By Patrick J. Walsh, Vice President & Chief Claims Officer, Accident Fund Holdings, Inc.
You’ve all heard it in different formats over the past few years. “There’s a big war for talent” – “There is a shortage of qualified candidates” – “We can’t seem to interest people in our industry.”
If you’re like me and have an open mind as to your talent sources, perhaps these headlines are not of concern to you. As your potential competitor I hope you believe these statements but as your industry colleague, I hope you realize that if you do believe these statements you are falling into a big trap.
I suspect you read that first paragraph with a bit of indignation because I probably would. I understand there are challenges in recruiting and retaining talented employees and I truly am trying to help. First, I would like to focus on the perceived problem of available talent and recruiting.
Fact: there are more than enough people to recruit. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of 25-29 year old Americans who have college degrees (bachelor’s degree minimum) surged at the end of 2012 to 33.5%, as compared to 24.7% in 1995 (a 36% increase).
Additionally, statistics show these increases have occurred, albeit at different rates, across all large population groups – Asian/Pacific Islander, Black, Hispanic and White.
In my simple view, that nullifies the issue of a lack of qualified candidates and the other issues of a ‘talent war’ and ‘lack of interest’ are driven largely by our own industry.
Consolidation of locations over the past two decades and not leveraging technology has reduced the candidate pool to fewer and fewer cities. The issue is further exacerbated by the fact that so many companies have consolidated into many of the same areas of the country and are all picking from the same candidate pool.
Additionally, fewer and fewer companies seem to want to hire trainees and build expertise. Generally speaking, the industry has focused on hiring ‘experience’ and has reduced it’s commitment to training and development, often relying on front-line supervisors and claim professionals to train their colleagues on the job.
Certainly those are important components to any training regimen, but without adequate support from training professionals, industry courses, and industry experts, you can not expect to your teammates to develop an emotional connection to your business, your customers, or the industry.
Finally, the claim industry has often been its own worst enemy, talking about itself as the forgotten piece of the organization or as if they are not even part of the operation. A former colleague of mine refers to the underwriters and marketers as “the business folks.” My question is then what does that make the claim department?
First, take pride in what you do and what you are a part of. Claim professionals are the product that every property-casualty carrier sells. We deliver on the commitments and the promises made to policyholders, agents and brokers, and claimants in the worker’s compensation industry who rely on us to provide for their families when they are in the midst of recovery. That attitudinal shift is infectious and, if worn and talked about proudly, will be the attraction for new talent into our industry.
Second, open your mind and embrace some different thinking about your candidate pool. Make your Human Resource colleagues your strategic partner in this regard. Develop an approach to engage diverse recruiting sources like the Wounded Warrior Project and consider alternative strategies, including early offers for successful interns and hiring candidates with associate degrees who are committed to furthering their education while working in a trainee role.
Third, rethink your commitment to training and development. The skill gap in our industry has continued to widen as companies have reduced their investments in skill development and the complexity of claim handling has increased, especially on the medical side of the equation.
Last, think about remote work opportunities where you have jurisdictional need and use technologies like instant messaging and desktop video to your advantage. Our industry has historically been about ten years behind in using technology so it is time for us to think differently about how technology can be used to the benefit of our employees so that they can create better experiences for customers.
The claims profession is absolutely critical to the success of the industry. It’s time we address the challenges that exist – whether real or perceived – and focusing on talent recruitment and retention will generate long-term benefits for our shareholders, policyholders, employees, claimants and partners.
About Patrick Walsh
Patrick J. Walsh serves as Vice President & Chief Claims Officer for Accident Fund Holdings, Inc. Walsh’s main responsibilities include overall claims strategy and management of shared claims functions between the holding company’s four brands – Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, CompWest, Third Coast Underwriters and United Heartland.
Walsh holds a Bachelor of Arts in organizational communications from the University of Akron. Additionally, he serves as a volunteer Wish Granter and is a member of the Board of Directors and the Executive Board of Make-A-Wish Wisconsin. He has been active in United Way and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. He is married to Kristin and has three children, Brady, Katie, and Robert.
About Accident Fund Holdings, Inc.
Accident Fund Holdings owns and manages a portfolio of operating companies and investments, anchored by a core position in workers’ compensation insurance. We are dedicated to helping employers create safer work environments, protecting their organizations from unpredictable, and often significant, costs related to workplace injuries and helping injured workers return to as normal a life as possible as quickly as possible. We strive to continuously increase the long-term value of our organization by outperforming our industry peers; attracting, developing and retaining top talent; and fostering a culture of underwriting and claims excellence and innovation.
Our enterprise has a national footprint, complimented by a regional market approach, allowing for individual focus with collective strength. Our four distinct operating units have an intimate knowledge of their customers, injured workers, and agents and brokers. Each operating unit offers superior underwriting, claims, loss control and marketing services in their niche and focused markets. Our Enterprise Services division provides quality and efficient integrated corporate services to each of our operating units. The holding company seeks out attractive investment opportunities and proactively manages risk appetite, performance standards and capital in a way that drives profitable long-term growth for the organization.
Accident Fund Holdings, Inc. (Lansing, Mich.) is one of the largest workers’ compensation insurers and the largest non-governmental specialty writer of workers’ compensation insurance in the United States. AFHI conducts business through its four brands: Accident Fund, CompWest, Third Coast Underwriters and United Heartland.