Putting Humpty Together Again

By Robert H. Wilson

Workers’ Compensation, as an industry, has a marketing problem. It is probably better described as a messaging problem. It has long been true that the industry has been broadly defined by the negative stories that find their way into local and national press publications and media outlets. We have been generally ineffective at countering that public perception, even though the vast majority of workers’ compensation claims go through the system as intended, with generally positive outcomes on the other end. 

And in the throws of an aging industry in the middle of a “great resignation,” desperate for new and motivated talent, changing the public perception of the industry is more critical than ever before.

The venerable children’s rhyme, “Humpty Dumpty”, which dates back at least to the 18th century, can provide a good example of how our message has been skewed, and how we can correct it for the future.

The rhyme, as many of you will recall, goes like this:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men,
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

If Humpty was on the job when that accident occurred, and the media got ahold of that story, the rhyme would likely have been presented this way:

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
The workers’ comp people laughed as he cried,
And they left him to rot ‘cause his claim was denied.

Remember, in the media “if it bleeds it leads,” and negative news always travels further. No one will ever call a reporter to tell them how helpful you were, or that you did a great job helping them recover.

This is not to suggest that we should discount or ignore negative stories that reflect badly on the industry. It is true that some of those tales are taken out of context, but many of them represent real problems and shortcomings within the industry. And negative stories generated by bad actors affect us all. 

So, what do we do to change the storyline about workers’ comp? To start, we must change the way we sometimes respond to negative events. We must be the first to ferret out and condemn bad actors and poor behavior. And sometimes, just sometimes, we need to stop hiding behind the statutes. When a story is on the front pages about a horrific injury incurred by some worker, the comment that we “followed statutory guidelines” just doesn’t help the narrative; especially when, with a different approach, we could have done more.

But most importantly, we need to change the way we perceive our industry, as well as the way we present ourselves to the world. Today many would tell you workers’ comp is a boring, stodgy, heavily regulated insurance industry that “manages claims” and pushes paper. While the process elements of that view are technically accurate, it fails to capture the true and noble purpose of workers’ comp. And that purpose is this:

When we do things properly, we help people in need recover all or much of what they’ve lost. Workers’ compensation, when we get things right, is an industry that restores shattered and broken lives. 

That is the message you tell the reporter who is working on a story. 

That is the message you tell the Gen Z student deciding on a career. 

That is the message you tell your kids when you are done with work for the day.

There are active efforts underway to improve our processes. My recent foray into a new career with the establishment of WorkCompCollege.com has greatly reaffirmed this in my mind. The Workers’ Recovery Professional Certification we are developing has received a massively enthusiastic response from the industry, and we are hearing from dozens of people who genuinely want to help build that better system. We have the talent, skillset, and motivation within ourselves to address any shortcomings and leverage our strengths. We just need to build a better mousetrap, and not be afraid to tell the world about it.

We can fix what is wrong and change the narrative surrounding our industry. We can highlight the positive outcomes we achieve. And more importantly, we can attract new talent that wants to make a difference in the world and provide them with a world where they can make that difference. 

And it starts with you. When your child or new acquaintance questions what we do in workers’ comp, simply look them in the eyes and tell them, “We put Humpty back together again.”

This article originally appeared in the Outreach Center of WorkCompCollege.com.

Bob Wilson is Co-founder and President of WorkCompCollege.com, as well as author of the award-winning blog, “From Bob’s Cluttered Desk.” He can be reached at 855-706-8473 ext. 101

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