer from another part of the worker's compensation system and listen to the answer, your understanding and potential to make a difference increases.  

Not a bad reminder from an old name tag.

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