Canadian Underwriter
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Soaring above the pile


December 5, 2019   by The CIP Society - Insurance Institute of Canada


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Five insurance adjusters, each from different companies, met several years ago while taking a series of industry and technical courses together. They remained friends throughout the years and meet regularly to discuss life, politics, and industry trends.

During their most recent meeting, they each lamented how their workloads and casefiles have been increasing at an insidious rate. Now it appears to be catching up with them. Each of them described the large volume of work, a heightened level of detail and reporting required, and the fact that civility and courtesy seemed to be in short supply. They discussed how this negatively affected them in terms of stress, long hours, the impact on their families and friends, and on their health.

Some confided that, in order to survive, they would simply “give in” during negotiations so they could close a file. Others disclosed that they were short-tempered with colleagues, clients, and sometimes with their families. They debated the concept of “doing more with less,” noting how it could actually cost the industry in terms of reputation, absenteeism, overpaying on claims, mistakes, and employee turnover.

Who should be responsible to confront the workload issue and take corrective action? Should these adjusters suffer in silence?

 

Mark MacDonald
Manager, Claims Operations,
Atlantic Region,
Economical Insurance

 

No doubt many in the adjusting community, along with others in the insurance industry, are currently experiencing the same struggles as this group of friends.

It is important that this group of adjusters share their obstacles and stressors not only with each other, but with their supervisors and employers. Finding ways to cope with changing industry dynamics — while at the same time showing professionalism, ensuring customer satisfaction, and enjoying a work-life balance — is a shared responsibility amongst those on the front lines, their managers, and the insurance industry as a whole.

Possible solutions include reduced intake of claims, alternate work arrangements (such as work-from-home options), time off, as well as internal or external coaching or training.

Considerable changes affecting the insurance industry can indeed be challenging; if this stress is not managed properly, burnout can result. During these times, it is critical for people in the industry to come together and support one another.

Those who are feeling particularly affected should seek assistance early on from their colleagues and their organizations. Together with their employers, employees should plan to address these issues before they result in damage to their mental health, their professional lives, or their personal lives.

Miles Barber
Administrative Officer,
Insurance Strategies Department,
Manitoba Hydro

Adjusters adhere to both internal and external guidelines regarding file handling, reporting, and diarizing. These guidelines are directed at achieving best practices, which manifest in optimal file-handling activities such as:

  •  constructive interaction with both policyholders and third parties in loss adjustments;
  •  productive investigative results;
  •  timely responses to calls and emails;
  •  accurate loss quantification with successful claim resolution and settlements.

An overworked adjuster may be tempted to replace these cornerstones of best practices with hasty alternatives that will undoubtedly result in mistakes.

Without question, adjusters are responsible for interacting with their managers when they find that their workload is affecting the quality of their work. They can request that no new file assignments be made until their file load is back under control, and they can request assistance with investigations and report processing.

The manager is responsible for properly managing each of their employees, as well as their workloads and file counts. They should make sure that the proper resources are available to their adjusters so that the adjusters can properly manage their files and overall workload.

Adjusters are professionals. They exhibit that professionalism when they communicate to their managers and external clients that they need help.

Suzie Godmer
Claims Adjuster, Vice President
Gouin, Perreault, Cloutier & Associés Inc. (GPC Inc.)

It is difficult to solve this situation, which is omnipresent in the insurance industry. But these adjusters must not suffer in silence.

If we go back 20 years, adjusters concentrated their efforts on settling their files. Now adjusters are spending more time on protocols and procedures, filling out forms, and using different systems and technologies. Mergers and acquisitions have contributed to these new tasks, which sometimes result in the work taking more time. Although technology is supposed to make our jobs easier, managing all these processes often hinders our ability to rapidly assist the insured to return to their normal life in the best and fastest way possible.

I really like the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid)! Let’s get back to our claims basics: undertake an investigation, verify that the claim is admissible, and provide a just and effective settlement. Being able to delegate certain tasks will allow for a more efficient way for adjusters to process claims.

Many claims adjusters are retiring. The industry must ensure that the next generation is properly mentored before those who retire leave the industry. We must ensure that proper information is passed along so that the next generation of adjusters has the right tools required to do their work. At a time when communications are moving at lightning-fast speed, and procedures and systems are increasingly complex, let’s get back to basics.

Monica Kuzyk
Vice President,
Curo Claims Services

Claims professionals believe in helping others. They go to work each day knowing that when they’re speaking with their policyholders, something bad has happened. Adjusters are called upon regularly to put their personal lives on hold while they address claims volumes associated with catastrophic weather or disaster events. However, when operations are unable to return to a steady state, when new claims volumes are unable to be effectively managed, when load levelling has not been appropriately addressed, operational targets cannot be achieved. Loss ratios deteriorate, as do both the health and wellbeing of the adjusters; consequently, the organization’s brand is at risk.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Adjusters and management share in the responsibility of confronting workload issues and taking corrective action. Managers need to be aware of when individual workloads become untenable. Adjusters must examine their own work habits and reflect on how they can be more effective with their time:  Am I open to change? Am I leveraging all available tools to their full potential? How might I avoid rework and duplication? Through this process of discernment, ‘Ah ha’ moments are often revealed and personal and professional growth is enabled.

The phrase ‘more with the same’ does not have to mean longer hours, escalated workloads, higher stress and less support. Rather, it can be about harnessing the power of the individual, the team and organization, its people, processes and systems to their full potential.

Joe Colby
Vice President, Claims (Canada)
Echelon Insurance

It is important for employees to have an open and transparent working relationship with their leaders. As such, the onus is on each of these adjusters to be direct and honest with their leaders on the challenges they have been facing and the demands made of them. After all, their direct leaders likely have the most control over their workloads and their general work environment.

The most constructive approach would be for each adjuster to make this all about balancing the quality and quantity of work. Adjusters should approach their leaders with a positive frame of mind. They need to be proactive and come to the table with not only the challenges each of them are facing, but solutions for management to consider. Often the best ideas to improve the balance between quality and quantity of work – including ideas around more efficient workflow and processes – come from people who are closest to the actual work.

Some obvious solutions include outsourcing some tasks to others in the department with a different skillset (e.g. administrative-type work). The focus should be on matching skills to the complexity of work. Also, there may be opportunities to use tools, technologies, and resources better to automate some of the routine elements of the job. Or you might simply prevent low or no-value-add activities from getting in the way of providing optimum levels of customer service and loss containment.

In the end, regular open and collaborative dialogue between staff and management can only help to improve the experience for the adjuster, customer, and company.

The CIP Society represents more than 17,000 graduates of the Insurance Institute of Canada’s Fellow Chartered Insurance Professional (FCIP) and Chartered Insurance Professional (CIP) Programs.


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