Risk Avoidance and What the Heck is Wrong With People?

anger management

I rarely go into Circle Ks or convenience stores or places of that ilk because I’d prefer not to get shot (risk avoidance). However, on the way to a volunteer gig the other day and against my better judgment, I stopped in a Circle K near Interstate 17 in Phoenix to buy a pop (or soda, as some call it). As I walked in, I noticed there was a mop bucket full of black water near the register and that my shoes stuck to the floor as I went to get my pop. As I filled my cup, I noticed a sign that said, “Out of straws.”

At the register I said hello to the cashier and asked the young man if he was holding out and if perhaps he did have a straw. He nearly started crying. He said they ran out of straws earlier in the day and he couldn’t get any from neighboring Circle Ks (franchise issues?). He said that people were so irate that they were dumping their entire sodas on the floor, which he had to clean up.

I asked, “Really, it’s like ‘I hereby dump my soda on the floor in protest because you are out of straws?'” Yes, he responded sadly. He said he had given his two-week notice because he just “just couldn’t take it anymore.”

Wow. Not having a straw for a Big Gulp? Not a rage-o-meter offense, in my humble opinion. Which leads me to today’s topic: “What the heck is wrong with people?” That young man, so traumatized by the day’s events that he quit his job, is a human being. He’s someone’s son, he’s a grandchild, and he’s a human being with feelings. Have we swung so low that we’re willing to dump our sugary sodas on the floor and our rage onto a poor cashier in a convenience store?

Don’t get me wrong. I know that everyone, me included, acts badly from time to time. We lose our temper in traffic, we snap at someone who may only be trying to help us, or we hang up in frustration on a customer-support person. However, for people to stoop this low, to “make a statement” that makes no statement other than they desperately need anger management, to me is simply beyond comprehension.

I have nothing deep and philosophical to say about this except it makes me much more aware that my behavior has consequences. It also reminds me that this type of bad behavior means we as risk management professionals will always have jobs.

I am so grateful that I don’t carry useless, non-specific rage over an imaginary victim status. When a store is out of straws, it isn’t a personal affront to me or an assault by the universe to make my life harder. Apparently, though, that rage is present in and acted on by many.  And that, my friends, is exactly why I stay out of convenience stores. That and Milk Duds. But that’s another story.

Talent Management a Top Concern for the Nation’s Insurers

By 2020, an astounding 40 percent of the workforce will be our Millennials, born between 1976 and 2001. Is your organization ready?

business team standing

 

Did you know that by 2014, Forbes predicts that 36 percent of the workforce will be comprised of Millennials? And by 2020, an astounding 40 percent of the workforce will be our Millennials, born between 1976 and 2001. Is your organization ready?

Yesterday I attended a Society of Insurance Trainers & Educators gathering in Scottsdale hosted by Markel. We discussed the current generation of Millennials entering the workforce and taking their places in many of the nation’s insurance internships. Where are we going to get this talent? I think the question that is perhaps more important is this: Once we recruit them, how do we manage them for their long-term growth and their long-term retention in the organization?

Here are a few facts we know about our Millennials.

  • More than high salaries, Millennials want to find careers that “make a difference.” Our industry has failed to capitalize on the fact that as an industry, we pump billions into the economy to restore people’s lives, allow businesses to grow and expand, and to promote worthwhile charities. Maybe we should strongly consider improving our image through our marketing efforts.
  • Millennials are the most chauffeured, tutored, scheduled and micromanaged generation in history. They are not, by and large, risk takers. You know that hovering manager who drives the self-directed Baby Boomer employees crazy (and often out the door)? Why not place that manager in charge of your new hires and interns? Mills want and need more reinforcement as opposed to Boomers, who generally want to be shown a desk and left alone.
  • As Millennials graduate from college, they are often swimming in debt. Let’s show Mills a career path with income factors they can tie to specific achievements, for example earning an Associate in Claims or the CPCU designation.
  • According to Pew Research Center, our Millennials are the most college-educated generation in US history. Holding a college degree, or even an advanced degree, does not necessarily mean that all those young people possess the skills to succeed in the insurance industry. Don’t be surprised when you must invest in teaching skills you assume a Millennial would have learned in college, like critical thinking or how to use a spreadsheet.
  • Millennials will be your biggest brand ambassadors. We need to encourage their responsible dialogue on social media, not discourage it or suppress it in the workplace. Almost one-quarter of Millennials factor their job choice on the hiring organization’s social media policies, according to the Forbes article.
  • Millennials will assume supervisory and management positions much more quickly than did we Boomers. Therefore, it is critical that we hire for leadership attributes: integrity, communication skills, self-confidence, a sense of humor, creativity and critical-thinking skills, to list just a few.

If you are concerned about where the insurance industry will find its next generation of talent, take heart. The industry has begun to seriously address this problem. (We’re never first to the scene of a fire, are we?) Let’s keep talking, but more importantly, let’s begin to change the perceptions of our industry to attract and retain that next generation.

Cavalcade of Risk #192 Gallops Into View

Cavalcade of Risk #192 gallops into view with some interesting risk-related posts and great advice from various risk experts in their specific fields, from life insurance to enterprise risk management.

expert

 

Excuse the slightly tongue-in-cheek lead-in, because this week’s Cavalcade of Risk is full of great risk management information. We visit a variety of risk management experts for their take on current events impacting their practices. Take a few minutes, grab a cup of coffee and visit and interact with our contributors.

In this post, Dr. Sidorov looks at a recent scientific study that examined national insurance data to determine what happened to the commercial health insurers in the wake of the Obamacare rule that they spend at least 80 to 85 percent of their income on medical care. It turns out that the most vulnerable part of the health insurance market-individual insurance-saw a decrease in profitability.

Jeff Rose helps us through the maze of medical conditions that can limit your ability to buy health insurance in his post. If you have an aortic valve disorder like aortic stenosis or aortic insufficiency, these conditions will impact you when you apply for life insurance. Insurance companies are very cautious about aortic valve disorders because of their potential to cause serious heart problems. There is hope, however. Jeff informs us you can still get insurance despite your condition. It really depends on a few factors, including the seriousness of your condition. To get a better idea of what to expect, read his guide to insurance underwriting for aortic valve disorders.

Here’s a news flash: If you are uninsured, there is a risk of being overcharged for hospital services. In California, the risk is 0. Jason Shafrin of The Healthcare Economist explains why here.

Recently, there have been some remarkable changes in how life insurance is now underwritten, including the use of social media and new technology. Henry (Hank) Stern of InsureBlog has the details.

Julie Ferguson of Workers’ Comp Insider isn’t talking scratch when she asks: “How much risk do you want to take with your kids’ chicken nuggets?” Chickens are on the front burner on the legislative circuit lately with the USDA seeking to overhaul poultry processing regulations that many see as unsafe for workers. But Julie notes that there is more than just worker safety at stake. Read her fast take on fast food here. I would have said, “Winner winner; chicken dinner.” Except after reading her post, and watching the video, I may go vegan. Soon.

David Williams of Health Business Blog says that a patient advocate tells him that it’s “dangerous” to rely on online doctor ratings and reviews and to rely on the “facts” instead. David argues that the case against reviews is seriously overrated and the proposed alternative paths are not as promising as they sound. Read his comments here. I have to admit, I’m a big believer in Yelp and a frequent Yelper myself. I don’t go out to dinner without checking Yelp, let alone try to find a service provider, doctors and dentists included.

Here are some closing thoughts from yours truly regarding the trends I and other risk management experts throughout the US are currently seeing.

  • Enterprise risk management is becoming increasingly important to organizations.
  • Jury verdicts continue to rise. Check your liability limits and double check your policies to determine if you have defense inside or outside limits. Most professional liability policies provide defense within limits, and defense costs can erode your limits significantly.
  • Workers’ compensation costs have moderated in a few states; however, don’t expect to see rates decrease anytime soon, like never. Medical costs continue to escalate nationwide, outstripping wage loss benefits paid.
  • Cyber risks continue to be the bane of businesses at home and abroad; however, hackers increasingly target small-to-medium sized businesses because they seem to provide the path of least resistance to hackers.
  • Commercial insurance prices increased by six percent in the second quarter of 2013, the 10th consecutive quarter of price increases, according to a recent survey conducted by Towers Watson. Now is the time to bulletproof your risk management practices and consider increasing your deductibles or taking higher self-insured retentions.

This does it for another edition of Cavalcade of Risk.

Germond Recertifies in Human Resources

Germond re-certifies her Senior Professional in Human Resources certification.

As part of my dedication to continuing education, I recently received my Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR) re-certification. This renewal of my SPHR certification means that I stay current in human resources issues facing today’s business owners and claims departments.

The SPHR is the industry gold standard among human resource professionals. I keep up-to-date in this important area for two reasons: 1) because SPHR training supports me in becoming a more skilled curriculum developer and trainer and 2) because a lack technical talent both in the US and abroad impacts the insurance industry now and will even more so in the coming decades. 

Hoarding Behaviors Cause Landlords Big Problems

Hoarding behaviors are on the rise. Take proactive steps to address problems head-on before they escalate to save you repair costs and potential liability.

Today animal and other hoarding cases are mainstream news and the stuff of television reality shows. Early in my career, I worked for a group of self-insured cities and experienced my first case of animal hoarding, if you consider a rat an animal.

In a small Bay Area apartment complex, fellow tenants walked by an apartment unit and noticed a rat sunning itself once in a while on the windowsill. No biggie, they thought. “Live and let live” is a Bay Area core value. Eventually as they passed, however, they noticed the curtains were chewed at the bottom. Still not a big deal. Until one morning, lots of rats were hanging out on the sill and the neighbors decided to peek under the ever-shortening curtain hem. What they saw freaked them out. There were many, many rats, hundreds in fact, scampering about or chillin’ on the furniture, maybe even watching Animal Planet. Neighbors called the management company which turned to the city for help. As the city’s claims representative, I arrived right after a Hazmat team.

Sure, it started out innocently enough – two rats that bred. Then those rats bred. Then the tenants turned their bedroom into the “rat room” and moved into the living room. Soon, rats were everywhere, hundreds when I arrived, as city workers in respirators caged and counted.

“Domestic squalor” is a term used by professionals to define people who slowly destroy their own living quarters. Those who stockpile may experience extreme loneliness after the death of a partner or may have a mental disorder. However, despite the reasons one begins to hoard, landlords must proactively manage these issues to reduce liability. After all, others have to live near these blighted properties.

If you own a rental unit, you probably have a hoarding story or two of your own. Tenants who store papers, hoard animals or even cook meth may be in your story repertoire. Managing the general factors that encourage or discourage these types of problems and others in housing risks can help you to avoid contending with a big, big mess. Those factors are environmental, biological and equipment-related.

Environmental factors include crowded hallways, inadequate lighting which encourages acts like using dark areas as toilets, overgrown landscaping and floors in poor condition.  

Biological factors include not treating vermin infestations, such as roof rats we harbor in inner city Phoenix. These pesky creatures destroy wiring and bring a host of other problems, including mites, rat waste and odor. Bedbugs, too, have become a national problem.

Equipment factors like leaking boilers and other poorly maintained equipment are frequently the root cause of other injuries and incidents like mold.

Only by frequent condition assessments of your tenant-occupied properties can you hope to discourage hoarding and other problems. Here are some tips to help you reduce the exposure to hoarding losses.

  • Try to develop relationships with repair people. Use them to report on the general condition of that property when making repairs, for example a plumber who replaces a leaking faucet or a heating specialist who repairs the heater. They can tip you off to any problems.
  • Put language in your lease agreements allowing monthly property inspection. Use monthly maintenance calls to replace heater filters as the time to eyeball the property condition. This monthly visit helps you both ensure your equipment is well maintained and that hoarding or filthy conditions are nipped in the bud.
  • Hoarding is a difficult situation. Do not let situation get out of hand. If you never faced this problem as a landlord, visit this URL to see what can happen when hoarding runs wild. Your city or county health department may offer guidance, as the city I represented did in the rat affair. Local social service organizations can often assist with the human element, which may be the hardest piece to manage.
  • If you do run across a case of domestic squalor, you may need to marshal outside resources before safely deploying workers. Many companies now specialize in cleaning up after hoarders. Beware, though, coverage for hoarding-related losses may be dicey under your insurance policy.

Landlording is never simple, but with many living alone without family support, hoarding behaviors are on the rise. Take proactive steps to address problems head-on before they escalate to save you repair costs and potential liability.

How Are You Handling Generational Challenges?

How is your organization handling generational challenges?

Recently I told my brother I was cleaning the house and asked rhetorically how one person and one dog could mess up a house so badly. His response was simple. “Perfect coordination.”  He is a bit of a wiseacre, but when I think more about it, perfect coordination is a wonderful thing.

Don’t you love those days when you have a thousand things to do and, at the end of the day, you sit back and say, “I accomplished most of what I set out to do.” Perfect coordination is important in business. If you are like me, my attention span fractures quite easily. I’m working on a project, the phone rings, an email arrives, a friend texts me — suddenly I am multitasking and not doing anything well.

I recently presented a series of seminars on challenges insurance professionals face as we blend four generations in the workplace. Each generation has its own work style and generational strengths. However, there is also an additional challenge in the “fringes” of each generation, who have characteristics of both generations. For example, I am a late -model Boomer, yet I have many characteristics of the following generation, Gen X. So if someone applied solely Boomer psychology to me, they would have troubling figuring out what motivates me.

In another few years, a fifth generation, now called by some the “i-Generation,” will arrive in the workforce with an array of electronic devices and technical capabilities. Remember, this is a generation that never knew life without a computer. How is your organization handling generational challenges?

If you would like to know more about how my presentation on managing generational differences, please drop me an email or call me at 602.870.3230. I’d be happy to help you with your company’s unique challenges.

Insurance Writer Offers New White Paper on Diversity

Today’s workforce is increasingly diverse. Our increasingly lean organizations must utilize the unique talents of all their team members to effectively compete in today’s global marketplace.

White Paper ‘Microinequities in the Workplace─

What if Some of Your Key Team Members are Invisible?

Helps Insurance Organizations Manage a Diverse Workforce

Now Available from Insurance Writer

July 26, 2010

Phoenix, Arizona

Release:  Immediate

Today’s workforce is increasingly diverse. Our increasingly lean organizations must utilize the unique talents of all their team members to effectively compete in today’s global marketplace. Microinequities, negative subtle messages we send to our coworkers, can restrain workplace productivity and ultimately drive talented employees out of your organization.

Today an organization’s brand is largely driven by social media. When employees feel disenfranchised, they frequently voice their complaints in cyberspace. Organizations without a diverse intellectual workforce cannot compete effectively in today’s global marketplace. And although companies support diversity, diversity does not always equal inclusion.

Nancy Germond, MA, SPHR, ARM, AIC, ITP, the president of Insurance Writer, a risk management and insurance consulting and training firm, developed a White Paper outlining steps organizations can take to avoid microinequities in the workplace. Ms. Germond’s White Paper, “Microinequities in the Workplace,” offers unique solutions to help companies strategically address the challenges inherent in today’s diverse workforce. For a copy of this informative paper, click here: https://insurancewriter.com/MicroIneq_Offer.htm.

For more information regarding presentations to your organization of this subject or other management topics, please contact Ms. Germond at (602) 870-3230. Ms. Germond develops marketing material, training curriculum and provides consulting services to insurance carriers, agents and insurance industry vendors. A skilled and perceptive presenter, her relaxed and humorous presentations focus on societal risks impacting today’s insurance professional as well as tips for tightening day-to-day claims operations.

You can contact me here.

Make the Most of Your Training

I participated in a teleconference today sponsored by the Society of Insurance Trainers and Editors and hosted by the Insurance Institute. Much of what was discussed was the issue of training younger generations, who, as one participant put it, leave school in a state of “permanent partial attention.”

This is the first true television and Internet generation and they live, he remarked, in a state of perpetual multi-tasking. (He then joked that some of us on the teleconference were probably multi-tasking. Yes, I was guilty of it, I was checking my e-mail at the time.)

In addition, he believes some members of this generation learn only what they need to learn then discard the knowledge, bringing their test-cram college mentality into the workforce. What can trainers do to help Gen Xers and Ys retain knowledge? One good tip was to set some training ground rules. Insist students to turn off cell phones, PDAs, and yes, their laptops if they have access to wireless Internet.

Next, since class participants often leave classes using 25 percent of what they learn, one trainer asserted that you can improve that rate to 90 percent if you involve supervisors who will reinforce, coach, reward, and encourage trainees in their newly learned skills. Supervisors must reinforce what is taught in the classroom or, no matter how sophisticated the training, it will fail.

Training, they insisted, must come from trainers who understand the cultures, the practices, and the processes of the insurance industry. Real-world examples are critical to learners, because if they cannot contextualize what they hear, no matter how smartly packaged the information, it is virtually useless.

It’s also useful to provide access to experts in the subject whom students, post training, can email or call for additional help when they need it. This allows students to put their knowledge into practice with the help of an expert mentor and without fear of ridicule for asking questions.

Finally, they believe, you must instill in insurance students that their insurance education is lifelong to ensure their success. I know when I earned my professional designations I was making a statement: That insurance wasn’t my job, it was my career.

Writing Coaches

An interesting editorial in Business’ Insurance’s April Industry Focus touched on an issue I’d blogged about a few weeks ago. Big changes are heading our way as Generation Ys enter the workforce.

Editor Ronn Zolkos (he’s obviously a Gen Xer; notice the spelling of his first name!) commented on a problem discussed at the Finance and Insurance Workforce Summit recently in Chicago. That problem is the poor writing ability of Gen Ys.

Apparently, constant instant messaging and e-mailing has enabled a generation to skip grammar almost entirely. Although highly competent technically, members of this generation may lack even rudimentary writing skills.

Zolkos recommends hiring writing coaches for the Yers who struggle with writing’ write. He called hiring a writing coach a “perk.” Others managers may, as they struggle with this critical issue, call it a “necessity.”

Diversity a Great Topic for the Insurance Industry

I spoke last month at the Arizona Insurance Claims Association, the premier (albeit only!) organization in Arizona dedicated to the property/casualty claims adjuster. When I last spoke there, I talked about the brain drain carriers and agents are experiencing and how Gen Xs and Ys could leverage this exodus to their advantage, but I wasn’t sure diversity would go over too well. One of my blog readers asked how it went. Frankly, I was surprised by how interested the audience was in this topic.

To remain competitive in today’s rapidly changing and global market, the insurance industry, like any other industry, must have top intellectual talent. And that talent lies in diversity, not just of race and gender, but in diversity of thought.

Studies have repeatedly shown that diverse groups perform better and that a certain amount of healthy conflict must occur before groups arrive at superior decisions. And because the insurance industry is becoming more and more team-driven, the need for training in areas of diversity becomes even more critical. Studies repeatedly show that diverse teams make better decisions.

If your organization would like to explore diversity or inter-generational issues, I present in these critical areas. As an instructor for Insurance Journal’s Academy, you are invited to take part in my upcoming seminars or purchase my earlier seminars for your organization.

The link to the Academy is here.

Have a great, productive week.