Connecting with the community
A large part of what I and the Mobile Engagement Team do is to provide regional communities and education on how to work with the Workers Insurance Scheme.
As well as being the human face of icare, perhaps the most important thing we do is simply listen. Listening is the first step towards developing longer-term solutions for our customers, while at the same time building trust and respect between icare and our stakeholders.
There’s something meaningful about meeting customers face-to-face in their community. You get a different perspective, and an appreciation of local challenges that are often unique to the area.
Gaining local insights
An example of this is a recent trip to Moree I took, where I unexpectedly met with around 40 farmers’ wives or their daughters. It was a Wednesday, so all the men were at the cattle sales, being the day the weekly sales are held. Meeting with the local women in their community opened my eyes to some of the challenges they face, challenges that are rarely encountered or understood by those in urban or even many regional areas. As well as one of the most significant droughts in history, locals deal with a shortage of skilled labour, long wait lists for doctors' appointments and poor internet and mobile phone coverage, all of which makes it difficult to meet their workers insurance obligations.
By way of contrast, one of the most rewarding meetings I’ve had recently was with three managers from a security business who visited our pop-up office in Coffs Harbour. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about their needs, but as the conversation flowed I began to understand their challenges and was able to offer some meaningful advice. The owner was a larger-than-life South African, who looked like a front rower for the Springboks. Looking me in the eye he thanked me for listening and said when he first walked in he thought they were going to hear an icare marketing spiel. Instead, he told me, I had listened to their needs and was able to offer genuine and sincere assistance and direction, for which he was extremely appreciative.
“My favourite part of the job is when I'm able to offer a potential direction which may lead to solutions customers might not have considered.”
My favourite part of the job is when I'm able to offer a potential direction which may lead to solutions customers might not have considered.
I recently met with the owner of a bricklaying business who had a worker at home with a forearm injury. The man had been unable to work for five weeks, which was beginning to sap his motivation and cause some depression. He also couldn’t complete normal domestic tasks like mowing the lawn, and had to pay someone to do it for him.
Our meeting provided me with enough information to approach EML to have the claim escalated, a rehabilitation provider appointed, and the worker quickly assessed for domestic assistance. One of the most common questions the Mobile Engagement Team get asked is, who is icare and what is our function?
During the winter of 2018 I was a having a surf at my local break just down the road from home when I saw one of my neighbours, John, in the water near me. I didn’t know John very well, and while chatting in the surf I learned that he was a local GP. Fantastic, I thought to myself. John’s a GP therefore I won’t need to explain who icare is and what we do, as doctors are key stakeholders in the Workers Insurance Scheme. But I could tell by John’s body language that he had no idea who icare was. This experience was a simple reminder of the work the Mobile Engagement Team do and need to continue to do until the icare brand is a household name.
Preventing psychological injuries
During 2018 we visited and presented at 43 metro, regional and remote areas across NSW and met over 1,000 customers, but there’s still a vast area of the state we haven’t seen. Meeting communities and discussing changes to the scheme and how that impacts businesses sometimes leaves employers wanting more. We often receive requests for return visits to deliver a more specific or tailored education package.
In early 2018, I met with the regional manager of the NSW Business Chamber in Tamworth, Joe Townsend, to understand any local concerns and to see how icare could support local businesses. Joe explained that mental health issues were a challenge for both business and the community, with business owners struggling to identify, prevent and support staff or family with mental illness. As well, most business owners have neither the time nor resources to appropriately support staff or others who may be struggling.
Joe’s concerns were supported by icare’s statistics, which show that Tamworth and the New England area is experiencing the highest incidence of psychological injuries outside the major centres of Sydney, Wollongong and Newcastle. We subsequently developed a mental health forum with several subject matter experts as speakers, which was one of the most successful events the Mobile Engagement Team held during 2018.
We’ve replicated the Tamworth experience in Wollongong, Newcastle and Wagga Wagga, and plan to bring the format to other areas of NSW. At each location we’ve met with locals and have an appreciation of their concerns. By providing a human element to a faceless organisation, the Mobile Engagement Team can address some common social challenges and help deliver on icare’s social insurer philosophy.