Liberty Mutual's Wesley Hyatt changes the workers' comp conversation
Growing up in Massachusetts -- the state the sport was invented -- Wesley Hyatt played basketball her entire life up through and including college. When she graduated and her life took her from East Coast to West, she still expected that coaching, or perhaps law school, would be her career path. But that changed when she got a job at a California office for Liberty Mutual.
“I moved out to the West Coast after college, because I hadn’t really spent any time out of New England and I wanted to explore a different part of the country,” she says. “I fell into a job with Liberty Mutual as a workers’ comp claim specialist that I thought would be an entry level job for a few years.”
Her affection for the job grew quickly, however, like many who hadn’t considered insurance as a career path. “Claims was a fun job: I felt like it was really rewarding and fulfilling because I was helping injured workers, learning a lot about medicine and about the legal environment,” she says. “As a young person coming out of college not knowing exactly what I wanted to specialize in, I thought it was a really cool way that I could learn a lot of different disciplines.”
The path she started on in California a decade and a half ago has now brought Hyatt all the way back to her home state of Massachusetts as SVP and manager, workers’ compensation claims and managed care for Liberty Mutual. Her career has also included some time outside the workers’ comp arena -- for a while, after coming back East, she worked in account management. But in returning to the line of business she started in, Hyatt has endeavored to apply the empathic connection she gained as a front-line manager early in her Liberty career to the workers’ comp business as a whole.
Like many leading executives adapting their charges to the digital age, Hyatt is currently leading a charge to digitally transform Liberty’s workers’ comp business, working in concert with Duck Creek on a modernization initiative for the claims processing system. But her leadership and advocacy for the injured worker came first. Hyatt spearheaded the OneVoice initiative, which aimed to refine the language used in discussing the workers’ comp claim process with injured employees.
“Empathy is important in any line of business, but it's extra important in workers' compensation because you're actually dealing with an employee and they see Liberty Mutual as an extension of their employer,” Hyatt explains. “Even if somebody gets hurt in their personal life, navigating medical treatment can be confusing and workers' comp adds yet more complexity.”
When workers found language confusing or combative, LIberty Mutual saw higher litigation rates, slower returns to work and longer treatment times. The goal was to replace phrases with negative connotation -- like “investigating your claim” with supportive language like “reviewing and collecting necessary information.” The program took 16 weeks to roll out, with thousands of stand-ups across the company sharing and practicing the key words and phrases Hyatt wanted the team to employ. Liberty also made six videos and a 70-phrase library to provide more support to its workers.
“As a company, our values guide us and we say, ‘We're going to put people first, we're going to act responsibly, we're going to make things better, keep it simple, be open and assume positive intent,’” she says. “All of those things make it easy for me as a leader to create that empowered environment at the front lines for our folks, because that's who we are as a company.”
There are other barriers besides language that Hyatt is taking on as she looks to lower the friction in the workers’ compensation process. Processes for reporting and receiving payment for claims in the line were paper-based, but Liberty has taken steps to migrate that to the web, especially the mobile phone and its app.
“We realized that people aren't really on laptops anymore, so we built a mobile-first injured worker tool set,” she says. “A lot of people don't want to go to the mailbox and get a check: That's a really specific use case where we launched a portal this year so injured workers can opt in to electronic funds transfer if they want to without having to send us a form.
COVID and comp
Many areas of insurance are facing questions as the coronavirus crisis rages. In workers’ compensation, this begins with a changing risk profile as some clients close locations embracing work from home, others have an influx of workers deemed essential, and still others are pausing operations until the economy is restarted to the fullest. At the same time, coronavirus is blurring the boundaries between work and personal life, which creates new challenges for the workers’ comp sector.
“We're not yet seeing an increase of claims from work from home environments, but we predict we may,” Hyatt says. “We're working the data in our new claims system, actually, so that we have the right coding and the right access to information. Are workers going to think to file a claim if they have back pain and they've been sitting at their desk at home?”
As a manager, though, Hyatt also has to consider her own team’s at-work well-being while isolated from the office. In her time with the company, she’s been involved with mentoring programs, including Liberty’s MBA graduate Corporate Development Program. She’s also supported two of the company’s Employee Resource Groups: WE@Liberty, for women at the company; and LEADA, Liberty Employees of African Descent & Allies, for which she is a group ally.
Hyatt also spearheaded a rotational program in the workers’ comp group: Each year, a top performing front-line manager from one of the insurer's regional claims offices takes a rotation with the group's senior leadership team, working directly for her and being involved in senior team staff meetings, travel, strategy sessions and more.
But coronavirus is impacting that high-touch strategy. Like many other managers, Hyatt relies on video conferencing and a supportive corporate structure to continue these gains with her staff.
“Thankfully the technology has been fantastic, whether it's Zoom or Teams or whatever, whether it's meetings or a virtual happy hour, these things are all important. If we're going to have connected and loyal employees, which is really what makes us tick as a company, as leaders, we have to double down and spend more time on that kind of thing.”