Is “competency” enough when it comes to E&O prevention?

Throughout the years, I have heard many agency execs and staff comment that they “know what needs to be done” or “we are a veteran staff that know our jobs”. Said a different way, they feel their competency is “good enough” and is their reason for not feeling the need to be more diligent in the design and implementation of various procedures that will enhance their E&O culture and commitment.   

First let’s look at the definition of “competence”. It is “the ability to do something successfully or efficiently”. The ability to do something the right way. The key word here is “ability”. I am of the firm belief that virtually every agency in the United States has staff that have the ability to do the job and to do it the way they are supposed to do it.

The key issue is execution of that ability. Just because someone has the ability does not mean that they will actually do what they should be doing. If one were to survey agency management, it is probably fair to say that this is one of their biggest frustrations. They have staff that have the ability. The problem is that those same staff don’t always execute to the level of their ability.

As I interact with agencies, I will hear stories where the agency staff member knew what they were supposed to do. In fact, in many cases, there are exact procedures in place that detail what actions are required in various situations. The problem that has now generated an E&O claim is that the staff member “decided” not to execute to the level stated in their manual. Excuses such as “I didn’t really understand the procedure” or “I just didn’t have the time” are often used.

For agencies to reach the “platinum” level of E&O loss prevention takes a lot more than just competency. It takes a total buy-in from the staff, each and every one, that they will perform their duties to the level expected in the agency.

How is this achieved? It actually starts with hiring the right people and providing them with the necessary level of training, both initially and ongoing. It takes detailed job descriptions and procedures manuals where the employees is required to state that they understand the manual and will comply with the contents. It also involves auditing and a variety of other issues. When problems occur and it is clear that the employee did not perform to the required level, it takes disciplinary action, including termination if the situation warrants it. This may sound harsh but in the world of E&O loss prevention, merely having competence is clearly not enough.

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