Magazine article Public Management

Risk Management Concerns Are Employee-Centered

Magazine article Public Management

Risk Management Concerns Are Employee-Centered

Article excerpt

Risks arise for a local government all the time, and, for any given jurisdiction, the most pressing risk management concern can be almost anything at any given moment. What, though, are the overriding concerns of public jurisdictions--those that cut across geographic and size boundaries?

To get a better understanding of public-entity risk management concerns, the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI) conducted several needs surveys during 2000. PERI solicited input through both its newsletter and its Web site and worked with state organizations in Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Oregon, Virginia, and Texas to survey jurisdictions within these states.

The survey asked for such items as the respondents' three top risk management concerns, sources of risk management training, and preferred means of undergoing training. In all, input on risk management needs came in from nearly 450 public entities. This article can help managers understand the major preoccupations for jurisdictions.

Organizations of all sizes were well represented among the respondents, although small public organizations (fewer than 100 employees) accounted for more than half of total responses. One of PERI's central goals is to answer the needs of smaller organizations. Nearly 74 percent of the individuals who completed the survey were non--risk managers, like local government administrators and managers, clerks, and department heads.

Top Risk Management Concerns

Respondents were asked to choose their three top risk management troubles from a list of 26 areas. Three of the top four areas of concern in risk management (see Figure 1) are related to a local government's greatest expense: employees.

These concerns are safety, workers' compensation, and employment-practices liability. The other top concern was general liability. In both small and medium-sized organizations, general liability, employee safety, and workers' compensation rank as the three most prevalent concerns.

In larger organizations, top concerns are workers' compensation, employee safety, employment-practices liability, employee benefits, and vehicle liability/fleet management.

Land use planning was the topmost concern among elected officials in one state-centered survey, showing that a particular state or region may have an overriding problem in one area different from other states' or regions' problems.

Training

In many cases, for the 10 most-mentioned concerns, one-third to one-half of respondents said that training had not been received by those staff and officials who needed it. For concerns that were not as high-level, the probability that training had been received was even less likely.

The sources used the most by respondents for risk management training and information were their states' governmental associations, risk and insurance pools, and insurance-industry sources (agents, brokers, and companies).

Smaller jurisdictions often indicated a limited number of sources; typically, one or two choices, from among their pool, state government association, and/or their insurance broker or agent, were the only sources of training. These may be the only sources small jurisdictions can take advantage of, as the pool and the broker or agent may be providing free or low-cost services.

Medium to large jurisdictions used more sources of training, taking advantage of their greater resources to attend national conferences, purchase training, and the like.

The methods by which respondents reported that they underwent training were consistent with the sources of training they reported. The three most-reported methods were a local or state conference or seminar, an on-site training or workshop, and a video training process.

Online Training: Little-Used but Highly Desired

Respondents' preferred choices for the method by which they would be trained paralleled the actual use of these methods, with one notable exception: online training. …

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