Talent training and development. | The industry will experience high turnover soon thanks to the aging workforce. This means the next generation of claims handlers will need to be trained and prepared. "It is important that we carefully examine training programs that are in place and ensure that they are adequately preparing people to have the necessary skillsets to handle claims," says George. Statutes and regulations are important to learn, but so are soft skills (such as critical observation, conflict resolution, communication and negotiation, for example). (Photo: Shutterstock)
Workplace violence. | Mass shootings are rare, so the workplace violence employers should be concerned with are the incidents related to the day-to-day. In retail settings, Walls says, this is usually linked to an increase in shoplifting. Another factor is a lack of reporting, whether by employees who think it's "a part of the job" or by businesses or schools not wanting customers in the community to think they're unsafe. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Unconscious bias. | Diversity and inclusion have become pillars of strength for many businesses, but unconscious bias is still an area of concern. "Unconscious biases are learned stereotypes that are automatic, unintentional, and deeply ingrained in each of us. Because many of these prejudices exist beyond the conscious level, we must first acknowledge that they in fact exist," says George. Training workers to identify and build skills to overcome these unconscious biases is a good first step. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Employee classification. | Determining whether a worker is an employee or independent contractor has affected workers' compensation for some time, but the rise of the gig economy is shining a brighter light on it now. Walls says states and the U.S. Department of Labor are very focused on this issue. "The rules regarding what constitutes an independent contractor not only vary state to state, but there can be different definitions in a single state under both their workers' compensation and their hourly rules," says Walls. (Photo: iStock)
4. Internet of things and Big Data become more important.

IoT continues to become more useful. Insurers can use real-time data to meet and enhance business objectives. This can boost efficiency and revenue and promote better customer service.

As the Big Data revolution continues to expand, IoT adoption in the insurance industry is expected to grow. It will enable collection of data in real time, resulting in lower premiums for insureds willing to participate. There will be ongoing adoption of connected devices for loss prevention and pricing in property-casualty, life and health insurance.


Globalization of risk management. | In a global economy, risk management has to be globalized. "Even businesses that do not have physical operations in other countries can be subject to international laws and regulations if they have an online presence or work with vendors in other countries," says Walls. (Photo: Shutterstock)
The consumer experience. | Customers expect their customer experience to be completely personalized in today's economy. Poor customer service impacts where one shops and the perception of a brand, but also whether one engages with the brand, whether one goes back, and other considerations. George says the same is true in workers' comp. "We believe emphasis on the consumer experience is paramount to success." (Photo: Shutterstock)
Measuring success. | "The old adage of 'What get's measured get's done' is very true in the workers' compensation industry. But then the question is are we measuring the right things?" asks Walls. "What can we do to drive the desired outcomes by adjusting the way we're measuring success?" Common metrics include value, experience, engagement, service and quality. (Photo: iStock)
Future of work. | Machine-learning, automation, talent attraction and employee retention are just some of the areas affecting the future of work. "How are we thinking differently about what work looks like in 2020 and beyond?" asks George. She adds that employees today want to feel connected: to each other, to their community, to passion. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Natural disasters. | "Without question, we're seeing more frequent and more catastrophic natural disasters than ever before. Disaster planning and response are an essential part of any risk managers job. However, the significant and devastating nature of the natural disasters we're seeing necessitates taking another look at your risk management program," says Walls. "You need to build in contingencies for your contingent plans. You also need to factor in what could happen if there was a significant and lengthy disruption in your supply chain. We need to be thinking of the unthinkable and preparing for it before it happens." (Photo: Yorgos Karahalis/Bloomberg)


Being proactive, rather than reactive, is a critical component for the property & casualty insurance industry. This is especially true in workers’ compensation where new issues affecting its profitability pop up frequently.

Kimberly George and Mark Walls, hosts of Out Front Ideas with Kimberly and Mark, a complimentary webinar that explores critical workers’ compensation and health care issues, have outlined what to watch for in 2019.

The topics of health care and the economy in the U.S. are two issues George and Walls have identified, especially as the 2020 election looms ever closer. In regard to health care, the cost of prescription drugs and the opioid crisis will likely be talking points for both Democrats and Republicans. The economy, however, will be subject to a variety of considerations, such as the unemployment rate, a lengthening trade war with China and President Trump’s declaration of another possible federal government shutdown.

Although these issues are important, they are only the tip of the iceberg. With this in mind, here are 10 more issues that George and Walls expect will affect workers’ compensation in 2019.

Related: 10 workers’ compensation issues to watch in 2019