Workers’ compensation leadership lessons

Why you should be wary that short-term goals don’t sabotage long-term success

Workers’ compensation leadership lessons

Workers Comp


The following is an opinion article from Brian Reardon of PwC. The views expressed within the article do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Business.

Personal success in the ever-changing world of workers’ compensation, or anywhere else for that matter, results primarily from a strong commitment to three very fundamental concepts: flexibility, foresight, and strategic thinking.

At the recent American Society of Workers’ Comp Professionals (AmCOMP) 19th annual meeting in Las Vegas, I spoke with four industry leaders, all of whom reiterated the importance of these seemingly simple but challenging principles.

According to Jeremy Attie, CEO of New York Compensation Rating Board, while the sands of workers’ compensation trends and regulation may be shifting, it’s always going to be a service-based economy in which leaders adjust to micro changes, as well as the way the industry is moving at a macro level. And clear communication will always be a best practice.

Moreover, given the growth of artificial intelligence, which promises practically immediate claims processing, flexibility, foresight and strategic thinking are more important than ever. AI isn’t science fiction, nor is its impact on the industry. For example, a Japanese insurance company replaced much of its staff with IBM’s Watson early this year.

There’s considerable discussion about how US-based insurance companies are reacting to the technological innovation that has led to insurtech companies like Lemonade (which claims that AI and behavioral economics power it). Lemonade announced last year that it had set the world’s record for a claims payment: three seconds. Talk about an industry disruptor!  

These developments validate Bill Donnell’s advice on “adaptability and staying relevant.” Donnell, the CEO of National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), said learning new skills and technology is crucial. Given the virtual certainty of disruptors in the industry, the best thing to do is get out in front of them. If, for example, claims adjustors fear they’re going to lose their jobs to AI, then they might want to consider going back to school to learn how to be someone who writes the codes that may put them out of work. Or, if the circumstances are right, they might want to make a bolder move by taking a junior role in a start-up company that gives them room to grow.

However, Lanny Hubbard, CEO of the Montana State Fund, warned against being too quick to jump from job to job. Achieving a short-term goal may feel good at the moment, but it can seriously undermine long-term success. For Hubbard, the path to success is achieved by keeping a steady hand on the tiller, moving your career at a stable pace, and building a strong foundation of technical skills and knowledge of new systems.

For Millennials hungry for advancement who consider making big, quick jumps, 18 months may seem a long time on the job. Hubbard asserts that’s risky thinking. Most employees are better off taking their time, building complementary skills, and advancing methodically. He also notes that being a job hopper can damage an individual’s reputation. Hubbard’s perspective fits neatly with the advice from the CEO of Gramercy Risk Management, Bill Fishlinger, to “be an expert.”

There’s a lot for people in workers’ comp to think about in terms of where the industry is heading. But, flexibility, foresight and strategic thinking remain winning concepts. As the industry leaders I spoke with advised, industry stakeholders need 1) to communicate clearly, 2) be experts at their jobs,  3) be ready to learn the new technology that is changing the industry, and  4) be wary that short-term goals don’t sabotage long-term success.

About the Author
Brian Reardon MBA, ARM, AIS, is a member of PwC’s Claims & Insurance Operations Practice. He has over 13 years of P&C experience, and has worked on all sides of the industry, including carrier, TPA, broker, and employer. He holds multiple industry designations and an MBA in Insurance and Risk Management from St. John's University.

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