Artwork for podcast Absence Management Perspectives
A 30-Year Journey: DMEC Celebrates the Evolution of Integrated Absence Management
Episode 1028th July 2022 • Absence Management Perspectives • DMEC
00:00:00 00:14:53

Share Episode


Hear one insider's perspective on how "total absence management" has evolved and now reflects responsibility for anything that affects employee productivity. "This is a whole new frontier," says Debby Kweller, an entrepreneur and long-time DMEC member. Get a bird's eye perspective on how the world of absence management has changed in the last 30 years, and the reason why this role is now in the spotlight for employers of all sizes.


Welcome to Absence Management Perspectives: A DMEC Podcast. The Disability Management Employer Coalition, or DMEC, as we're known by most people, provides focused education, knowledge and knowledge networking opportunities for absence and disability management professionals. DMEC has become a leading voice in the industry and represents more than 16,000 professionals from organizations of all sizes across the United States and Canada. This podcast series will focus on industry perspectives and provide the opportunity to delve more deeply into issues that affect DMEC members and the community as a whole. We're thrilled to have you with us and hope you will visit to get a full picture of what we have to offer, from webinars and publications to conferences, certifications, and much more. Let's get started and meet the people behind the processes.

Heather Grimshaw: Hello, and welcome to Absence Management Perspectives: A DMEC Podcast. I'm Heather Grimshaw, communications Manager for DMEC, and I'm here today with Debby Kweller, a longtime DMEC member and association leader who recently stepped down from the board. We've asked Debby to provide some perspectives on her career in the absence and disability management industry, the changes she's seen, and what she sees ahead. Debby, would you please introduce yourself and then we'll get right to our discussion?

ve been happily retired since:

Heather Grimshaw: So my first question for you is, when you reflect on the last 30 years in the industry, what are some of the high points that come to mind that you think have shaped the industry?

l total absence management in:

Heather Grimshaw: I so appreciate the opportunity to hear kind of that progression and I think it's really interesting. I still hear people talking about the need to increase communication between people who are handling workers compensation and other leave management. And it is interesting to hear how some of that has evolved, though it sounds like there's still some opportunities for improvement there.

Debby Kweller: This has been a 30-year journey and I suspect with COVID-19 is going to continue, right?

Heather Grimshaw: Yeah, I think Covet has changed everything for everyone in so many different ways. So what are some of the examples of how the absence and disability management industry has changed in the last 30 years?

arted this industry career in:

Heather Grimshaw: That's such a great point. It seems so overwhelming just in and of itself, and then you add in the coveted pieces and it really tips the scales. One of the things that I have heard from others in the industry is that while disability and absence management has always played a really important role for players of all sizes, today that role has really gotten kind of a spotlight on it. And I'd love to hear your thoughts on that in terms of that evolution that you shared with us and things that you've seen change.

Debby Kweller: Well, Heather, certainly there has been more of a focus on employee productivity and with COVID that has really exacerbated people and their working opportunities. I don't think you can walk through any town in this country and not find employers begging for employees they can ill afford to have somebody be absent from work. And so therefore, those people who are managing absence are really part of a key solution during our evolution from pre-COVID 19 work.

Heather Grimshaw: Absolutely. I like the way that you phrase that a key solution. And so what types of changes do you expect to see or envision in the future?

Debby Kweller: It's a whole new ball game right now. It's a new frontier, really. There's all sorts of new workplace requirements, new legislation that's coming along. One of the things I think that DMEC has done extraordinarily well is pivoted through COVID-19 onset. And I think what I most appreciate about DMEC is that it's so forward thinking and responsive to professional member needs, regardless of employer size or professional experience. This is particularly true recently because DMEC continues to provide its members with really pragmatic solutions to changes in the absence management environment, which we are seeing now. And a good example is how DMEC supported the members at the onset of COVID-19. I also really appreciated that DMEC pivoted extraordinarily well in providing educational services to members during the Pandemic by holding the virtual conference, which was no easy feat. They also developed mini COVID-19 webinar resources and most importantly, provided a collection point of many other federal, state employment law and industry resources. So they really brought a lot of solutions to the membership despite not having the networking opportunities that you might have at a conference. Aside from sharing best practices and providing networking opportunities, DMBC also fosters a family culture where we all look forward to being together at the annual conferences and we really, truly care about one another.

Heather Grimshaw: I agree. There is certainly a family culture which is, I think important for people who are under so much stress every day, feeling different challenges that come their way. And that leads me really to one of my last question, which is for folks who are just starting out in this field, why do anniversaries like the 30th anniversary for DMEC matter?

Debby Kweller: It's a good question, Heather. I think anniversaries are important to provide those just starting out with a historical perspective of how absence management evolved. Early on in my career, I heard a quote from a leadership book by Marshall McClellan. He was a Canadian theorist who said, it is important to look in the rearview mirror when driving into the future. And I think this concept still holds true. I've never forgotten that. And the DMA's anniversary is, let us reflect on the past, learn from our mistakes and fail forward.

Heather Grimshaw: That's really well said. And I will never forget that quote either. I love that. I think it says a lot.

Debby Kweller: It stuck with me for a long time.

Heather Grimshaw: Yeah, I think it's easy to forget where you've been and all of the different ways that the industry has evolved and really become, I want to say more sophisticated when you think about the ADA, FMLA and all of these different laws that now govern the way that people behave and certainly the different education that's available. So I think especially in an environment where employers, as you said earlier, are really struggling to find and retain employees who can help them achieve their goals, these kinds of things are increasingly important. And that really does bring me to my last question, which is what is the benefit to participating in organizations like DMEC for professionals at every stage of their career?

Debby Kweller: There's so many benefits to members, but most importantly, I think, is that DMEC has demonstrated over the years that it is so forward thinking and responsive to all member needs, regardless of employer size or professional experience. DMEC has done an extraordinary job of coming forward with particularly the webinar resources and providing collection points for all of the resources that are available to professionals. And they seem to stay on top of what's going on in our environment, if you will.

Heather Grimshaw: Thank you. I appreciate those comments. I appreciate your time today and we certainly hope that you plan to stay in touch.

Debby Kweller: Well, I Will, Heather. Although being retired for eight years, I still am in contact with many of my DMEC colleagues and have had the good fortune to see Marcia Carruthers every week. So that's a real positive thing for me. And it's there's hardly a week that goes by that we don't talk about DMEC in some fashion.

Heather Grimshaw: Well, That's Fantastic. I Love It. Well, thank you so much.

Debby Kweller: You're So welcome. Thank you, Heather, for having me.



More from YouTube