Be Prepared, Not Scared

by Phil Kalin

These are the days when crisis planning pays off.

Like all of you, I’m carefully watching the impact of COVID-19 on our economy and preparing for its impact on my business. Our investment portfolio, just like everyone else’s, is taking a hit, but we’ll weather that. The bigger question for me is: how will it affect Pinnacol’s 56,000 policyholders and 650 employees? We need to think about how to help our employees stay healthy, ensure business continuity in the event of an outbreak or quarantine, and provide our customers good information about how they can manage through this. And, as a workers’ comp insurer, we need to help our customers understand the potential impact of the disease on their insurance liability.

As we think through these issues, it’s essential that our company has a single source for planning and implementing our response. We can’t have well-intentioned employees pursuing disconnected strategies and drawing from different information sources. And we can’t over-react: “Prepared, not scared” is the mantra.

We’re fortunate that we’ve conducted robust crisis planning for years, and have a strong mechanism in place to prepare and manage our response. That mechanism is our Incident Management Team. The IMT is a small group of leaders from our security, risk management, insurance operations, human resources and communications departments. For COVID-19 I’ve tasked this team with staying on top of developments, analyzing impacts, determining how to adapt our business processes, and planning and implementing our communications to internal and external stakeholders – just as they always do.

The beauty of this approach is that we’re not inventing a new wheel. We’re able to deploy a process we already have in place.

In fact, our IMT was ahead of the game. They conducted a crisis management tabletop exercise February 18, with the scenario of an employee who contracted the disease and may have exposed co-workers and customers. That exercise enabled them to think through the questions they’d need to answer and the processes they’d need to have in place. Now all they have to do is supplement the plan that emerged from the table-top, and it’s implementation-ready.

We’re also fortunate that, over the last two years, all of our employees have become accustomed to teleworking. The IMT sends out text and email alerts to all employees already when there are bad storms, encouraging or – if it’s really bad – requiring them to work from home. Every single one of our employees has a laptop that connects to our secure VPN, so they can serve our policyholders, injured workers, agents and providers just as smoothly from home as from the office. So in the remote eventuality of a quarantine, we can still do business. We’ve even planned for how to handle incoming and outgoing physical mail.

Not all of Pinnacol’s plans will be foolproof, and inevitably there will be things we haven’t thought of yet. But thank goodness we have those plans. If your company does not, use this as the opportunity to create them. I assure you, you will need them – if not for COVID, then for another societal and economic disrupter.

Phil Kalin

Phil Kalin joined Pinnacol Assurance as CEO in 2013. He has served as the chief executive of both public and privately-backed companies, including large hospital systems, as well as organizations focused on health care data, technology and education.

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