Archive for May, 2012

Employees: Your greatest asset and your greatest challenge

People are the key to success in any organization.   One may have the most advanced processes or innovative technology, but success will not happen without the right people to make it all work.   In a day and age when cutbacks are the norm, having the right people is even more critical.   That said, the success only comes when the right people are in place, as the wrong people can become an anchor in any organization.

 

Consider that eight top tier employees may be able to do the work of ten who are average.   Consider that headcount is the single largest expense in most organizations.   Consider that it is employees who are the differentiator between the ordinary and extraordinary.

So now the big question becomes how to find those employees.   With unemployment remaining high, there is the thought that many are just sitting on the sidelines waiting to be acquired.   While this may be true, it isn’t always.    There is another school of thought that seeking those with experience, especially when it comes to claims knowledge, can be the salvation.  Again, this can be true but often is not.

Some of the best hires I have ever made had no experience whatsoever.   Some of the worst had extensive experience with years of bad habits that become increasingly difficult to change with time.  There have also been those with experience who were invaluable to organizational success.

Perhaps this is why finding the right fit for any organization, and especially claims organizations, can be very difficult.   I will share what has worked for me, as well as some thoughts from others on what has worked for them.    Of course, our success is not a guarantee but hopefully a roadmap that will help others seeking improvement.

Some organizations lay out a requirement for college degrees, with a specific grade point average.   While there are many successful people who do not have college degrees, this can be beneficial to claims organizations where staff must understand torts while interpreting contracts and laws.   I have found that requiring a degree with a 3.0 grade point average, while not the sole criteria, can be a good baseline for identifying those likely to be successful in claims.

Aside from education, it is often beneficial if candidates have experience in character building jobs.  For example, I worked my way through college waiting tables, tending bar and doing a variety of outdoor work under the blistering Phoenix sun.  While not glamorous, the jobs built character and taught important life lessons. Balancing studying and work is also a good precursor to the often chaotic life inside claims organizations.

It is also important to differentiate between types of positions being filled.   While the college degree can be a benchmark used to identify candidates, consider that it may be trumped by experience if the person is to handle toxic torts, or other complex claims.   But also consider that the vast majority of claims aren’t that complex, usually involving auto accidents, general liability or workers’ compensation.   This can be broken down even further to simple material damage claims that make up the bulk of what comes through the doors of most claims organizations.

In addition to setting benchmarks such as education and experience, some look to pre-employment testing.  These tests are used to screen job applicants and can include testing of cognitive abilities, knowledge, work skills, physical and motor abilities, personality, emotional intelligence, language proficiency, and even integrity.

According to the American Management Association, companies utilizing such tests have found that they increase the probability of success on the job, reduce turnover, save time in the search and recruitment process and improve morale.   Consider that while skills can be trained, attitude cannot, and such tests can fill an organization with positive attitudes, the foundation of success.

One of the most popular personality tests in the world is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a psychological-assessment system based on the work of psychologist Carl Jung. Two and a half million Americans a year take the Myers-Briggs. Eighty-nine companies out of the US Fortune 100 make use of it, for recruitment and selection or to help employees understand themselves or their co-workers.

Often the testing can identify traits that may not come out in the interview, where candidates often put their best foot forward.   Some lines of questioning may inquire about:

 

  • Innovation versus efficiency
  • Diversity of ideas
  • Flexibity versus rigidity
  • Goal orientation
  • Need for stability

Of course there are no right or wrong answers, but the testing provides the ability to best match a personality profiles with the goals of your organization.  For example, if you are a growing and innovative company it might not be the best fit if the employee likes the status quo and is adverse to technology.

The use of this type of testing becomes evident as the corporate culture gels.   Case in point, Southwest Airlines, which Employee Benefit Adviser says has used the test for years.  Southwest also depicts that organizational transition from ordinary to extraordinary described in the self help book Re-Adjusted.    Those who have flown the airline, known for their “warrior spirit, servants heart and FUN LUVing attitude”, can likely attest to the Southwest employees being the differentiator among the competition.

While this testing is no guarantee of success, it is another arrow in the quiver that can be used to gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly challenging marketplace.   Certainly some companies have a fear of such testing; a valid concern when not properly administered.   To allay those fears, it is critical that when using such tests that they are valid, reliable and do not violate equal opportunity laws.

 

*****

Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of multiple books including Kicked to the Curb and Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules For Taking Your Claims Organization From Ordinary to Extraordinary.   He is a seasoned industry veteran having head roles in adjusting, management and executive leadership for multiple Top 10 P&C insurers.   To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com.

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May 22, 2012 at 6:49 am Leave a comment

Effectively pursuing judgments against Chinese manufacturers of defective products

One of the benefits that the legal process provides in our society is a series of checks and balances against manufacturers of defective products. The courts have been used for years to ensure that goods reaching consumers are safe, and when they are not, actions have been taken to ensure remedies. The downside to due process, in particular litigation abuse,  is that it has served to chase jobs and production overseas.

Companies in search of cheaper labor have flocked to places such as India, Mexico and in particular, China. What may cost a dollar to produce in the United States can cost pennies to produce in China. While this has served to benefit the consumer and company profit margins, it has brought with it an entirely new dynamic in terms of product safety and accountability.

Many consumers, insurers and attorney’s in the United States are under the impression that pursuing the makers of faulty products can result in obtaining judgments against Chinese manufacturers that will be legally binding. While China did join the Hague Convention in 1991, it is important to understand that they only did so for the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters. Unfortunately, this does not bind any Chinese manufacturer to a judgment obtained abroad.

In speaking with my counsel in Shanghai, there are steps that can be taken by those who have obtained judgments abroad, but they must be taken in the People’s Republic of China. A party, or a company, who has suffered damages is entitled to bring their action in a Chinese court and the evidence, excluding the foreign judgment, will be considered and damages can be awarded. As is the case in many foreign countries, finding competent counsel to handle these types of cases can be difficult.

Currently, we are one of the only organizations with counsel in Mainland China. We also remain one of the few businesses outside of the People’s Republic with clientele on the inside. This means that we are one step ahead of all others when it comes to securing judgments against Chinese manufacturers of defective products. While this can be a daunting task, it is one that must be pursued, to ensure that the goods being imported both safe and of sound quality.

If you are pursuing the manufacturer of a product from China that caused damages, it is imperative to understand the risks and pitfalls associated with obtaining both a judgment and a recovery. It is also important to understand the law that would govern both, which will be Chinese law, not American law as many mistakenly believe. If you have a pending case or an existing judgment, utilizing our services and connections in mainland China could be very beneficial to your bottom line.

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Christopher Tidball is the author of Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules to take your Claims Organization from Ordinary to Extraordinary! He provides consulting services to American and Chinese insurers to provide a streamlined end to end claims workflow, including pursuit of judgments against negligent manufacturers. To learn more, please visit www.christidball or e-mail chris@christidball.com.

May 9, 2012 at 5:26 am Leave a comment

Could the NFL be kicked to the curb?

The untimely death of Junior Seau marks the latest in a series of events that have marred the reputation of the National Football League.  From Spygate and Bountygate to random thuggery and concussion related lawsuits, the string of bad press for this organization has been relentless.

Never mind that football is America’s greatest pastime.  Never mind that more than a million youth play this truly American sport annually.  Never mind the wisdom of greats like Vince Lombardi, Tom Landry and Chuck Noll.   Never mind Joe Namath, Bart Starr, Terry Bradshaw or the rest of our gridiron heroes.

Forget  “The Immaculate Reception” ,  “The Drive” or any number of other plays that had millions of American’s captivated.   Right now, the sport has immense challenges.   From those who simply think it is too violent to those who are justifiability outraged at the actions of some coaches, this great American pastime is at a crossroads.

The challenge that the NFL faces is far worse than just the bad press.  Rather, it is going to be the monetary damages related to the relentless litigation by former players.   More than 1500 current and former players including Jamal Anderson, Chris Doleman and O.J. Santiago have joined together claiming that the NFL hid the dangers of concussions from them.

From a pure assumption of risk standpoint, it might seem presumptuous to think that hits to the head could possibly, just possibly, cause concussions.   After all, football is a contact sport and one wears a helmet for a reason.  But, alas, in the American culture of victimization where litigation reigns supreme, it seems that these claims may actually find their way to a jury of peers, who just may happen to be football fans.   While these fans may have the best of intentions when ultimately doling out big jury verdicts, they may not truly understand the long term implications on the viability of those teams having to pay the award.

The consequence of such litigation isn’t lost on those who would just as soon see the sport banned.   Just this year, the city of Los Angeles banned football on local beaches.   This coming Tuesday at NYU, ABC Nightline Correspondent John Donovan will host a debate entitled “Ban College Football”.  While this movement may be small today, the litigation will be a means to achieve their end against a sport that a few deem to be too competitive in a society where competition, accountability, results and success are continually in the crosshairs.

Not too long ago, children were playing dodgeball and tag at schools that have not only banned these games, but recess, cupcakes and Santa Claus as well.   While it is a sad commentary on our society, it is a reality that football fans better proactively guard against.

As the host of the blocking and tackling blog, it is no secret that I am a football fan.   Not only for the sport and the life’s lessons it teaches our young men, but for the strategy, sportsmanship and wisdom that can be used in our real world business dealings.

While it may be premature to make a prediction about the demise of the NFL, and potentially the entire sport, it is something that all fans should take under advisement.   As the concussion related litigation ramps up, it will only be a matter of time until equipment manufacturers, coaches, sponsors and other deep pockets are named as defendants.

As that happens, the media will be relentless in their quest to proclaim football as America’s most dangerous pastime.   Never mind that hoopsters, cheerleaders and bicyclists sustain far more injuries than football players.  With a media that tends to blow things way out of proportion, it will only be a matter of time until parents begin to reconsider football as an opportunity for their kids.  As coaches find themselves named in lawsuits, they will second guess their choice of career.   As sporting goods manufacturers are sued for “faulty” equipment, they, too, will seek greener pastures.   All as the result of litigation, which may be well intended by the “victims”, but is likely to have dire consequences for sports fans.

While we shouldn’t minimize the tragedies in the NFL, we should consider that this is a sport with tremendous risks.   If a person puts themselves in the path of a 300 pound lineman there is a chance that they will get injured.   It’s called assumption or risk, and it is a valid.   While safety should be a concern, so too should the preservation of a sport that is uniquely American.

In our deeply divided society, football is one of the very few things that has transcended race, religion and politics to bring Americans together.    Rather than demonize the sport, we should learn all that football has to teach us, which is far more than hitting hard and scoring points.   It is the combination of teamwork, strategy, faith, perseverance, accountability that gives us all the ability to effectively execute our basic blocking and tackling on a daily basis.

Christopher Tidball is an executive claims consultant and the author of multiple books, including Kicked to the Curb and Re-Adjusted: 20 Essential Rules To Take Your Organization From Ordinary To Extraordinary!  He is a veteran of the insurance and finance industry, have worked with multiple top 10 P&C carriers.   He currently provides consulting services to multiple industry leaders.  To learn more, please visit www.christidball.com or e-mail chris@christidball.com.

May 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm 1 comment


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Chris Tidball is a claims and revenue management consultant and author of the "20 Essential Rules" series of self and organizational improvement books. You can ask him a question at chris@christidball.com

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