There's a pending talent deficit in the workers' compensation industry. According to a recent benchmarking study, the shortage of talent is “the most significant challenge claims organizations face. The converging forces of the aging U.S. population and retirement of Baby Boomers creates an even greater exposure for the industry.” The study indicates further that, “compounding these issues is a pending mass exodus of experienced claims professionals – juxtaposed against the continued challenge of attracting young professionals to the industry. Success in this area will require organizations to think outside of traditional talent management and recruitment strategies.”
Workers' compensation is a dynamic and vast field with many integral roles. They include, to name a few, roles in claims and claims management, legal, regulatory, compliance, medical, pharmacy, annuity brokerage, technology, rehabilitation, vocational, and counseling services – with many specialty and sub-areas in each. With a looming shortfall of talent, the workers' compensation industry will need to think differently about how it seeks to recruit and retain its next generation of professionals.
“I want to be in workers' compensation when I grow up.” That's a statement we don't likely hear most kids say. For comparison, unsurprisingly, a Google exact phrase search of the foregoing yielded the following results:
- “I want to be a doctor when I grow up” = 631,000
- “I want to be a teacher when I grow up” = 243,000
- “I want to be in insurance when I grow up” = 3
- “I want to be in workers' compensation when I grow up” = 0
This year, National Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day is on April 23rd. Currently, for many parents and caregivers out there, “Take your Child to Work Day” is the reality every day and has taken on an entirely new meaning with COVID-19. This affords a unique opportunity to spend extra time explaining and showing them what you do and allowing kids one-on-one time to ask questions, learn and shadow you. I'd encourage those parents and caregivers in the workers' compensation field to foster curiosity about your role. Allow them to interview you and take care to respond in terms that are relatable and appealing.
It's not surprising many kids aspire to be a doctor, teacher, police officer or firefighter. These are admirable career paths and they all share a commonality: helping people. Children are naturally altruistic, and this is a key selling point when educating and advocating about roles in the workers' compensation field. At its core, workers' compensation is about helping people: when they're hurt, to rehabilitate, to return to work, ensuring they're taken care of, etc. Emphasizing altruism within workers' compensation will be an effective tool in recruiting young candidates who desire to make a difference in people's lives. In order to reach a younger generation more broadly, it will also be incumbent upon workers' compensation organizations and leaders in the field to seek opportunities to promote awareness through partnerships, speaking engagements in schools and career days.
Leaders & Groups Stepping Up & Raising Awareness
I've been in the legal, compliance and post-settlement administration areas of workers' compensation for over a decade. However, being in a niche industry, I tend to brush off the question of “what do you do?” by responding, “I'm a lawyer.” That's the wrong answer. I love workers' compensation and in order to spread the word, those in the industry need to communicate how rewarding the field is.
Most in the workforce – especially those who are younger – likely have no knowledge of what workers' compensation is beyond labor posters in a break room. Those experienced in the industry should educate and promote workers' compensation to attract and recruit new talent. Fortunately, with social media engagement, there are many who are doing just that. Leaders with knowledge and expertise in the industry have a profound effect in raising awareness and being champions for the field to spark interest in the next generation of professionals.
There are also many notable groups and organizations in the space, with varied missions, and their presence and activities promote engagement, inclusion and awareness in workers' compensation. Some include The Alliance of Women in Workers' Compensation, Kids' Chance of America (Educating Children of Injured Workers), the Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group and Comp Laude. Moreover, with social media and dedicated online news outlets and resources, such as workerscompensation.com, there are many platforms to communicate with, engage and recruit prospective workers' compensation professionals.
Retaining Work Comp Talent
Overcoming the challenge of attracting young professionals to workers' compensation only solves half the dilemma. Once they're in the organization they'll need to be retained. This will likely require creative and non-traditional approaches.
Much has been written on the younger generation of professionals being concerned with purpose and altruism as primary drivers of job satisfaction. Fortunately, workers' compensation inherently possesses these elements with the goal of helping an injured worker. There is a push towards humanity in workers' compensation and a focus on the injured worker. The recent benchmarking study outlining a talent shortage in workers' compensation noted that “advocacy-based claims models, described as an employee-centric customer service model, is an area of continued interest in the industry. However, 72% of frontline claims professionals report they do not know what an advocacy-based claims model is.” The study recommended that “organizations should consider that claims advocacy is not a one-and-done training session. To change longstanding practices will require a concerted, ongoing effort and commitment.”
Organizations will likely have to be more in tune with their employees to understand what benefits will retain younger talent beyond the traditional bonus payout and paid time off. They may include:
- Flexible remote work policies and schedules
- Wellness programs
- Community volunteering / outreach opportunities
- Tuition assistance
- Student loan repayment
- Pet insurance
- Gym memberships
- Childcare assistance / onsite childcare
- Financial counseling services
- Onsite meals
According to a recent poll, a younger generation in the workforce are more likely to switch jobs. Opportunities to learn and grow and chances for advancement were listed as top drivers in the decision to look for other opportunities. The workers' compensation industry, much like many others, will have to re-think career pathing, learning, engagement and growth opportunities. Traditional claims organizations, including their roles and structure, may have to be re-imagined in ordered to retain talent.
I'm confident the workers' compensation industry will adapt and innovate with respect to recruiting and retaining the next generation of talent. I look forward to seeing what positive changes occur and witnessing the growth and evolution of an industry I care so much about. If nothing else, there will at least be one Google hit with: “I want to be in workers' compensation when I grow up.”