Workers’ Compensation Institute (WCI) hosted its annual educational conference last month, with in-person attendance returning for the first time since 2019. As one of the leading comprehensive resources for all workers’ compensation stakeholders, WCI’s sessions and overall attendance can offer important predictions of conference trends in the coming year.
Safety National’s Assistant Vice President – Claims, Steve Peacock, shares his takeaways from the recent conference, including industry challenges for 2022.
COVID-19 remained omnipresent and a shadowy companion at every session and interaction, with related topics drawing more attendee interest, especially long-term COVID-19 claims expectations. Even topics indirectly related that have become more prominent, like de-escalation techniques, compassion fatigue, PTSD, ever-changing risks and gentle communication, had a high interest. COVID-19 is still the most significant challenge for large employers, with constantly changing government mandates forcing operations to pivot and adjust. Many companies continue to delay the return to the office even as they acknowledge that in-person environments are better for training and collaboration in their workforces.
Many newer carriers are offering claims analytics solutions focused on using data to drive better outcomes. While this technology has existed for a few years, new entrants into the space claim to have the best solution available. Some fail to gain traction to reach the critical mass needed for sustainability and disappear entirely within a couple of years.
Work From Home Challenges
Having a home-based workforce presents new challenges to employers. They do not control the employees’ work environment, yet they can still be held accountable for injuries sustained while working. There is also a lack of case law around what constitutes an employment risk when working from home. Some employers are requiring their workers to take a picture of their workstation, to review it for ergonomic concerns and make sure the area is set up safely.
The shortage of talent remains one of the most significant issues facing the workers’ compensation industry. Many sessions discussed recruitment and retention efforts, with an emphasis on inclusion. With retirements on the rise, every carrier and third-party administrator (TPA) is searching for claims adjusters and other staff. One prominent TPA used its conference marketing campaign to focus on recruiting efforts, with staff available to conduct on-site interviews.
This conference was the second major industry event in the last three months, and despite it being held in mid-December, attendance was surprisingly good. Attendance was lower than pre-COVID-19 attendance, but it brought some normalcy to be in-person with industry colleagues again. Risk managers have been more apprehensive about returning to in-person events, with their absence being noticeable through canceled speaking engagements due to constantly changing COVID-19 protocols within their companies.
There was much excitement in reconnecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Everyone was eager for the interaction they have only had the opportunity to experience virtually for most conferences over the last two years. The sense of normalcy was refreshing for everyone, even if that normal included a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in the expo hall.