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● Roberto Ceniceros
An improving job market brings opportunities for employees
in the workers’ compensation industry along with challenges
for their employers and their employers’ customers. One
large third-party administrator is experiencing an “uptick” in
employee turnover as the economy gradually improves, the
organization’s leader recently
discussed at a conference. Other TPA
executives tell me their employee
retention levels remain flat, but one
can reasonably foresee a repeat of
the first TPA’s experience as more job
An improving economy is good
for everyone and a worker’s ability to
advance into a better job is a positive
sign that the economy is functioning
as it should, by efficiently allocating
When the economy tanked, for
example, a risk manager I have
known for years reluctantly returned
to a TPA adjuster job following a
layoff. Her skills were under-utilized
and she wasn’t happy about returning
to a role she had held before
advancing in her career.
As the economy improved, she
landed a risk management position
where she is now happier, fully
applying her broader knowledge.
Her new employer also benefits from
her skill set that was under-utilized
during the recession.
The catch is that even moderate
employee turnover among TPAs
is difficult for customers, industry
leaders tell me, presenting challenges
for customer service continuity.
Clients suffer when a new adjuster
assumes a file they are unfamiliar
with. Customers like the service
consistency delivered by adjusters
and other TPA employees familiar
with their business practices and
claims handling preferences. They
want to keep adjusters they have
developed solid working relations
Losing employees also concerns
TPAs because they can see their
recruiting and training investments
walk out the door.
Consequently, TPA executives are
talking more about improving career
advancement opportunities for their
workers and how they might reshape
careers in their industry so they can
retain employees. That’s going to
mean getting inside people’s heads
and understanding their motivations.
There are many reasons people
switch jobs, including commute
times, salary increases, workplace
personnel issues and career
A founding member of the
Disability Management Employer
Coalition recently suggested I write
a story about the job churn he now
sees among the disability insurers,
consultants, and employers he has
known for years. He thinks the
movement is caused by the corporate
demands that emerged during the
recession, as companies moved to do
more with less.
He thinks workers are moving in
hopes of a lighter workload. I can’t
verify whether his theory about the
cause of job changes is correct.
But given his position in the
disability management community,
I suspect his observation that more
professionals are moving on as the
business outlook improves is on
The labor market has not fully
recovered from the Great Recession’s
impact. But industry leaders would
be wise to look ahead and rethink
employee retention strategies.
This is a cyclical challenge TPAs
have faced before. Pre-recession,
when the economy was booming,
employee churn was significant, I’m
told. But TPAs won’t be the only ones
wrestling with these issues as the
economy continues improving.
ROBERTO CENICEROS is senior editor
at Risk & Insurance® and co-chair of the
National Workers’ Compensation and Disability
Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at