Handbook Extract: RTW Coordinator Competencies

RTWMatters team

Return to work coordinators perform complex roles, balancing the needs of individuals with the needs of the workplace.

The information in this article is from the Return to Work Matters Workplace Systems Handbook, under the RTW Coordinator competencies chapter. The complete handbook is available in PDF and online format for all Return to Work Matters subscribers.

Return to work coordinators perform complex roles, balancing the needs of individuals with the needs of the workplace. 
They must be able to deal with people in distress, as well as with busy supervisors who are juggling production matters. They also need to be able to influence senior staff and external stakeholders, and oversee program and policy development. 
Identifying the skills and competencies required of a RTW coordinator helps with:

HRs’ selection of appropriate RTW coordinators;

Identification of training needs, including initial and ongoing training; and

RTW coordinators’ understanding of the important aspects of their role.

The competencies required of a RTW coordinator will vary depending on the size of the organisation and the number of cases or claims. 
On average, small organisations have one claim every seven years. Medium-sized organisations with a greater number of claims need a competent coordinator who can deal with both strategic and day-to-day operational matters. Large organisations deserve a coordinator who is particularly capable of work in the strategic area.
Much of this section is about competencies for RTW coordinators working within medium to large organisations.The section on RTW Management may be of assistance when thinking about the competencies of RTW Coordinators in small organisations.


Strategic and operational competencies

A RTW coordinator’s work is broadly divided into two areas, each with its own particular competencies:

1. Strategic – the development of policies, relationships, and management structures that streamline return to work management; and

2. Day-to-day operational activities – dealing with individual cases, issues, and conversations

Studies of RTW coordinators have found that they believe that the greatest improvements in injury management occur through the development of systems and relationships – i.e. through strategic work. Despite this fact, most of their time at work tends to be devoted to operational tasks. 
Day-to-day case management is often more pressing and easier to quantify and discuss than strategic work. When a RTW coordinator focuses on case management, they have the feeling that 'things have been done.' However in the long run, less is achieved. Focusing on day-to-day case management at the expense of strategic work is a common trap for RTW coordinators.

Time spent on building relationships, engaging managers, training supervisors Focus on the day to day of case management
Greater success Less success
Easier life Limited cooperation
Less frustration Less calls returned


More information on specific strategic and operational competencies included in the complete handbook. 

Training RTW Coordinators

Training and development needs vary according to case load, organisation size, and the other work responsibilities of the RTW coordinator. 
In a small organisation – of, say, 20 staff – high levels of training are impractical. In large organisations there is a greater need for the RTW Coordinator to be able to focus on system and strategic work and to be of broad influence.
Training options include:

Training options specific to RTW

RTW basic training. This often involves a two day course, run at a number of training or rehabilitation organisations;

Industry training associations. Some industry associations run coordinator training, requiring attendance of, for example, four hours a week over a ten week course;

University training. Undergraduate or postgraduate courses are run at selected universities, and result in recognised professional rehabilitation qualifications; and

Other tertiary qualifications in the health field, such as occupational therapy or physiotherapy. Such qualifications are particularly relevant to larger organisations.

Training options relevant to the coordinator's competencies

Advanced communication skills, including:

Active listening;

Influencing senior management;

Presentation skill development; and

Conflict resolution and mediation;

Spreadsheet and database management;

Organisational management; and

Software training.

For more information on implementing workplace systems, including specific strategic and operational competencies, join Return to Work Matters today to access the complete handbook. 

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