Bob Wilson, Founding Partner and President, WorkCompCollege
A few years ago, I received a text message from my sister. She was asking if I knew of a way to retrieve and save text messages from a phone. I told her I was sure there was a way, and that I would look into it when I had a chance. This was not an unusual request; I have long been the “go to” person in my family where technology related questions are concerned.
It was a particularly busy period for me, and life being what it is I did not get around to researching the question for a couple of weeks. I did eventually set to the task and found some software that could do the job. I tested it and found that it would not only back up the messages, but it would also maintain the formatting and appearance from that of the phone itself. I called my sister to let her know what I had found and where she could get the software. I offered to walk her through it, and asked, “What exactly are you trying to back up?”
She answered, “It’s not for me. It is for my friend Sharon*. She is trying to save messages from John*.”
And with that simple statement, my understanding and impression of this minor “project” shifted dramatically.
Sharon and her husband were very close friends to my sister and brother-in-law. They have known each other for years, and watched each other’s children grow up. About two months prior to this call, their oldest son John was killed in a high-profile military workplace incident. He had been very close to his mother, and although stationed at times in the furthest reaches of the earth, texted his mother daily. She was worried that, should something happen to her phone, she would lose the many years of messages it contained.
The point is, with the addition of the “why,” the “what” became immediately more significant. I physically felt pressure in my chest when I learned of the reason for the request. I regretted that it had taken two weeks to get around to helping them with this issue. I had viewed this as an unessential task – a favor for a relative, when in reality I was being asked to help save messages to a mother from a loved one tragically lost. A loved one who had quite visibly given his life in service to his country, no less.
And while the why’s in workers’ compensation may not be quite as dramatic, they are never less important.
Training in the workers’ compensation industry, where it is formalized at all, tends to focus on the technical, the “what” of claims management. When certain forms need to be filed, what boxes should be checked, when payments are due; all of the technical processes are the point of focus for the industry. We spend very little time on the “why” of workers’ comp, analyzing and understanding the importance and impact of the actions we take.
Or the sometimes-tragic results when those actions are not completed properly.
Looking beyond the process itself, or the “what” that comprises our daily lives, we can discover new meaning and better understanding when we observe the necessity and impact of our actions. Knowing why a certain procedure is needed, or why an injured worker is resisting return to work is half the battle to finding the solution. Working to understand what is going on in an injured worker’s mind will help us understand the “why.” And with that, the “what” becomes much more meaningful. Asking questions and listening – no make that actually hearing – with compassion, will open channels in your own mind to make the technical processes more easily performed, achieving likely better results. Make no mistake, the workers’ compensation industry must start training people on the “why” as if our very existence depends on it.
Because it does.
The workers’ compensation industry is in the throes of a major staffing shortage, as Mark Pew mentioned in this column last week. Our experienced and aging workforce have started retiring in droves, and we are failing in the task of attracting young, bright talent to take their place. The generation entering the US workforce today wants to make an impact; they want to know they make a difference in the world. They want work-life balance, and flexible workplaces. They want access to top technology, and they want to know their noble efforts make a difference. And if those of us in workers’ comp shift our message, we can meet those demands.
Because the “what” of workers’ compensation is managing claims, paying indemnity benefits and providing medical treatment. But the “why” is our noble purpose of restoring broken and shattered lives; of returning function and quality of life to those who have been tragically hurt on the job.
Clearly, full recovery and total function are not always possible, but if we do the job right, if we work to understand the why, we can help people and make a difference in their lives. That is a mission that will attract quality people who want to make that difference; people our industry needs to continue fulfilling that mission.
Hire the right people and train them to the “why.” In the end, understanding the why is probably even more important than the what.
*Names in this article have been changed for privacy purposes
About Robert Wilson
Bob Wilson is a founding partner and President of WorkCompCollege.com. He is an experienced presenter for the workers’ compensation industry and is the author of “From Bob’s Cluttered Desk”, a blog repeatedly named as a top workers’ compensation blog by LexisNexis. Additionally, he has been named one of the “50 Most Influential People in Workers’ Comp” by the SEAK National Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Medicine Conference. In 2019 he received the Industry Leader award from Comp Laude. Known for an extraordinary sense of humor, his personal presentations reflect both entertaining and practical advice for both people managing claims as well as the people “picking up the tab”. Bob serves on the Board of Directors for Kids’ Chance of America, Inc., and is a founding board member and president of Kids Chance of Florida, Inc. He resides with his wife in Bradenton, FL.
WorkCompCollege is a community-driven effort to improve the workers’ compensation industry through comprehensive education infused with a whole-person recovery management mindset. The Workers’ Recovery Professional (WRP) certification is comprised of meaningful curriculum in nine schools: Claims, General Studies, Humanities, Legal, Medical Management, Regulatory/Legislative, Return to Work, Risk Management and Stakeholders. A diverse, (in)credible team of School Deans and Faculty deliver the courses in an asynchronous virtual campus environment. A service of Workers’ Compensation Educational Services, LLC and the brainchild of Robert H. Wilson, Donald A. Abrams and Mark Pew with advice and support from a distinguished Board of Trustees, this new educational platform is revolutionizing how all stakeholders within the system become more proficient, professional and passionate about their role in an injured employee’s journey to return-to-work. To learn more please go to www.WorkCompCollege.com.