A special thank you to Michael Eckert, CSP, CSHM, CAWC of Accident Fund Insurance Company of America for providing valuable insights into loss control leadership. For the past nine years, Mike has been the Director for Accident Fund’s Loss Control Services, overseeing a team of 40 loss control professionals in 20 states. Mike has nearly 30 years of experience as a safety/loss control professional in a variety of roles.
All effective loss control departments need outstanding leaders, and those exceptional leaders share common characteristics and an ability to focus their efforts on key areas.
There are many articles/speakers that discuss how to be an excellent leader, and the goal of this blog is to hone in on components that make someone a great leader in loss control.
We met with Mike Eckert, Director of Loss Control Services at Accident Fund Insurance Company of America, to discuss loss control leadership and the primary areas of focus for someone in that position.
Below you will find a list of our key takeaways.
Focus on Developing Your Team
- Loss control can be seen as a mixture of art and science – science being the technical knowledge required to ensure safety and provide recommendations to policyholders, and the art of knowing how to appropriately present and deliver this information
- An effective loss control leader ensures their team is strong in both respects and provides continuous support for growth, education and support to enhance consultant capabilities
- In many cases, loss control is the primary face of the organization for policyholders – your team must understand the importance of this and use their soft skills effectively to ensure a well served customer utilizing proper communication. This does not mean always talking “happy talk” nor being a pushover, but gaining the trust that comes with being technically accurate, approachable and being viewed as a trusted advisor and partner for long term success. This is also as important when dealing with agents and even internal clients within your company, such as underwriting, business development and marketing.
Hire the Right People – Not Simply the Most Experienced
- Traditionally insurance organizations have hired loss control consultants based primarily on past insurance experience, but this may not be the only approach
- As Mike explained, “We can generally teach someone about insurance as long as they have a solid safety and health background – but it’s often harder to teach the communication and other “soft” skills necessary to effectively engage with policyholders/agents, so we seek out those types of skills during our recruiting process”
- There is no perfect formula – cast a wide net with your hiring efforts and critically weigh all the factors that contribute to success in loss control
Focus on Retaining Talent
- Retention is essential to the success of any company, and can be particularly difficult in loss control due to the remote workforce
- Due to the lack of face-to-face interaction that loss control professionals often have with the rest of the organization, it is easy for team members to feel forgotten or alienated
- A leader needs to be mindful of this, and do his/her best to create a team culture where team members feel engaged and that they are active contributors to organizational success
- Mike stresses that it is important to bring the team together as often as possible, and making time for personal check-ins is critical
Know Your Ultimate Customer
- Loss control departments have a variety of end customers, including policyholders, agents, underwriting, business development, and more
- It is crucial to understand the varying priorities and desires of each stakeholder in order to maximize the value loss control delivers to each group
- Focusing on only 1 or 2 stakeholders can limit your team’s value to the organization, or worse, have your team seen as only a cost center
- A successful leader must have an ability to effectively liaison with all interested parties, speak their language, and earn their trust
Think Big Picture
- When insurance carriers develop a business plan, they may not fully evaluate what loss control resources will be needed to support the plan
- It is imperative that loss control leaders assess what resources will be required, plan accordingly, and advocate internally to ensure internal support
Plan for Your Aging Workforce
- It is no secret that the insurance workforce is aging, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that the industry will need to fill more than 400,000 jobs by 2020
- Mike noted that with three of his team members retiring in the past year, their organization lost a collective 100 years of experience
- Loss control leaders must continue to aggressively promote the industry/profession and plan for their organization’s future
- During the 2017 and 2018 Loss Control Summits, Chuck Henry of West Bend Mutual delivered an engaging presentation on how West Bend is promoting loss control as a career, and Mike provided a captivating presentation discussing the recruitment, development and retention of loss control professionals. More information on the presentations can be found in the above links.
We hope you have enjoyed this blog. If you have any questions, or would like to suggest ideas for a future blog, please do not hesitate to contact Warren Woermke at firstname.lastname@example.org.