Updated: Jan 30
When I saw the above picture, I fell in love with it. It is poetry without a written word. It sums up the evolution of the human experience we have discussed in these recent blogs. But it is of a world that used to be.
Life itself is about unrelenting change. As humans, we experience it as a beginning, a middle, and an end. We are all on a journey filled with challenges, and it is a one-way ticket. As social animals, however, we create organizations with norms and processes that create order the current population agrees to abide by. Until recently, changes to these norms and practices were relatively slow. So change appeared to move ever so slowly
Then the agricultural age occurred around 12,000 years ago. Importantly, it gave rise to communities centered around a common goal: a steady food supply. The agricultural age went through thousands of iterations slowly over multiple generations. When the industrial age occurred thousands of years later, the pace of change began to steadily increase the rate at which it could introduce modern technologies. These rapid changes created consternation in their times, albeit the pace was far slower than it is today.
As individuals, we have become benefactors of social and technological change and captives of it. But what used to take lifetimes to complete is now running full circle within ever-shortening periods. We aren't getting a moment to catch our breath between episodes of innovation. For many executives attempting to manage an ongoing business, the rapid and ever-evolving pace of change creates a sense of uneasiness that shoots to the core of who they are as humans - creatures that can accept change but in measured doses.
It's as if you are riding a Ferris Wheel that's constantly speeding up, and nobody's at the kill switch.
So what do you do? In previous blogs, I've noted that the central issue you need to address as an executive in a claims organization is recognizing the driving force underlying your problem. Given the great resignation, most people point to the adjuster's role. But don't forget, the injured worker is the primary driver of your business.
For years the injured worker has been considered an object to be managed by the adjuster, often in some rather disrespectful ways. This may not be easy to swallow as an executive because you have policies and procedures in place preventing that kind of thing. But our experience has shown that there is often a fairly significant disconnect between what executives think is happening and what the reality is at the frontline. Recruits typically undergo formal training. Later, the experienced adjusters will take them aside and tell them, "Now, here's how we really do things."
Log on to any websites where groups of injured workers share their stories, along with their likes and dislikes. I just read one example of this with the post by John Knowl on Facebook within 6 hours of my writing this line. He said he began with his LinkedIN network and has expanded from there. He reported an audience of over 3,000 in a short period. For three years, he has been sharing the good and the bad of his experiences, and he is now connected to over 9,000 people. He reported that he had made a difference across North America, the UK, and Asia by targeting leaders of specific organizations and industries with his LinkedIN platform.
Now imagine these conversations going on with your population of injured workers on the social networks. What would they be reporting? How is that being interpreted by the executives the purchase your services?
The consumer in the modern world has changed. They have definite expectations and likes and dislikes. They are connected in communities and united in expressing their expectations in the marketplace. The norms and practices guiding the system for 30 years have been turned inside out. This situation is just beginning to show its power over the claims management industry. Claim executives are witnessing seemingly unrelated problems coming rapidly out of the blue and threatening the core of the businesses they have built. Anyone would feel overwhelmed and powerless to correct all the issues because so many are coming at executives all at once from so many different directions.
The takeaway is that everyone suggests that your first attention needs to define what your adjusters need and want and rethink what the adjuster of the future will be. However, given what I've shared in these blogs, I suggest you first address the issues you face with the injured workers. What are they reporting about your company, and what does that mean for your company?
Remember, like all consumers today, the Injured Workers are no longer a product to be moved around. They are are the reason you exist, they are your market.
They are the primary influencers will be driving your business's bottom line. Their voices are already beginning to control many vital factors impacting their employment. And this affects how current buyers of your product are changing their buying patterns.
If you don't believe it, you have ignored the history of business development and failure over the past 30 years.
The buying relationship between the risk manager and the claim organization used to be secured based on your history with the buyer and your organization's financial strength. This is in the process of change. Today, buyers are listening to their employees. They evaluate potential service providers based on how efficient and effective the systems driving your organization are and how their employees assess your service. How well is your company serving the needs of the injured workers under your charge?
Today, your buyers are listening to employee comments about dealing with your company. See our Why EHS page, you'll find a series of short videos from one of our clients. It will be worth your time.
You first need to understand what the needs of your injured workers are; only then should you look at what the adjuster's role should be in the future (which is knocking on your door as you read this).
Don't assume you know anything about the consumer's needs until you ask them about how well you are doing with helping them get through this difficult time and how you can improve their journey.
Once you have a fuller understanding of how your organization is responding to the needs of the injured workers, from their perspective, the new role of the adjuster will become self-evident. Then if you consider how to work in your company is done, the issue of where you need to invest in technology for the most immediate and critical bang for your buck will become self-evident.
Next, prepare for pushback as you change how your organization has "always done things in the past." Many mid-level managers will feel threatened by these changes. But as an executive of your company, you must execute the critical issues facing the integrity of your company.
So, is seismic change a curse or a blessing we live through?
I find it to be a blessing. It will force claim organizations to become better at fulfilling their mission and purpose. It is driving claim organizations to return to the core premise underlying the workers' compensation system. Remember, the workers' compensation system was founded on an agreement between employers and employees. The agreement memorialized three promises. First, employers would be protected from lawsuits. Second, injured workers would get the medical care they require. And third, the injured workers' income would be replaced when the employee could not work.
Thank you for your time.