Magazine article Risk Management

Communicating with Your Risk Managers

Magazine article Risk Management

Communicating with Your Risk Managers

Article excerpt


Much is written about how to communicate with peers in other departments, as well as how to communicate with CEOs, presidents and others to whom risk managers report. Yet, little is written about how risk executives can and should communicate with the risk managers and others in the risk function who report to them.

Here, three risk executives share some of their philosophies and strategies for making sure that all of the communication that goes back and forth between themselves and their risk department staff is effective. After all, if communication within the risk department is not effective, chances are slim that communication outside of the department will ever be heard.

Mitzi Dykes Gevity Risk Manager

At Gevity, a Dekand, Florida-based provider of human resources consulting, benefits and payroll administration and other HR services, Mitzi Dykes utilizes all forms of business communication that are possible m order to ensure comprehensive and clear communication with her staff. These include e-mails, individual phone calls, conference calls, face-to-face meetings and one-on-one meetings.

"In most instances, our primary form of communication is e-mail, especially' for information that goes to a lot of people," says Dykes. "However, when it comes to technical issues or areas where there might be misunderstandings, then we communicate via phone."

Dykes has found conference calls to be particularly effective, such that she engages in pre-conference call communication, the conference call communication itself and post-conference call communication:

Pre-conference call: "I'm a person who likes to have a lot of things in writing," she says. "As such, I try to get written information to the conference call participants in advance so they have time to review the subject, and so they can ask me any questions prior to the ensures that everyone is on a level playing field when the Dykes has found that people can waste a lot of time during a conference call if they have to spend time trying to get other participants up to speed on a matter that they could have prepared for beforehand.

Conference call: Dykes uses a lot of conference calls because she works from her home--a three and a half hour drive from the corporate office. "If I worked from the corporate office, we would be having a lot more face-to-face meetings," she says. The conference calls are very productive, though. She schedules about one a week, and there are anywhere between four and seven people involved in each call, depending on the topic being discussed. "If you try to have more people than that, things can get out of control," she says.

Post-conference call communication: After each conference call, Dykes summarizes the main points in writing, using bullet points. Then, as appropriate, she includes deadlines for people related to the tasks for which they have responsibility. She e-mails these summaries to the call participants, and then "diaries" the email, so that she can follow up on their progress.

Despite using a wide range of communication tools, Dykes finds that there are still a number of challenges in communication that need to be addressed. "One of my biggest challenges is helping people understand the potential for a catastrophic claim," she says. These include people with a lot of experience, as well as new people. One way she tries to emphasize the importance of potential claims is to get statistics from the company's broker and from published journals. She provides actual examples of claims, which helps to substantiate the points she is trying to make. "When people see the numbers and the claims that other companies have experienced, they are much more easily convinced," she says.

One key that Dykes has found to success in communications is the importance of using terms that everyone is familiar with, and staying away from acronyms as much as possible. …

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