Claire Muselman – Director of Workers’ Compensation
Continental Western Group
Claire Muselman has been instrumental in promoting the welfare of workers and equipping them with the resources they need to be productive and live well. As the Director of workers’ compensation claims department at Continental Western Insurance Companies, Claire has changed the way worker’s claims are processed.
With over 15 years of experience in this field, she has helped shift the focus from injury to recovery through her innovative program of the Workers Recovery Unit. In this interview with me, Claire talks about her passion for helping worker’s overcome challenges and move on with the right resources and honest communication.
An early start
Ever since her college days, Claire was passionate about becoming a lawyer. Being an adopted child herself, she was eager to enter Family Law and help other children who had been adopted or were in the foster care system. After graduation, during which time Claire was also a bartender, she met her tennis partner’s dad, the head of the workers’ compensation law firm. He offered her an internship position and ever since then, Claire has become a powerful voice in the workers’ compensation industry.
‘While I am very blessed and thankful for the career path I’ve chosen, I so want to do something around that space for other adopted kids or kids that are in the foster care system.’
Claire is also focused on working with CASA (Court-Appointed Special Advocates). She believes her personal experience as well as her professional experience working with worker’s compensation could help lend itself to helping with the foster and adoption processes. Her motivation is in using her own experiences to create a better system that helps every human (child or worker) in the future live a better experience.
Current commitments and engagements
As Directors of workers’ compensation at the Claims department, Claire is largely involved with companies in manufacturing, distribution and agriculture. Being a small regional carrier, Claire believes that her company is able to have a more personalized approach to the people that they serve and her team. Presently, she has a team of 16 employees directly working under her along with 13 indirect reports.
In addition, Claire is a great contributor to the workers’ comp industry in several ways. She is the Iowa Ambassador for the Alliance of Women in Workers’ Compensation which she believes has helped really develop female leadership in a different capacity than ever before. The group does tremendous work in bringing different methods of communication and education and creates a safe space to discuss various issues that an individual may have faced.
Claire also writes for workerscompensation.com. Her focus is on articles surrounding the advocacy approach and how every individual can be the change of what they want to see for tomorrow. She talks a lot about the philosophical theme of advocacy and how every person in this industry has the ability to make a difference in that space.
‘I think it does not matter where you sit in the workers’ compensation space, you’re able to effect change if you just took a moment and start to realize the impact that each of us have on someone else’s life.’
Claire also co-hosts a podcast with Gregory Hamlin, the Vice President of Claims at Berkeley Industrial. Through this platform they voice the various issues in workers’ compensation that people might not be either well educated in as well as different avenues that are coming out within the industry.
Additionally, Claire is also a monthly contributor to the magazine, ‘Just Begin’ that focusses on the emotional well-being of everyone within the space which can get pretty difficult dealing with the challenges that one faces in the industry every day. Through her writing, Claire helps equip people with the resources to take care of themselves, especially during the COVID pandemic.
She also serves on the board for Kids’ Chance in Iowa. The platform is a nonprofit organization that raises funds to provide scholarship opportunities to children whose parents have been injured to the point that they have passed away from the workers’ compensation injury and provides them the chance to raise funds to attend college.
Standout moments in the workers’ compensation journey
Passionate about bringing in change and enhancing customer service in the industry, Claire recalls effecting change by shifting the focus from working under a third-party administrator to focus on the impact of individual contributors. This idea led to Claire’s innovative idea of the Workers’ Recovery Unit in the workers’ compensation space, a concept that is dealt with utmost compassion and empathy which were sorely missing under the earlier structure.
Another moment of pride for Claire has been the recognition for her work and her team through the ‘Making a Difference Award’ by InTouch Magazine. This is a peer-voted award that recognizes professionals who go above and beyond to help their colleagues and clients while maintaining the highest levels of excellence in their roles, making it a huge honour for the recipient. The ideal nominees for these awards are professionals that dedicate their life efforts to achieving excellence in the workplace and show outstanding skills in their roles.
‘It’s great to a leader that is recognized, it’s ten thousand times more impactful when your whole team rises up with you and is recognized together for their collective efforts.’
Overcoming challenges in the workers’ compensation domain
‘One of the biggest things that I’ve had to overcome is just getting out of my own way and realizing that there are some amazing people that want to help you along the process.’
Claire believes that many people fail to recognize their own flaws or just keep moving towards their goal without assessing their skill-set. This can lead to several things going wrong and even set someone up or failure. By surrounding oneself with a team that complements one weaknesses is a great way of building a sustainable foundation to grow and evolve as a unit.
For most people, 2020 was immensely challenging and Claire recalls how the pandemic was a huge game-changer for every single human being in the industry. One of the things that she did was to take the principles that impact one’s day to day life and apply it both inside and outside of work. Being in an isolated space and losing the power of human connection was difficult for everyone and Claire’s compassion and empathy helped communicate with her team, customers and even personal relations in a better manner.
Looking at the future, Claire also foresees additional challenges. With the vaccine coming out, not many people may want the vaccine which may counter with an organization’s policies. Similarly, masks and protective gear are perceived differently by individuals.
As COVID cases decline, a lot of organizations will want to resume offices while people may be inclined to continue working from home – all of these can bring about a new set of challenges in the coming times and a lot of it will be decided by the state mandates.
Future business plans
Moving forward, Clare hopes to continue improving and streamlining the process for improved customer service. She is also eager to embrace technology applications in certain avenues like a straight through claims processing on smaller claims or trying to automate some of the mundane tasks that are compliance-focused and time-dependent. According to Claire, the adoption of technology helps free up time for understanding human behavior, and driving effective, meaningful, and organizational change through humans.
Regarding marketing the business, there is a marketing person and underwriters who work with independent insurance agents.
Top philosophies and core values
Claire is a staunch supporter of the advocacy-based approach. Initially, the workers’ compensation was founded to just restore people that were injured at work. Everything was done at a technical level with compensation focused on a particular injury or event.
For Claire, the focus was not a particular injury but the human being that was injured. Every injury doesn’t just impact the body part but also all the daily functions that require the body part to function. She believes the shift needs to be in also incorporating the psychological components that make up that healing process.
I hope that we start to treat injured workers in a capacity that they really need, to look at the entire person and find ways to get them back into their life environment because if you can get them back into their daily functioning life, the work will come.
Advice for people entering the workers compensation industry
‘You are a human game changer that can make, drive effective meaningful change for somebody on a daily basis.’
There is a huge scope within the industry that often is perceived in a limited way to be all about processing paperwork. Instead, Claire believes there is a huge talent gap because the field has elements of sociology, criminal justice, communications and a lot such aspects that are all valuable in this industry.
Here, people get the opportunity to interact with people daily and make their lives better and a lot of industries can’t do that. But within the industry, each individual has the ability to change the trajectory of somebody’s life and understand the ripple effect of how many people can be impacted as the result.
Two learnings in the industry
- Drive effective meaningful change from whatever seat you sit in.
A lot of people talk about change but only a few ac on it. Regardless of whether it works or fails, Claire believes that it is important to act on what matters and as long as it comes from a good place, it will offer value.
- Leave this place better than we found it.
Everyone has the power to do good things and it is also an individual’s duty to apply their experiences and ensure that whatever hardship they faced is not faced by another.
Key benefits of Continental Western Insurance Companies
One of the key highlights according to Claire is their ability to customize an approach for workers’ compensation that most of the people are not doing. Here the focus is on the injured worker and maximizing their recovery through partnerships instead of the typical nurse triage line.
Claire’s team has avenues to the physician and emergency room so that when someone is injured they are able to report and then speak to a doctor immediately whether it be through FaceTime or using different types of technology.
Additionally, they also adopt a jurisdictionally based model so that the adjustors can understand the interworking of the state that they operate in and make sure that things are going as seamlessly as possible.
Another thing Claire prides herself in is her old-school attitude. They helps phrase things in terms that are easier for workers to understand, send handwritten cards to injured workers to make sure that they feel seen, heard and acknowledged.
‘It’s really trying to pick up on those key human elements of figuring out exactly what this person needs from a support standpoint to make sure that we are driving effective meaningful change to get them on the road to recovery.’
Vision for workers’ comp domain
Claire’s vision is to embrace artificial intelligence to help get a lot of the boring processing stuff off of the desks of adjustors and focus on the psychosocial elements of the humans. The advocacy model needs to be built within the entire organization and encouraged from top down leadership.
Additionally, the utilization of remote medicine or telemedicine is going to be interesting, because a lot of people are still not comfortable with it but it offers a broader scope of access.
Emerging trends in the workers’ compensation space
The emerging trend for return-to-work is really thinking outside the box. There have been really good partnerships, where people get to work within their homes and then find ways to confirm that the work is actually being done. This helps gives an injured worker that intrinsic sense of completion and acknowledgement that they have achieved something.
Modified work is going to be huge because of the way that technology has come about and the amount of the work that can be done from home while also looking at the psychological components of humans that strive for human connection.
In some cases, there will be need for volunteer or other options using these avenues for somebody with a debilitating injury. Looking at different avenues of re-training and really trying to do everything in to get a human being back to their life environment so that they could continue to move forward.
‘People don’t want to sit at home and be disabled for the rest of their lives so let’s figure out other ways that we can get people back into a life environment that can be conducive to work as well.’