There was some irony that the webinar I attended yesterday occurred on the same day I scheduled what will be the first of two total knee replacement surgeries I will have this year. Aging can be a funny thing. If you asked me how old I feel in my mind, I would tell you I feel like I am 29. My wife would tell you I’m 12, with bouts of 8. My knees, however, would tell you they are 92. They have been telling me for several years that they are tired of carrying my fat ass around. At the age of 60 I have realized those whiny bastards are going to have to go. They clearly are not going to go the distance.

The webinar I mentioned was the inaugural effort of “The Transitions;” established by a group of workers’ comp professionals (and Mark Pew) to discuss and address the challenges we see by the aging of our industry. The description from their LinkedIn page reads:

The Transitions is a movement to help the workers’ compensation industry, collectively and individually, think strategically about how to handle the influx and outflux of talent over the coming decade. It started as a diverse panel of individuals for a National Workers’ Compensation & Disability conference session. But the more these individuals planned the session, the more they became convinced that this conversation should not be a one-time “presentation.” Instead, it evolved into an ongoing mission to facilitate a meaningful dialogue within the industry and within companies on how to create an orderly transition that captures and institutionalizes the knowledge that is leaving while embracing the vision that is entering. The Transitions founders are a multi-generational, purpose-driven group of industry veterans and emerging leaders from both payers and service providers. The movement will expand through provocative content on LinkedIn, an open forum via a LinkedIn group, a webinar series that addresses specific aspects of the transitions led by founders and their guests, and a mentoring program. This will be a dynamic group with a big vision and passionate people. 

The big problem, it seems, is that there is currently more outflux than influx when it comes to both talent and industry knowledge in workers’ compensation. We have known for years that “brain drain” was a real possibility for our sector. The reality is that crisis is now upon us. 

The presentation yesterday served as a preview for planned webinars throughout the year. The group plans a variety of focused presentations dealing with everything from attracting young talent to improving communications and the way we conduct business. 

One of the things that most resonated with me was the emphasis on communications within the industry. Claire Muselman, creator of the industry’s first Workers’ Recovery Unit at Continental Western Group, made excellent points regarding the importance of engaging in effective communications as part of this generational change. While we have spent a great deal of time here this past decade advocating for the full rebranding of Workers’ Compensation to Workers’ Recovery, the discussion has normally been about how we should effectively engage the injured workers’ in our charge. Addressing the effective engagement of our industry brethren is equally important, particularly when the generational differences in the way people communicate can be pretty stark.  

As an industry we must create an environment that will draw young people to it. Very few millennials will be drawn to a heavily regulated job in a cubicle where they “manage claims” and deal with 100 faceless voices (or voicemails) every day. They will be drawn, however, to an industry that cares for people, and where they are empowered to take a broken life and make it better. That is the industry that will draw talent. That is the industry that we should strive to be. 

The Transitions is a good idea whose timing is spot on. The environment in which our industry operates; the society we serve and the expectations we encounter have changed tremendously over the last 30 years. Doing things “the way we’ve always done them” simply will not cut it; not insignificantly because there will be no one to do those things if we don’t address the shortcomings of our processes. As an industry we are aging, and despite what our minds tell us our time in position is drawing to a close. We must look forward to ensuring a smooth transition, and to make sure that workers’ comp is positioned to be vital and effective years after we have gone.

Failing to do so could bring our industry to its (artificial) knees.

 

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