18 December 2019Analysis

Workers’ compensation claims companies struggling with talent shortage

“The most significant challenge facing claims organisations today is a talent shortage,” according to the 2019 Workers’ Compensation Benchmarking survey, conducted by Rising Medical Solutions (RMS).

An aging population, and the steady retirement of baby boomers is putting considerable pressure on the workers’ compensation industry, the survey found. “Compounding these issues is a pending mass exodus of experienced claims professionals, juxtaposed against the continued challenge of attracting young professionals to the industry,” it said.

RMS said: “Success in this area will require organisations to think outside of traditional talent management and recruitment strategies.”

The survey revealed that claims professionals identify flexibility in work arrangements, such as the ability to work remotely and for flexible hours, as the most valuable benefit that could influence employment decisions, alongside bonuses and profit sharing arrangements. Respondents indicated salary and benefits considerations would be the most likely reasons for them to consider leaving their jobs.

RMS said: “The workers’ compensation claims industry is conservative and lags other areas of the P&C industry when it comes to innovation and alternative work arrangements. Organisations should rethink their current strategies, it advised, “including reassessing compensation and benefits that consider what employees value.”

The survey also found frontline staff may be spending too much time on compliance and administrative functions, which could be coming at the detriment of other responsibilities, such as communicating with injured workers and key stakeholders.

“Organisations should determine which administrative tasks and/or regulatory compliance activities can and should be automated. The time and attention of claims professionals should be allocated to higher level tasks and more strategic responsibilities,” RMS advised.

It also revealed that more than 40 percent of respondents indicated they needed jurisdiction-specific training, particularly among those professionals with five years or less of experience in the role. Over a third indicated they need better tools to help them communicate effectively with injured workers and other claims stakeholders - rising to 55 percent among those with less than a year of experience in the job.

Respondents also called for more empathy training, which is currently given to only a quarter of frontline workers. “To be effective, claims professionals need more than traditional training focused on financial controls and legal and regulatory compliance. They must be skilled communicators and adaptable to cultural differences,” RMS said.

Meanwhile, around 30 percent of frontline participants do not receive adequate training in key areas of medical management, such as evaluating medical treatment and interpreting diagnostic tests. “Frontline claims professionals indicate the greatest training needs are in understanding psychological risk factors and mental health issues,” RMS said.

The survey, which is now in its seventh year, differed from previous years in that RMS opted to survey frontline claims professionals, instead of claims executives. It hoped to reveal interesting differences between leadership and staff who handle workers’ compensation claims.

It gave a different perspective on the industry but made comparisons with previous years difficult, making it unclear whether discrepancies were based on changes on the ground or differences in the attitudes of the respondents.

Workers’ compensation covers an estimated 140.3 million US workers, with benefits amounting to more than $97 billion annually.