Have you ever been on the flip side of a workers’ compensation claim? Where you were the injured worker? If you have not, have you ever put yourself in the injured worker’s shoes? Or had a family member experience the process? In case you guessed it, this process is not the easiest one.
Ahh, but there is so much we can do about it to make it better!!
Anyone can show up or come to the table to be nice. You can have a kind and caring tone but the experience in workers’ compensation is so much bigger and more impactful than simply smiling while you explain the process on the phone. This is a great concept to try if you do not currently already… and there are also things that truly make a difference, that inspire injured workers to take control of their healing process, cultivate a vision for healing, and work with their employer, the adjuster, and hold themselves accountable to success.
From the seat of an adjuster, what can we do to drive the biggest impact in the workers’ compensation space? Let’s look at the most important characteristics:
Without honesty, there is no trust. We operate in a platform where so many items are statute driven and jurisdictionally based. Giving people all the information in a consumable way is of the utmost importance and why some adjusters come across deceitful. Honest communication with consumable information helps foster a relationship build on trust and understanding. It helps navigate potential roadblocks and establishes clear direction for an injured worker. Fostering a relationship built on trust and transparency allows an injured worker to have better confidence in their adjuster and the workers’ compensation process. Integrity should be part of this process as this falls not only on the adjuster, the person actually working with the injured worker, but it also reflects on the organization, their culture, and who the employer has chosen to represent them in this process whether it be self-administered, an insurance company, or a third-party administrator. Integrity is a huge piece when you look at it from one human being helping an injured human being during a vulnerable time of need. Sometimes we need to reflect on that from a personal standpoint and look in the mirror with how we treat one another in this space.
The purpose of insurance is to restore the livelihood of people. The whole purpose of the adjusting space in workers’ compensation is to help an injured worker navigate the process so they can be restored to their pre-injury status or as close as we can get to returning an injured worker to being a functional, contributing member of society. In order to do this, we need the injured worker to trust the adjuster to have their best interest in the healing process on the road to recovery. Messaging in the workers’ compensation arena has not lead to such depiction of healing, empowerment, and recovery so we are constantly fighting an uphill battle. Adjusters need to be open-minded to learn to trust injured workers as well. Make the best educated decisions you can with the information you have at the present time and adjust as objective information is secured. Learn to ask questions when you are unsure and allow an injured worker to ask questions when they are unsure. Work together to achieve the greatest optimal outcome in the healing journey. Think back to LIFE. Getting back to work will happen when you focus on the life we are trying to restore.
- Emotional Intelligence.
Emotional intelligence is imperative when working with injured human beings. It is imperative in working with human beings period as we are all multi-dimensional, multi-emotional, multi-faceted people. Being able to discern between your own personal beliefs and the thoughts and beliefs of injured workers based upon a plethora of factors is important to understand the perspective of the other person. Empathizing to understand the viewpoint from a different lens is important to acknowledge the injured worker, leaving them feeling seen, heard, and acknowledged.
Learn how to motivate your injured worker. This may seem far-fetched from the adjusting desk but if you listen, actively as well as reflectively, you will learn what is important to your injured worker. Figure out what is important to the injured worker, what their interests are. If you can do this, you are able to then identify and capitalize on their strengths to partner with them to find opportunities to focus on during the healing process on the road to recovery. If someone wants to golf with their grandchildren again, focus on this element. Ask the injured worker to hang prior photos of enjoyable golf memories with their grand children in multiple areas of the house. When things are getting tough in physical therapy and are less than desirable when pain increases, remind them what they are doing and the why behind it. This makes all the difference.
Provide resources available and think outside the box. More so, educate. Start with the proposition that all injured workers are hurt and have a fear of the unknown. It is up to you as the adjuster to help through this process. Recognize an injured worker as a player on a team in this group we know as the workers’ compensation system. You can make the difference. You can explain the steps, the process, the procedures, and provide available resources to make the situation better and impact the ultimate outcome. You can break information down and answer questions. You can be proactive in anticipating what may create fear in this process such as what to expect when someone is to undergo an MRI. Be the captain of the recovery team for your injured worker. You are their leader, you are the adjuster, make this happen!
Sometimes inspiration comes from the most random places. You may be the only person the injured worker talks to that day or someone who provides them with encouragement. We have no idea what is going on in their personal life, home life, or work life, but you can single-handedly change the trajectory of someone’s day by asking how they are doing and listening. LISTEN. By building rapport with the injured worker, you can listen for things that bring them joy in their lives and focus on the best qualities you know your injured worker to have. This is a lot like leadership. Pinpoint opportunities for your injured worker to grow. For example, if they have not left the house in a week, challenge your injured worker to go get coffee and to strike up a conversation with the barista. During your next check in with the injured worker, ask them about the experience to make sure they followed through with the task you assigned. These little moments turn out to be the big moments. You paying attention to the small details within an injured workers life changes everything and may be the fire needed to ignite the spark.
Following up to follow through is crucial when working with injured workers. If you tell an injured worker you are going to call on a Tuesday, call on the Tuesday to check in because doing what you say you will do establishes trust through accountability. Injured workers’ have practical needs and personal needs during the recovery process. Practical needs surround returning to work, following up with medical appointments, and check points along the healing process. Personal needs for an injured worker surround feeling valued, involved in their recovery, and supported not only by the adjuster but also by their employer. Adjusters who understand this and can involve the employer (and better yet the injured worker’s direct leader) can take care of the injured workers needs. This will alleviate issues along the way and enhance the relationship being built with the injured worker. Adjusters who are proactive are communicative and yield fantastic results.
We are not always our best selves. The best adjusters know that and still show up to be the very best version of themselves they can be that day. Self-awareness is key when days seem to be off. We can become jaded in this space if we let negativity win versus looking at this through the lens of opportunity to change the lives of injured humans during an unfortunate and vulnerable time. The title of adjuster does not necessarily depict leading people yet it should. Every claim that an adjuster has in workers’ compensation is a person, a life, someone with a ripple effect. You may not intuitively know how to lead people but it is within your position to lead an injured woker through the workers’ compensation process. LEAD. Leadership requires understanding that each injured worker is different and simply because you have handled a shoulder claim before on a 54-year-old male does not depict the same outcome. What personally drives this injured worker will be different that the prior injured worker from three years ago with a similar injury. How you choose to engage with your injured worker and the people with whom you are responsible for, also known as claims, is found in the heart, not the mind. Think about how you show up to help these people navigate the process. It matters.
As an adjuster, it is important to always deliver open and honest feedback. There are moments where the information we need to provide to an injured worker is not the best but if you are able to communicate with honesty and integrity, providing consumable information as well as additional resources or the why behind decisions being made, this can impact how the information is received. Too often we become silent when the information needing to be delivered is undesirable because we are going to be delivering bad news or it is going to hurt the feelings of the injured worker. Share the information as soon as it is relevant. Provide additional resources as needed and explore opportunities available. Remember your words matter. Choose carefully, speak clearly, and use empathy. Think about how you would like to receive the information you are providing.
Being compassionate is one of the simple yet most impactful characteristic of a wonderful adjuster. Great adjusters are compassionate when addressing challenges with an injured worker and are also compassionate when celebrating wins! Getting someone back to work and back to life is something worth celebrating as well as the small milestones along the way. Understanding the little things lead to the big things is important and work recognizing. These adjusters know compassion is expressed in a verbal manner as well as in non-verbal cues. They can sense emotions and feel the energy between themselves with an injured worker, ready to anticipate any unknowns coming ahead. Adjusters who are strong in compassion understand each interaction moves the needle forward creating a positive experience or it depletes the relationship, there is not an in between. Accountability can still be expected, established, and followed through with maintaining a high level of compassion.
Putting these ten traits into practice can not only impact the injured workers’ lives with whom you interact, they can also impact in how you see yourself in the position you hold. These traits can strengthen your people skills, drive your leadership skills, and enhance your relationships with colleagues. What you do matters. The ripple effect of how you show up each day to interact with injured humans impacts more than simply the injured worker. It impacts their family, their partner, their friends, and the ripple continues. Do what you can from where you are with what you have and be the change to be a better part of someone’s day. If we all did this, what a wonderful place workers’ compensation could be!