As the claims manager goes, so goes the office.
The most important job in a workers’ compensation claim office is the claims manager.
Most companies strive for consistency and accuracy with regard to benefit provision. They work hard to achieve these results while trying to maintain a low cost of claims administration. To get these results, they establish policies and procedures for claims handling, hiring and promoting staff, and compliance audits.
Yet within most claims operations (insurance companies, third-party administrators and self-administered employers), the results are usually significantly different in each office.
Why are the results so different?
Most of the time, the difference in results among claims offices is due to the skill, experience and style of the claims manager. The “culture” of an office has a direct impact on performance and results. Good claims managers always have lower turnover and better results.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, there is little formal training and even less focus on developing many of the skills required of the claims manager.
A partial list of skills and duties for the claims manager:
This is an astonishing list of a wide variety of skills and knowledge. Each of these skills has its place in the day-to-day job of the claims manager. There are very few formal training programs for most of these.
Usually, the most difficult transition from supervisor to claims manager involves delegation skills. Claims examiners and supervisors are usually successful because they are “control freaks.” They manage every aspect of the claims within their responsibility.
When they become claims managers, it is hard to abandon the habits and activities that helped with their success. The inexperienced managers want to control every aspect of the office, and usually, they and their staff are frustrated until they learn how to delegate gracefully. Many new claims managers flame out because they did not learn the art and grace of delegation.
Every organization that has a claims handling component should have a program to develop the claims manager's skills. Use the above list as a template of issues for the training. Companies that understand the importance of claims managers, do succession planning and train their supervisors to be prepared for the next step will have a distinct competitive advantage and get far better claims results.
Today’s claims managers will become the leaders and executives in the claims industry. To be successful stewards of a system, it is important that insurance companies, TPAs and self-insured claims organizations focus on developing and implementing comprehensive training for their claims managers.
Now is the time to start.
Bill Zachry is a board member of the California State Compensation Insurance Fund. Barry Bloom is managing partner of The bdb Group.
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