The workers’ compensation claims handling has been a repetitive nature of process and move on, follow the checklist for an audit, and close the claim. Process, and repeat. Go down the checklist and follow the pattern. Check, check, check.
***Abrasive vinal scratch to a halt.***
It is far beyond time to change the narrative and have the courage to be different.
The workers’ compensation system is about PEOPLE. Restoring people and lives, getting injured workers’ back to work, back to life. How we do that is the best gift we could possibly need to provide meaning and purpose to our positions within this space.
Each claim is a family. Not a number, not a claim, not simply a person. Each claim involves a family with tentacles and ripple effects with the decisions rendered at the adjusting desk. How are we doing?
Let us ask for some feedback. Some honest feedback from looking in the mirror, taking a deep look within, and by talking to our injured workers.
On a recent webinar I did for a large employer, I asked the adjusting team if while they were on the phone with their injured workers, if their daughter/son, their mother/father, their leader, or their spouse/partner was listening in, would they be proud of the person you are on the phone?
Seriously! Think about this for a moment. If you are at the 20,000-foot view looking down and observing yourself talking with an injured worker on the other line…are you making yourself proud by what you are doing? The words you are using. The tone you are taking. Are you proud of who you are and how you are helping the scared, and unsure human on the other end of that phone line?
Let us take this a step further. What if this is like a movie and somehow the injured worker morphs into your mother/father or son/daughter or partner/husband? Would you talk to the person in the manner you are trained (also known as programmed) or would you express further care, compassion, concern? Would you try to be more emotionally intelligent and empathic along the way? Would you share your vulnerabilities, stories, and help this person to not feel alone?
Be brave enough to take the chance to change the system. It is time to put the human elements into this process and be courageous enough to make this a success. We need people to step up and start having the courage to be different. Be meaningful, be purpose driven. Be the game-changer injured workers’ need to have a good, favorable experience in the workers’ compensation system.
How do you start to change the process that has been so engrained for so long? You simply must care.
Care to know you have the ability and the willpower to be better than you were yesterday. Talk to injured workers with compassion and honesty. Ask for feedback in how you are doing. An easy way to do this is when an adjuster is starting through the process of a claim by checking for understanding. “Does this make sense?” Checking for understanding after every three-elements you have discussed helps the brain process what is happening. When we are throwing so much information at an injured worker all at one, we forget the information needs to be consumable yet also get frustrated when multiple phone calls come through with further questions.
If we take the time to pause and take the time to walk an injured worker down the road to recovery through all the bumps we know the injured worker is heading towards, to be a partner through the process, what a much more desirable experience for all parties involved. Being clear and honest about the upcoming events, processes, and procedures we cannot fix can help prepare the injured worker by setting expectations as well as accountabilities to alleviate fear. The clearer we can be at the beginning of a claim, the less frustrating for the injured worker, and in return, the less frustration an adjuster experiences by repeated phone calls, emails, and questions.
Most people avoid being clear when talking with others because we feel it is kinder to avoid being honest. We feed people half-truths to leave them feeling good; however, we avoid honest, and potentially confrontational conversations because they make us uncomfortable. In the long run, the more clarity you can provide up front, the kinder the result in the long run. If you fail to provide the expectations you have for an injured worker up front simply because doing so is challenging or difficult, you will more than likely end up blaming the injured worker for failing to follow up post medical appointment or failing to deliver a patient status report further down the road to recovery.
It is also important to have open communication with your injured worker. Encouraging openness is one of the most important things you can do as an adjuster to establish a relationship with your injured worker. Ask your injured workers how they are feeling and ask about their fears. You can be proactive in helping the injured worker process their emotions by asking questions. If you do not communicate with the injured worker about their feelings and their fears, this may hurt you in the long-term because not being proactive with these areas can lead to ineffective behavior along the recovery journey. It is not only about asking the right questions of the injured worker, but also taking the time to focus, be present, and listen to the responses provided to build a plan for the next best course of action.
Asking an injured worker about their feelings and fears is not easy but you can get better. Start by asking the questions. Be brave, get courageous and ask the tough questions. Then provide space for the injured worker to answer. This may get uncomfortable with a long drawn out pause or pauses. It will be weird at first, but it gets better, and this space is imperative to provide the injured worker to trust you genuinely and authentically want to hear their answer. Injured workers will open up if you provide the space to do so and it can make all the difference not only in your relationship as the adjuster but also with the outcome of their recovery.
Providing space is imperative when you are asking the questions. Listening is the next key component. If you are brave enough to ask the questions and provide the space for an injured worker to speak, be courageous enough to listen to the response. Listen to understand the concerns and the fear of the unknown versus listening to respond. Each injured worker is unique and while claims may have a similar process, we are working with humans and human beings are multi-faceted, multi-dimensional, multi-functional, and multi-emotional. Humans are unique. Be kind enough to listen to the uniqueness that lies with in… and then have the courage to do something about it.
Dr. Claire Muselman is a workers’ compensation enthusiast dedicated to making the insurance space better than when she entered it. Through care, compassion, and concern for injured workers, she co-created The Orange Lab to better educate claims adjusters and employers how easy it is to make a difference with the little things.