Steve NyBlom has a huge job as risk manager for approximately 100,000 Los Angeles County employees. "I manage a group of about 80 risk management staff members who cover functions like safety, workers' compensation and liability claims, insurance purchasing, disability, and managing third-party claims."
One of his top professional achievements has been to help change the way people think about risk across this large and diverse workplace. Today, risk is a subject that's addressed at every level in the organization, not typical, he says, of public agencies.
NyBlom believes more people now see the value of safety and health, and the proof is in the allocations.
"In California we've been in a tight budget situation for years, and there's an awareness of the fact that dollars we spend on risk-related issues are dollars we don't have to spend on other things."
Employers looking to save money are seeing a positive return on investments in worker well-being, however. As a result both public and private organizations are focusing on steps to reduce the cost of insuring their workers. Recognition of the value in protection is good for the safety profession, says NyBlom.
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In Los Angeles County, for example, leaders are looking to the risk management department to save money and add value. A few years ago, the county requested that NyBlom and his staff completely restructure safety and risk management activities within the county's hospitals and community health centers.
Bridging technical knowledge with business acumen is essential to NyBlom's ability to succeed in a $22 billion organization. Like Tara Falin of Cummins, Inc., (see yesterday's Advisor), he became active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) early in his career. Taking on leadership roles, he says, helped him become familiar with the business end of his profession.
He's learned over the years when to present a technical argument and when to address the business or human motivation for a program or new hire.
"Someone needs to be taking on the 'selling' function, and if you don't have the underlying technical knowledge, you may lack the credibility to talk to executives," says NyBlom. "You can't just say 'let me bring in my staffers to explain.'"
Asked for tips on professional advancement, NyBlom advises not focusing too early on one industry or segment. Rather, try to develop a "big view of things" and avoid the isolation that can result from an overly narrow organization.
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