Coming Up Short: IT Talent Woes in Workers’ Comp

Fast Focus

Industries across the globe are struggling to fill IT positions and workers’ comp payers may face even greater challenges in keeping technology initiatives on track.

Industries across the globe are experiencing labor shortages in many areas, but the positions most urgently needed – and  most difficult to fill – are in information technology (IT).  Here in the U.S., there are nearly 4 million unfilled IT positions,1 600,000 of them for cybersecurity positions,2 and the computer/IT job sector is expected to grow by an additional 13% by 2030.3

The IT talent shortage has been anticipated for some time and was accelerated by the pandemic, which caused both an expansion of IT projects, including digitization, automation, and cybersecurity initiatives,  and a reshuffling of the labor force. For example, over 69% of organizations have expanded their cloud workloads over the past year,4 while a survey in late 2021 reported that 72% of tech employees were considering leaving their jobs in the year ahead.5

The attrition rate for IT employees in the U.S. has always been high, averaging 13.2% in 2018, but after 2020 the turnover rate increased to 21.3 %6 for technology workers with no signs of reversal anytime soon. The employee turnover rate across all job sectors increased by an average of 25% in 2021.7

The acute shortage of qualified IT workers is due to a number of factors, none of which are easily addressed, including:

Greater demand for digital technology, such as websites and applications from organizations of all types and sizes

A surge of investment in enterprise technology projects

Growing cybersecurity threats

The Great Resignation and shifting worker priorities

High turnover rates due to burnout and low job satisfaction

Stringent employer qualification requirements, including four-year and graduate degrees

Insufficient new talent entering the workforce, due to:

Inadequate computer science curriculums

Lack of internship and apprenticeship opportunities

Decreasing numbers of qualified tech workers immigrating to the U.S.

The impact of the IT talent shortage on U.S. businesses is great and, according to one study, could cost the U.S. economy more than $160 billion in revenue by 2030.8 Already, IT executives cite a shortage of talent as the primary obstacle to 64% of new technologies they would like to adopt,  75% of which are automation technologies.9

As serious as the IT talent shortage is for U.S. industries in general, it is particularly concerning for the insurance sector.

Insurance Industry Impact

The general labor shortage is greater in the insurance industry where the unemployment rate is only 1.5%, as compared to 3.6% for all industries.10  This is because insurance carriers were dealing with a talent shortage well before the pandemic, largely due to an aging workforce and a scarcity of younger workers attracted to a career in insurance. The median worker age in the insurance industry is 45, as compared to 42 for all industries, and 25% of the current insurance labor force is 55 years of age or older.10  Replacing those older workers is a challenge because, when surveyed, fewer than one in 10 millennials expressed interest in working in the insurance industry and eight out of 10 millennials said they were not even familiar with the industry.11

Workers are in short supply for a variety of positions in insurance, including claims adjusters, underwriters, and risk managers.12  Ironically, for many insurance company executives, technology is a primary piece of their strategy to maximize the talent they have and the tech talent they need to execute those strategies is in exceedingly short supply. In fact, insurers have the smallest pools of IT talent when compared to other financial services organizations. 13

US insurers have less digital and technology talent than other financial-services companies.

% of full-time equivalents (FTEs) in digital roles1

Insurance IT leaders are struggling to fill vacant positions, reporting that 65% of IT projects are delayed due to staffing shortages. In addition, 64% report that the IT staff they do have are experiencing burnout.14

Nevertheless, insurance companies are accelerating investment in technology initiatives, primarily focusing on these areas:

Enhanced customer experience

New product and service design

Increased digital distribution

Internal process automation15

The level of investment and resources required for technology initiatives depends not only on the scope of the project, but also on the agility of the underlying legacy system.  As noted in a recent McKinsey report on this topic, “putting a workflow engine on top of a legacy system usually does not work long-term.”15

Legacy systems are a concern for the industry overall, and for the workers’ comp sector in particular.

In a recent Healthesystems’ survey, 30% of participants cited outdated/legacy infrastructure as a factor likely to impact business resiliency and 40% of claims professionals saw outdated or inadequate claims processing systems as an obstacle to facilitating medical care for injured workers.16

The traditional, somewhat rigid, claims process can be frustrating to various stakeholders in workers’ comp and claims process automation was cited as the #1 most important technology 16 for workers’ comp stakeholders in the next three to five years.

And there is good reason to agree that automation should be a priority. When done well, automating processes can reduce manual effort, increase efficiency, reduce costs, and give experienced professionals more time to give more focused attention where it is needed, thereby improving the injured worker patient experience, as well as their own.

In fact, increased automation is likely to change the job descriptions for many insurance industry professionals, including within workers’ compensation.

Automation will change the mix of skills required for key roles in insurance.13

*Application Development and Maintenance

When so many manual tasks are automated, valued employees will have more time to use skills that require a human touch. Bringing more automation to the industry will likely change the skills required for many positions and may make them more desirable to younger workers.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has become a top priority for organizations as the need grows to digitize and push information to more endpoint devices for employees, partners, and customers. Additionally, the increase of remote workers and adoption of cloud-based technologies have created a borderless network environment which adds an even greater level of risk to both organizational data and computer systems.

In just one year, from 2020-2021, the percentage of technologies in deployment for security purposes rose from 15% to 84%, and IT leaders who are planning to increase security technology investments rose from 31% to 64% during the same period.9

Available talent to execute on those investments is in short supply. Between 2013 and 2021 the number of unfilled cybersecurity jobs worldwide increased 350% from 1 million to 3.5 million.17 In the U.S., over 700,000 cybersecurity jobs remain unfilled.18 Though there has been a tremendous effort to remedy this trend, the everchanging landscape in both technology and risk makes this an arduous task to overcome. This is a particularly serious challenge in workers’ compensation where all claims involve injury or illness and, therefore, personal health information (PHI) and other identifying information, such as social security numbers.

“Hackers are extremely attracted to this type of confidential data and the organizations that maintain it, due to the large quantities they store and the estimated value of $180 for each compromised record. Workers’ comp is a highly valuable target for identity theft, phishing attacks, ransomware, and other security threats,” explained Tony Brown, Director, Information Security at Healthesystems.

So, the need for automation, technological growth, and an improved user experience must be balanced with the appropriate level of security training, education, and awareness for all employees emphasizing the absolute requirement to keep data private and secure.

Workers’ comp is a highly valuable target for identity theft, phishing attacks, ransomware, and other security threats.”

Tony Brown, Director, Information Security
Healthesystems

Tackling the Talent Gap

The competition for IT talent is fierce and spans myriad industries and geographies. Some things to consider in filling IT jobs and keeping important technology projects moving forward are:

Retain the talent you already have by creating desirable career paths and opportunities for advancement

Improve work-life balance for employees with flexible hours and remote work arrangements

Measure success by productivity and results and relieve IT workers of superfluous duties, such as attending inessential meetings

Develop internal candidates for open positions and be open to good people from other departments who might be interested in learning new skills

Be open to non-traditional external job candidates, such as those who chose coding school rather than college

Solicit suggestions and referral from younger workers about how to attract their peers

Bring on reliable partners to supply needed products, services, and expertise

What to Do in Workers’ Comp

The workers’ comp mission is to restore injured workers to good health and get them back to work as quickly as possible. Digitization, automation, data analytics, and cybersecurity are increasingly important to accomplishing this mission. The following tips can help workers’ comp payers optimize the resources they have and prioritize technology projects to accomplish essential goals:

Update technology strategies to stay competitive, while also attracting and keeping the right talent. Many workers’ comp and insurance organizations have tried to modernize legacy systems, rather than replacing them with more modern capabilities. This can be a high-cost and high-risk undertaking because it is often difficult, if not impossible, for older technologies to become modularized and adaptable to changing needs. Investing in new technology stacks that automate traditionally manual tasks and provide self-service functionality will allows employees to focus on work that produces the highest value and better serve customers.

As noted by Brett Luna, Chief Information Officer, Healthesystems: “Meaningful and intentional movement towards modern technologies across the workers’ comp industry will help it to move forward with more innovative solutions, retain talent, and maintain happiness and productivity for our workforce.”

Modern Technologies for Moving Forward in Workers’ Comp

Cloud-based computing platforms
Object-oriented programming languages
Event-driven architecture
Artificial intelligence/machine learning
Automated and configurable self-service features

Meaningful and intentional movement towards modern technologies across the workers’ comp industry will help it to move forward with more innovative solutions.”

Brett Luna, Chief Information Officer
Healthesystems

Prioritize service by focusing on projects that will improve the customer and injured worker experiences. Make sure that new solutions are perceived as a help and not a hinderance. For example, automated service functions via mobile apps and chatbots must perform at least as well as traditional customer service channels.

Improve connections and the flow of information across the workers’ comp healthcare ecosystem. Agile and secure integrations with providers, partners, and vendors can extend automation efficiencies beyond internal processes, further reducing the number of tasks required for your staff and shortening the amount of time it takes to deliver care and process claims.

Provide actionable information. Copious amounts of data can be gleaned as claims processes become more automated, but on one is helped by reams of data that is difficult to decipher and use. Filtering, organizing, and presenting data to quickly convey information that is relevant and supports decision making is key to productivity and optimal outcomes.

Rely on quality partners. Select partners who will collaborate, customize, and contribute to your strategic objectives with innovative, flexible, and secure solutions. In a challenging talent environment, the right partners can provide much-needed technologies, resources, and services. For partners you can count on in the long term, set high standards, not only for the product or service technical requirements, but also for integrity and cultural fit. A good rule of thumb is to use same criteria applied to candidates for high-level employment positions.

The IT talent shortage is a significant issue for workers’ comp insurers, but there are ways to mitigate the challenges and signs of hope. The industry is already adapting to the changing labor environment, such as nine out of 10 carriers employing hybrid work arrangements and almost 40% offering flexible hours to staff members.14 Industry organizations are also expanding diversity initiatives, exploring non-traditional talent pools, and seeking innovative and beneficial partnerships.

References

  1. Mearian L. and Guman G. How many jobs are available in technology? August 11. 2022. Computerworld. https://www.computerworld.com/article/3542681/how-many-jobs-are-available-in-technology.html?page=2#toc-1
  2. Rockeman, O. Hackers’ Path Eased as 600,000 U.S. Cybersecurity Jobs Sit Empty. March 30, 2022. Bloomberg. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-03-30/hackers-path-is-eased-as-600-000-cybersecurity-jobs-sit-empty
  3. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Computer and Information Technology Occupations. Occupation Outlook Handbook. April 18, 2022. https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/home.htm#:~:text=Employment%20in%20computer%20and%20information,add%20about%20667%2C600%20new%20jobs.
  4. Foundry. Cloud Computing Study 2022. April 6, 2022. https://resources.foundryco.com/download/cloud-computing-executive-summary
  5. Retaining tech employees in the era of The Great Resignation. A survey by TalentLMS and Workable. September 10-12, 2021.TalentLMS. https://www.talentlms.com/tech-employees-great-resignation-statistics
  6. Silverman, R. Retail Sector Wages Are Rising Due to Higher Employee Turnover and e-Commerce Demand. October 2020. Aon. https://humancapital.aon.com/insights/articles/2020/retail-sector-wages-are-rising-due-to-higher-employee-turnover-and-e-commerce-demand
  7. De Smet, A., Dowling, B. et.al. The Great Attrition is making hiring harder. Are you searching the right talent pools? July 13, 2022. McKinsey. https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/people-and-organizational-performance/our-insights/the-great-attrition-is-making-hiring-harder-are-you-searching-the-right-talent-pools?utm_source=search&utm_medium=SEM&utm_campaign=GAGA+2.0&gclid=Cj0KCQjw0JiXBhCFARIsAOSAKqA95CAr3Xs8rbUXhXGWexrXSnmxUm8bBXkQZ45A0mEOvp3ipvamb-kaArZyEALw_wcB
  8. Franzino, M., Guarino, A. et. al. The Future of Work: The Global Talent Crunch. Korn Ferry. https://www.kornferry.com/content/dam/kornferry/docs/article-migration/FOWTalentCrunchFinal_Spring2018.pdf
  9. Gartner. Gartner Survey Reveals Talent Shortages as Biggest Barrier to Emerging Technologies Adoption. September 13, 2021. https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2021-09-13-gartner-survey-reveals-talent-shortages-as-biggest-barrier-to-emerging-technologies-adoption
  10. Hilton, J. Insurance Industry Facing Massive Talent Shortage. June 1, 2022. InsuranceNewsNet. https://insurancenewsnet.com/innarticle/insurance-industry-facing-massive-talent-shortage
  11. Millennial Generation Attitudes About Work and The Insurance Industry. 2012. The Griffith Insurance Education Foundation and The Institutes. https://www.theinstitutes.org/doc/Millennial-Generation-Survey-Report.pdf
  12. Sassian, M. Bridging the Insurance Talent Gap. December 3, 2021. https://www.iii.org/insuranceindustryblog/bridging-the-insurance-talent-gap/
  13. Catlin, T. Chester, A. et. al. Transforming the talent model in the insurance industry. July 6, 2020. McKinsey. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/transforming-the-talent-model-in-the-insurance-industry
  14. Osterman Research. Multi-cloud Annual Research Report 2022. May 2022. Strata. Strata State of Multi-Cloud Identity Report 2022
  15. Santenac, I. and Majkowski, E. How to sustain digital transformation and mange human capital. February 5, 2021. Tapestry Networks. https://www.ey.com/en_gl/insurance/how-to-sustain-digital-transformation-and-manage-human-capital
  16. 2022 Workers’ Comp Industry Insights Survey Report. February 2022. Healthesystems. https://rxinformer.healthesystems.com/lp/compsurvey2022/
  17. Morgan, S. Cybersecurity Jobs Report: 3.5 Million Openings In 2025. November 9, 2021. Cybercrime Magazine. https://cybersecurityventures.com/jobs/
  18. Cybersecurity Supply/Demand Heat Map. August 2022. CyberSeek. https://www.cyberseek.org/heatmap.html

RxInformer

Since 2010, the semi-annual RxInformer clinical journal has been a trusted source of timely information and guidance for workers’ comp payers on how best to manage the care of injured worker claimants and plan for the challenges that lay ahead. The publication is an important part of Healthesystems’ proactive approach to advocating for quality care of injured workers while managing the costs associated with treatment.
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