John Groves with Groves WorkReady, Inc.

Trust before change featuring John Groves with Groves WorkReady, Inc.

Written by John P. Palen, CEO and Founder of Allied Executives Published January 2015 in the Minnesota Business Magazine

John Groves establishes trust before trying to make changes to a company culture.

Every day, companies lose money and productivity due to lost time from injured employees. Their cultures are historically designed to wait until someone files a claim upon being injured, but this often leads to higher costs and increased lost work time.

John Groves set out to change the way companies think about preventing injury. To that end, in 2007 he founded Groves WorkReady. The idea was to help companies keep employees health with early intervention, ergonomics, and best-practice training. Before his startup could gain traction, however, he would have to figure out how best to change widely held beliefs about health and fight entrenched ways of dealing with injury.

As many entrepreneurs do, Groves envisioned a better way to provide services. A physical therapist who owned three clinics in the Twin Cities area, he had grown frustrated with insurance reimbursement affecting outcomes and control over his business. He knew that a basic education in body mechanics and individual fitness could often prevent injury, rather than leaving companies and workers managing severe symptoms after the fact.

"I became excited about a business focused on keeping people healthy and helping to avoid injuries," he says. "That's the way it should be. But in my opinion, our health care system is still too focused on how to pay for it instead of how to avoid injury, and that's not right."

He founded Groves WorkReady in 2007 to change the way workers deal with pain and injury. His first step was to approach industries that have high concentrations of employees who historically suffer from musculoskeletal injuries. In most companies in the industries he picked, when people got injured, they were sent to the doctor and taken out of work for a period of time. Groves wanted to get to the issue before it became an injury, helping employers avoid the hassle and costs associated with recovery.

The biggest battle, he found, was establishing the trust that enables change. Employees had lots of assumptions about work, injury and insurance rather than facts. "We have to affect change in the culture at our client sites," says Groves. "Change is hard for anyone, so we really have to train the employees to think differently about their aches and pains. That’s not an easy thing to do."

Having someone from WorkReady onsite with the client company, it turns out, proved to be key. A physical therapist, occupational therapist or an athletic trainer is placed at each site on a weekly basis. 

The interaction between those individuals and employees at the client company are crucial to limit risky behaviors and to have the opportunity to resolve potential injuries early on. Eventually, the employees learned they could interact with someone about an issue before it escalated to a serious situation.

"We discovered that in most scenarios, injury can be prevented by working with the symptoms earlier and engaging with employees at the time they identify a symptom or potential injury," says Groves. "We attack the root cause before it leads to a claim or loss."

Groves' proactive approach is one many business owners can appreciate. It empowers people to direct change rather than expecting change from a business mandate. Putting the right people on site built trusting relationships within the company, fostered education and provided early intervention. 

With a typical client, Groves says there are generally about 2,000 preventative interactions with their employees per year – all on a pre-loss or pre-claim basis. "People don't believe me when I tell them, but I can prove that we provide at least a 50 percent reduction in workers compensation claims a year," he says.

Groves' willingness to take on widely held cultural assumptions about work-related injuries creates an all-around win for his business, for employers and employees engaged in workplace wellness.


  1. Focus on the root cause of an escalating corporate expense like workplace injuries. 
  2. Develop a culture approach to improving the problem by engaging employees in solutions.
  3. Institute best practices - with expert support - for safety and injury prevention that are achievable for everyone.
  4. Celebrate small changes to shift the company culture in a healthier direction.