With millions of U.S. workplace injuries and illnesses reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) each year, there is no doubt workplace injuries are common. However, the average employee is not prepared for an injury and they often feel vulnerable navigating the work comp system. Practicing empathy and clearly breaking down what’s needed to support injured individuals to receive all the benefits they are entitled to after a workplace injury is critical. So, what can we do to improve an individual’s experience if they have an open workers’ comp case or are trying to settle one?
Greg Hamlin, Sr. Vice President, Resolution and host of Berkley Industrial Comp’s ‘ADJUSTED’ podcast, discusses actionable steps towards creating an Empathetic Resolution Model to change the perception of work comp. He also shares his inspiration for hosting the ‘ADJUSTED’ podcast and redefining the ‘why’ of a career in work comp.
Key Points Discussed
- Actionable steps to create an Empathetic Resolution Model in work comp
- Thoughts on communication methods with injured individuals
- Developing trust with relationships at work
- Redefining the 'why' of a work comp career
- The inspiration for the ADJUSTED podcast
Greg Hamlin (00:00):
I really, really firmly believe that if you treat people right, and you do right, and you go the extra mile, good things come of that. And that you can get caught up in saving a dime and end up losing your arm. <Laugh>, you know, mm-hmm, <affirmative> because of how you treated people.
Shawn Deane (00:18):
Welcome to It's Settled: The Ametros Podcast. Each episode, we're going to dig into the humanity in workers' compensation and insurance claims, exploring the stories of injured people and those who support them as well as the good work professionals are doing in the industry. And now I invite you to join me, Shawn Dean General Counsel of Ametros, and the host of It's Settled. Now it's settled. Let's get onto the episode.
Shawn Deane (01:02):
We're here with Greg Hamlin and the tables have turned, I guess, where you go from podcast host to podcast guest. So probably a little bit of a different dynamic for you, but I'm sure is equally as exciting and fun for you. So welcome, Greg. Really, really nice to have you and appreciate your time today.
Greg Hamlin (01:22):
Thanks Shawn. Glad to be here. It's gonna be a nice break to not have to be the one thinking of all the questions. So great. For those who don't know me, I'm the Senior Vice President of Claims for Berkley Industrial Comp. And I also do a workers' comp podcast called 'ADJUSTED.'
Shawn Deane (01:40):
And everyone in the industry loves it. And so do I. I'm a total fanboy of yours, so it's like my first celebrity guest on here.
Greg Hamlin (01:50):
Shawn Deane (01:51):
We were talking right before we came on. I had a long flight, but I don't have you beat on the energy front because you have six kids. So I'm sipping green tea for the viewers at home. They can't see Greg has some exotic Monster drink happening.
Greg Hamlin (02:12):
I can't, you know, so my oldest is 17. I've got a daughter, that's a junior, she's about to be a senior. And then I have kids all the way down to three months old. So my sleep is a valuable thing and there's a lot of caffeine in my diet. Unfortunately...
Shawn Deane (02:26):
That's amazing. I don't know how you have time to do it. So for folks who may not know you tell us a little bit about your background and how you came into the comp world. Most of the folks I talked to and I would love for the script to be flipped, flipped a little bit, but most people I talked to say that comp found them that they didn't find comp and someday, hopefully, you know, 10, 20, 30 years from now, we can find that the next generation of folks, you know, they, they where they sought out comp, but how did you get involved in the industry?
Greg Hamlin (03:04):
So I would love to say that in first grade for my show, until I dressed up like an insurance guy, but I did not. <Laugh> So I actually worked for Indiana university while I was going to school there doing non-for profit fundraising and really, really enjoyed that. What I, what I loved about it is I always felt like I was able to make a difference because I knew I was raising money for scholarships so that people could get an education. And I believe that when you become educated or further your education, you're able to further yourself and help other people. And so I absolutely loved that. Did it for four years, all the way through school running a call center eventually. And during that time I met my wife and we got married and we actually had a baby while I was a senior in college.
Greg Hamlin (03:53):
And so if you can imagine you know, trying to have a young family while you're both students, we obviously knew we needed to like figure out the next thing. And so I sat down with the director of the IU foundation to talk about like, well, what would be my path here? And he's like, Greg, you've already got a baby man. Are you gonna have more? And I said, my wife jokingly says she wants 10. And he said, you gotta get outta here. So, he said 'take the same skills you've got and go to the career fair, find some business and get engaged in that.' And so that's exactly what I did. I went to a career fair at Indiana University, found Liberty Mutual. They trained me and I found what I found in comp that I loved in fundraising was again, I felt like I was making a difference and you're helping people, which is really what we do.
Shawn Deane (04:45):
So what was your career trajectory from then? Were you a claims handler? How did you sort of find your way?
Greg Hamlin (04:52):
Yeah, so I started out in national market workers' compensation, doing really large accounts. Like at that time it was Northwest Airlines and Sears, and then later UPS. So these were big, huge accounts, very demanding. And I did that for about six years and then took a promotion and moved my family to Cincinnati where I was a supervisor of a team at Ohio Casualty; Liberty had bought them. And so I went there, built out their team there and did some commercial liability too, which was a big change and then had the opportunity to go run the state fund in Kentucky's claims program Kemi. So that was I felt like each of those steps were huge growing experiences for me in new challenges in each place. And now I've been with Berkley Industrial Comp for almost four years now.
Shawn Deane (05:51):
Cool. So I talked to a lot of folks in the comp industry and I had this conversation specifically with Kristen Chavez, last podcast. And unfortunately it seems to be there's sort of a pervasive, overarching perception that is from the public. And frankly it's seeped into pop culture that workers' compensation is viewed in sort of two negative lights. It's either there is an employee who's trying to gain the system and they're trying to not work and just get, you know, a free ride or there's an employer/carrier side is just trying to deny benefits, trying to give someone a hard time, make it incredibly adversarial. And as we progress as an industry and if you work in the industry, we know, well, frankly, that's just not true, but there's been an increase in empathy and wanting to emphasize, taking care of an injured individual. And that's often what we talk about on the podcast, especially when we highlight injured individuals and their journey. I'd be curious to know if you agree with that sentiment, that sort of at least the outside world's perception and how you've seen that because you've been in the comp world for so long, how have you seen that change? And maybe some things that are going on right now where there's more of an emphasis on this empathetic model of claims handling and resolution.
Greg Hamlin (07:48):
Well, so I certainly would agree with you on I think there's a perception and some of that's real, some of that we've created for ourselves, right? In that you know, obviously we're not maybe all the state funds, but for sure, the insurance companies, you know, we are for profit and having come from non-for-profit, those are different types of ways of looking at things. But I don't think that they have to live in separate worlds. And I think that's, I guess, where maybe my mindset's a little different, maybe that has something to do with the background that I've come up through, but I really, really firmly believe that if you treat people right, and you do right and you go the extra mile, good things come of that, and that you can get caught up in saving a dime and end up losing your arm.
Greg Hamlin (08:38):
<Laugh>, you know, mm-hmm, <affirmative> because of how you treated people and a perfect example, and I'm comfortable sharing this one because you know when I was at the state fund, we took over a bunch of claims that were from a group fund that went under. So they don't even exist anymore. But the claims handlers at the time, when we took these claims, one of these claims, they had a compound cream, which you know, they mix a bunch of things together, put it in a cream, usually they're medications that can be taken orally. You would put it on a body part and they're awfully awfully expensive. And there's very little clinical data to show that they're helpful. So obviously our goal is to do right and try to find the right solutions for the person. And so I had worked with the adjuster to reach out and let's understand what the needs are, and let's find out if it's helping them and all of these kinds of things, and this injured worker said, "I'm gonna be honest with you, when I had my injury, this medication was denied. I fought to get it approved. I'm not even using it. I've got a closet full of these things and I'm gonna fill it each month. And each month put it in my closet just to stick it to you because of how badly you treated me. Now, it wasn't our company, right? We took these over from somebody else, but sure. It was really clear to me that we had created not we, but the insurance industry for this individual had created a situation where she was totally ticked off and ready to prove to the world that she was gonna get hers. And I think it's really hard when we create those kinds of relationships to get good outcomes and it ends up costing everybody a whole lot more money.
Greg Hamlin (10:17):
So I think we start with empathy. We start with listening, we start with slowing down. I think the other problem is I think people there's a perception of, well, if I'm nice or if I'm listening and caring, then that also means that I'm a pushover. And you know, again, being a dad of six kids, if every time they did something wrong, I took their phone away and grounded 'em and did whatever other mean things I could think of to punish them. We wouldn't get very far. Right. And of course there are times that it's like, you gotta be serious about stuff, but you have to build relationships with trust and it's important.
Shawn Deane (10:56):
Yeah, for sure. What, what about the ways you've seen how we as a claims industry interface with injured individuals because comp is a statutory creature. Yep. That's different in all 50 states, that's often presented in. And I'm a lawyer by background and I've seen a lot of communication from claim handlers to injured individuals and it's very formalized and it's very boiler plate and oftentimes complicated to digest for a layperson. Have you seen things change in that arena too? Because I'm just thinking about the empathetic sort of resolution model that seems to be adopted. Like not only is it in the way we have a conversation with an individual, but it's also the way we engage them. And oftentimes it's in writing.
Greg Hamlin (12:02):
Yeah. And I think we have to remember for most of our injured workers, they have not been through something like this before. And a lot of them do not have college educations, at least a lot of the ones we insure, our blue collar workers, hard workers, smart guys. But you know, before I got into worker's compensation, all of these statutes were confusing to me. So if you can imagine someone who has had no experience to it with it, that's really frustrating.
And so one of the things we did, and this was actually one of the adjusters on my team suggested this, is let's take a look at our letters and our communications and let's rewrite them, let's start with empathy. And then let's explain the process as best as we possibly can so that they understand our goal is to get you the benefits that you're entitled to.
Greg Hamlin (12:58):
That's our goal. And to do that, we need cooperation on these pieces. And so we make sure we tell them right from the start, one that we understand that they were hurt, that we understand it's frustrating. And then, then we walk through. So we wanna make sure that you're getting your checks timely, and to get that we need your work status. So if you can help us with that and provide that, that will ensure that we get your benefits to you timely. So we go through each of these things, whether it's direct deposit, so you don't have to wait on a check.
You know, I think what I keep doing with my adjusters is saying, okay, put yourself in their shoes and imagine you didn't get the check. Like, imagine if we get paid Friday, if we were getting paid today and it didn't show up, there's not a lot of people who wouldn't be upset. Right. So, you know, I don't think that those are hard things to think about, but somehow when you're doing it every day, we can kind of almost become callous to the fact that these people have families and lives when they're trying to take care of those things. And most people are really trying to do the right thing.
Shawn Deane (13:58):
Yeah. I agree. And it seems like we've already landed on the theme of empathy and helping people. And I think that is really critical, hopefully it's critical to all generations, but it seems to be especially important to the younger generations as they come up and are selecting their career paths. It seems like altruism is just big and important to them. And I'm so thankful for that. I'm four kids less than you, but you know, I'm with you there. And I hope my children select career paths, that where they are driven by a desire to make a difference in people's lives. And unfortunately, I think the other misperception about the industry is that it's someone in a business casual, drab attire in a dimly lit room. It's artificially lighted at an old metal desk with an antiquated computer, with a catheter rate tube monitor and just typing away. And it's just purely administrative. And if that perception is held by a younger generation, they're probably not gonna want to try to explore careers in insurance. Because I mean, you jokingly at the beginning, someone came in and did a career day and if you probably guessed how they dressed, they'd probably look like how I describe it. So, what do you think are some ways to change that perception within the existing team structure we have with younger adjusters? How do you sort of get 'em out of that? I don't know if rut is the best word, but just change, change the model there.
Greg Hamlin (16:11):
That's a great question. I think we have to start with understanding. We have to do a better job of clarifying what our, why is. Cause I don't think we do a very good job of that. So if we tell kids that are coming out of college, that your, why is to create ROE, think about that. That's not really a driver for somebody out of college. Okay. Right then we're gonna have a hard time, one getting them engaged, two, retaining them. Now, going back to my example at the university, my why every day was I knew no matter how hard it got, I was trying to raise money so that somebody could get an education. And then with that education, hopefully their life would change. So that was a great why. So every day when I woke up, I knew what I was doing and why I was doing it.
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