"The Claims Resolution Process Is About to Get a D&I Makeover"
Workers' compensation partner and co-chair of Swift Currie's Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Martine Cumbermack, provided insight on D&I efforts surrounding the claims-handling process in an article published by Carrier Management on Aug. 23, 2021.
D&I should not only be considered during the recruitment process, rather it must be considered within all departments of the insurance supply chain. As adjusters are often in contact with claimants of different backgrounds, D&I awareness and cultural competency is crucial for effective claims handling.
Cumbermack, who has extensively studied diversity as it relates to workers' comp claims, noticed a claimant's background or adjuster's background sometimes created barriers, causing delays and increased claims costs.
Looking at statistics compiled by the National Council on Compensation Insurance and the National Bureau of Labor Statistics, Cumbermack found jobs in industries, such as manufacturing, labor, construction, housekeeping and maintenance, were generally held by those from minority backgrounds. These jobs also carry the greatest risk for injury.
“The data, broken down by demographics, reveal that a lot of injuries, especially the more severe injuries, come from underrepresented minority groups," said Cumbermack. "If I’m the average adjuster, a lot of my claims are going to be people who probably don’t speak English or are from a different racial or ethnic background than myself."
Cumbermack also noted the importance of the connection between the claims adjusters and the injured worker. How the adjuster connects with the claimant, how the adjuster perceives the claimant and how the adjuster believes the claimant — these factors can impact the claims process.
To address D&I initiatives, both new and existing employees must receive training.
"It’s commendable that insurers are willing to embrace a more diverse and inclusive work environment," said Cumbermack. "But you also need to have employees who are culturally competent or trained to be culturally competent in dealing with claims."
Cumbermack added that implicit and explicit biases are often at play in daily interactions between coworkers and employees, as well as while managing claims and mediations.
“You can’t really understand how to be culturally competent if you’re not aware of your unconscious biases,” said Cumbermack.
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