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training insurance claims adjusters

In the independent adjusting business, IA firms are constantly competing with one another to be the go-to guy for carriers.

They promote rosters full of qualified adjusters, a virtual army of eager, self-motivated people ready to deftly handle as many claims as the carrier can throw at them. And they’ll do it in record time!

But, as IA firms know, the reality can be quite different. Hiring and training new adjusters is a big financial burden. Especially in an industry so dependent on the whims of corporate carriers and mother nature. You want smart, dependable people on your team. They should be well trained and ready to go. Your team needs to be capable of handling large volumes. You need employees who will support the policyholders while contributing to the financial success of your firm. And you need to do it all in a completely unpredictable environment.

These are just some of the challenges faced by IA firms in today’s claims industry. But in the race to crack the code in today’s new dispensation, firms can often overlook the key to solving some of these issues: great training.

…in the race to crack the code… firms can often overlook the key: great training.

While our industry has undergone many changes in the past few years, training hasn’t evolved at the same rate. We are still using the past model of hiring a bunch of adjusters and throwing them into the deep pool of claims handling to see who sinks and who swims. And in the Wild West Era of claims adjusting, that worked! There were jobs for everyone and enough money to go around. But times have changed and today’s firms have to do a better job finding, training, and retaining great adjusters and managers. Because if employees don’t win, you don’t win…and it’s money down the drain.

Imagine if you applied the same thought process to your family life. It would be totally unacceptable to have several kids, give them minimal parenting, and then cross your fingers and hope one or two turn out ok. Of course the welfare of your own children is ultimately more important than training your team, but employees are people with a life and goals and likely a family of their own to support. If you’ve hired them and they’re participating in your training, they’ve got a lot on the line and are trusting you to help them be successful. It is your responsibility to set them up for success because if they fail, nobody wins.

It is your responsibility to set them up for success because if they fail, nobody wins.

This article is not intended to be a step by step guide to the topics you need to cover in order for your training to be considered “good.”  Every employer needs to hammer that out themselves.  I want to focus more on the bigger picture – the thought process behind developing an effective, long term training program for your specific company and its culture. Creating a comprehensive program that includes more than just the basics will set the table for both the employee’s, and your company’s, future success.

THE BASICS

But before we get too far ahead, it is important to touch on the basics of a training program. A new employee will never succeed without a solid foundation of knowledge and skills necessary for the job at hand. This can include mastering software, management systems, communication, customer service, policies, and basic industry knowledge. You know the tool kit they need.

But there is a second part to the basic training program that gets overlooked…the trainers themselves.  What’s with the uninspiring trainers I’ve seen over the past decade in the claims business? So often, the training staff is a mish mash of employees who can’t do claims anymore, or who didn’t succeed in another area. They offer a mediocre program, spliced together, and delivered poorly.  These trainers can lack vision and don’t seem to be truly invested in the process, or more importantly, the outcome. And when they don’t care — or even if they care but are not equipped to produce results — they create employees that don’t care or are ill-equipped to succeed.

your best people should be on your best opportunities. Finding, training, and keeping the best team of people is key to winning the claims race, and trainers are your first line of offense in making that happen.

Think about it this way…trainers are the new hire’s first real glimpse into your company and its priorities. So why wouldn’t you put your best face forward? Jim Collins writes in Good to Great, that your best people should be on your best opportunities. In my opinion, finding, training, and keeping the best team of people is key to winning the claims race, and trainers are your first line of offense in making that happen. Trainers should have proven character and a great attitude. They should have a passion for the business and loyalty to your company. They should love to inspire others and building others up to succeed.  And they should be compensated well, but based on results. Great trainers are integral to great training.

Imagine, just for a moment, your top performing adjusters and employees training your new hires. You would have the best performing people, with the most enthusiasm and knowledge, setting the standards and leading a whole new crop of people. Those they’ve trained go on to become amazing adjusters and employees, who can then raise the bar and train the next group…..you get the idea. It is a self sustaining cycle that will help create the strongest and most efficient team. A team collectively focused on the goal. A team who supports one another and the firm.  A team who can do everything you promise the carriers, and more!

THE VISION

“Vision” is often one of those buzz words that’s thrown around, but it is of great import when used right. And imparting your company’s vision should be an integral part of training. You want to capture your employees hearts and minds with just how rewarding a career in claims can be, especially with your team. I believe the vision is actually a combination of a few things.

  1. The first component is all about what you, the employer, is offering. New hires need to believe that this opportunity has the potential to be real win for them. They want to know there is a future here, both for themselves and the company. We all know the day to day of claims can be grueling, especially in entry-level positions. But if you can inspire them to believe in today’s hard work and tomorrow’s reward, people will do more than just show up for a paycheck.
  2. That leads us to a second part of the vision: encouraging your new hires to fully embrace the opportunity. You will have some new hires who are obviously there to do the minimum, get their check, and go home. But you will have others who want to go the extra mile. Who want to learn every detail about every aspect of the industry. They’ll take every opportunity to harvest not just the facts, but the the spirit and wisdom of those around them. These are the folks who ask how they can make themselves more marketable to you, rather than just asking how the job market is. Your training should exemplify and reward an ‘above and beyond company’ culture. It should illustrate to your employees that if they fully embrace the opportunity before them, it will pay off in the end. And in doing do, you create a team willing to work harder for your firm.
  3. Lastly, part of the vision has to involve being forward focused. Employees need to know you are devoted to the company’s future success and committed to making something happen in their individual careers. The company who can do both stands to do well in today’s claims world. Yesterday’s good ol boy network has broken down in the new claims world. Modern independent claims should be a meritocracy where performance is valued and leads to advancement. While leadership tries to solve the ever-changing puzzle of the industry, they will need every adjuster on board and rowing hard in the same direction. But that can only happen when employees know that leadership has faith in them. The employers themselves need to go above and beyond to help employees grow their careers, and trust their hires to be part of the overall solution. Truly valuable players will not stick around if there is no opportunity to spread their wings. So part of the company vision we need to impart to new hires is that yes, there is opportunity. Prove to me you will go above and beyond and the sky will be your limit!  Of course, this has to be true in your organization.  If it is not, it is time to take a hard look in the mirror.

TEAMWORK

Successfully leading your firm in the new dispensation won’t be accomplished by lone ranger types. Yes, outside the box thinking is needed and you will likely have to take some risks, but this battle will be won by the best team. Only those that can work together will be able to successfully navigate the ups and downs and twists and turns of the current claims industry.  It will take time, and more than a little patience. And there will probably be some mistakes made along the way so staying humble enough to see problems but agile enough to find solutions will also be a key to success.

This may be the toughest part of the vision to pass on. It isn’t really something you can “train” — it is something you live in your company culture, and invite new hires into.

This may be the toughest part of the vision to pass on. It isn’t really something you can “train” — it is something you live in your company culture, and invite new hires into. And perfect teamwork looks different depending on the company and the players involved. The expression “I can’t tell you what it is but I know it when I see it” comes to mind. The only way to train employees and to pass this on, is for your team to truly live it. If you don’t have it, it is something worth working on. If you do, make sure it is valued and passed on to every incoming employee.

CANI

Training shouldn’t end when they start their job. Or a week after. Or even once the basics have been mastered and the person is doing well. Smart, motivated people of character want to continually grow, and they’ll want to see that you are committed investing in their future. In turn, they will continue to work hard for the company and become increasingly loyal.

Constant and Never-ending Improvement should become a part of your company culture – from the top to the bottom.

CANI stands for Constant and Never-ending Improvement. This can and should become a part of your company culture – from the top to the bottom. And it makes even more sense in an industry like adjusting where the criteria, technology, and laws are in constant flux. Investing in targeted training that helps your employees grow will not only help to keep them happy and effective, it will foster a culture of mentoring, coaching, support, and encouragement.

In the end, I believe we can do better than what we are currently doing. And we should. At AdjusterPro, we are passionate believers that success for our employees translates into success for our company. In our next article, we’ll discuss how to retain great employees. While great training is the foundation for retention, there is more we can do.

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