Column: Workers' Comp

Opinion | Why Do We Ignore Diversity When It Produces Great Claims Results?

By: | June 1, 2018 • 2 min read
Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

My favorite family photo shows Mexican men in worn hats, barefoot children, resolute-looking women in long, plain dresses, and a goat, all standing under a thatched-roof covering.

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Shot in the early 1900s on a ranch near San Antonio, I’ve always imagined it could have served as a realistic setting for the 1960 film “The Magnificent Seven,” with Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Yul Brynner and four other white men riding in to save a village from the stereotypical Mexican bandits.

Perhaps because of those roots, the “diversity and inclusion” themes unexpectedly encountered in San Antonio during the Risk and Insurance Management Society Inc.’s annual conference in April grabbed my attention.

The conference sponsored a “Diversity and Inclusion Meet-up,” coincidentally held when Starbucks first faced backlash from two black men arrested for trespassing in one of its Philadelphia stores.

It was noticeable, though, that while RIMS’ diversity meet-up occurred on a Sunday inside San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, working-class Latino families crowded adjacent park facilities.

The meet-up, whose speakers included Robert Cartwright Jr., RIMS’ first African-American president, drew a largely student crowd. They discussed how businesses gain competitive advantages, expand their talent pool, and improve marketing opportunities by retaining employees from diverse populations.

Participants mentioned the assumptions commonly made when we encounter others different from ourselves.

Employee awareness about those types of assumptions might have prevented Starbucks’ brand damage following the arrest of the two black men legitimately sitting in the Philadelphia store waiting for a business meeting.

Many corporations, including some in workers’ compensation, have already started down the diversity path.

Liberty Mutual, for instance, maintains an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, recognized for its initiatives, including assuring employees that despite the nation’s current political climate, the insurer continues to welcome all viewpoints.

It was noticeable, though, that while RIMS’ diversity meet-up occurred on a Sunday inside San Antonio’s Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, working-class Latino families crowded adjacent park facilities.

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Many more Latinos strolled along San Antonio’s nearby River Walk and packed local restaurants, enjoying Sunday family time. The 2010 U.S. Census shows Hispanics or Latinos made up 63 percent of San Antonio’s population. Their numbers have probably grown considerably since.

Their ethnic concentration contrasted sharply with the mostly white and older demographic makeup of RIMS attendees inside the convention center.

So, it caught my attention when a source volunteered during a RIMS interview that a Travelers’ initiative to hire Hispanic adjusters and nurse case managers mirroring the populations the insurer serves produced an 80 percent year-over-year, overall improvement in workers’ compensation claims outcomes.

The impressive results show that claimants are less likely to welcome attorney representation when someone understanding their language and cultural sensitivities services their claim.

A longer-term result of such efforts may be the eventual diversification of the population attending RIMS conferences.

Me, I enjoyed thinking how mind-blowing it would be for my ancestors in that old photo if they could have envisioned one of their offspring well dressed and holding meetings inside San Antonio’s modern-day convention center. &

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]