Years ago when I first started writing about insurance, when someone asked what I did for a living, typically I gave a tongue-in-cheek response like “I write about claims and loss—and by the glazed look in your eyes, I’ll assume you don’t have any other questions about it.”
The sarcasm was a way to stave off the mix of disappointment and disinterest I thought I read in their eyes—were they expecting Vanity Fair?—or deflect a situation that I assumed might turn awkward vis-à-vis their own claims experience.
It was as if I was apologizing for our industry, which, in hindsight, is absurd. Forget the fact that the business of loss is endlessly fascinating and rarely rote. This is an industry in which we are instrumental in the process of reaching out, rebuilding, and regrouping after an auto accident, housing catastrophe, or slip and fall. What, exactly, should we be seeking atonement for?
Advocating instead of apologizing for the work we do day in and day out starts with the language we use, which is something CLM actively recognizes. In the months since announcing our move to recruit industry partners to adopt new language and terms for its claims staff—the “resolution” revolution—we have rolled out the initiative that we designed to disrupt. It started in these pages with the banishment of the title “claims adjuster” in favor of “claims professional” in order to convey a more positive connotation, and we continue to push our industry partners to refer to their claims staff as resolution specialists. This is all done in an effort to take the first step in solving one of our biggest problems: Filling the talent gap that looms closer and closer every day by changing the perception of the work we do both in how we talk about it and how we educate those who have outdated notions of our industry.
Change In Progress
Hired in October 2014, Cindy Khin could be called a pioneer when it comes to resolution nomenclature.
“When I joined Berkley Life Sciences, it was under the title of ‘resolution director,’” she says. “The executive leadership had already decided to roll out the titles for its claims staff, but I think I was their first employee with the official designation. It’s not been a lightning-speed transition, but that’s on purpose. I think more than anything, we want to ensure that our agents, brokers, and insured community are aware and informed before all of a sudden everybody’s titles change. So far, everybody seems to be very accepting and excited about it.”
Khin said the company currently is updating its best practices to reflect the name change from adjuster to resolution specialist starting with its own files and website. So far, the reaction from those outside the company has mirrored the internal response.
“I met with a new insured several weeks ago who had left another carrier and came to Berkley,” says Khin. “When I was meeting with their in-house claims manager, she said, ‘What is a resolution director?’ I explained what it meant and the revolution behind it, and she liked it. She thought that her end users would appreciate it and echoed what [CLM Executive Director] Adam Potter said at the national meeting in March, that ‘claims adjuster’ has a negative connotation to it because it’s implied that you are adjusting a claim downward. She said that ‘resolution’ sounded more like the work she does and that it was a better description.”
Khin also described an experience she had with a claimant who received a claims liability denial letter.
“The comment he made to me when he called began with ‘I see you are a resolution person, so I’m hoping you can help resolve this,’” she says. “I think that, at least in my experience with this claimant, it was a positive interpretation of the role we serve.”
Changing perceptions is only the first step in addressing the talent crisis, which The Institutes’ Alexander Vandevere assures is very real. “It’s a common, shared problem,” he says. “It’s clearly a top issue that keeps up insurance executives at night.” The next step is creating strategies for attracting millennials.
As senior vice president of marketing, Vandevere supports an initiative called MyPath, which is “dedicated to educating students and young professionals about the insurance industry, as well as about the limitless career opportunities it has to offer.” It partners with insurance organizations to provide content about the industry in order to help companies connect with millennials.
“I talk a lot about [the talent crisis] at industry events, and it’s interesting how often I run across both organizations and associations that have very similar efforts going on,” says Vandevere. “When I come across this, my message to them is, ‘This is great. Can I share what you’re doing? Can I give you a platform and put your message out there on our site that has been visited by 300,000 millennials so far this year?”
Vandevere says MyPath’s content (insuremypath.org) is focused on attracting millennials to insurance, and includes tools like a career-matching instrument that helps them figure out the positions in the industry for which they might be best suited.
“It’s all in an effort to help and inform millennials and others who are not aware of all the diversity of options for a career in insurance,” he says. “It’s done in a fun and engaging way in order to break the typical mindset of what people think of when they think of insurance.”
The site’s other content, which includes nearly 500 submissions from 88 industry and 20 academic partners, is a free resource for anyone to use. It includes case studies on how people discovered the industry and found success, links to hundreds of internships available across the country, and nearly 500 videos. Registration is only required if you want to submit an application for an internship or receive ongoing updates.
Vandevere says it’s clear what millennials want out of a career: They want to do meaningful work, and they want flexibility and a variety of challenges. They also want to be able to make a difference, which means it’s not always about the money for them—it’s about job satisfaction. “All of this, the insurance industry has in spades,” he says.
By changing our approach and the language we use to describe it, we can better show those who are maturing into the workforce that if you want to make a difference in people’s lives and stretch your cognitive skills, this is the place to be.