Today, with talk about global warming, carbon footprints and ozone layer depletion, businesses are hyper-focused on saving our natural resources. However, organizations also need to turn their focus inward to their most valuable resource: their employees.
Schedule optimization — and, now, predictive scheduling — is becoming critical for successful facility management. It’s one thing to hire the best and brightest people. However, if you don’t schedule them properly, you won’t be fully utilizing their talents.
Say farewell to ‘favoritism’
A common practice is to rely on known “go-to” staffers when open positions become available. While this may appear to be a reliable short-term fix, in the long run it is inefficient and can even lower employee morale. Staff who are eager to earn some extra overtime may resent what could be viewed as favoritism toward others.
It’s a challenging situation, as staff with lower morale may be less likely to provide quality care. Even those who are the “go-to” staffers may suffer from burnout and, in turn, lower morale. Repeatedly calling on the same staffers to fill open positions can backfire.
Predictive scheduling is key
Predictive scheduling allows schedulers to determine staffing levels in advance, using data insights to drive decisions. This is obviously more efficient than adjusting schedules on the fly or, worse, looking back at the previous week and saying, “You know, if we had staffed better maybe we could have avoided some of that overtime.”
We all know that scheduling is both an art and a science. It’s an art because you must know the strengths and weaknesses of your staff, which staffers work well together (and which don’t), and during which shifts they perform best. It’s also a science, as schedulers at long-term care facilities must staff to patient acuity, and to facility PPD levels, always keeping in mind overtime hours and departmental budgets. If your LTC facility might not be at the optimum staffing level, based on census data, you’ll want to adjust it beforehand, not after the fact.
Another benefit of predictive scheduling is simplified regulatory compliance. Staffing is a key component of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Five-Star Rating system for nursing homes. Use of predictive scheduling can help ensure you are staffing appropriately and protecting both your facility’s rating and its reputation. When it comes time for your Payroll-Based Journal reporting, your numbers will reflect your facility’s adherence to staffing guidelines.
Again, predictive scheduling is more efficient and avoids employees “crashing and burning” from working extra-long shifts, back-to-back shifts or too many hours in a given week. By having all the data available, you can better manage schedules and accommodate PTO and any special requests, which will also result in happier employees.
The ‘ideal schedule’
With predictive scheduling in place, it is possible to create the ideal schedule. Several critical factors must be considered and in place:
- Knowledge of your census and resident counts
- Integrated/interconnected data
- Knowledge of when staff are clocking in and out
- Knowledge of when are people taking PTO
- Taking holidays into account
- Full visibility of data across departments and locations
Keep employees in the loop
Employees who feel they have input into their schedules, such as which open shifts they can pick up, are likely to be more satisfied employees. In our mobile society, it makes sense to be able to communicate with employees any time, any place.
Using mobile devices to post and fill open shifts makes the scheduler’s job easier. No more scrambling in the face of last-minute call outs. Giving employees the ability to see and request open shifts from their mobile devices is a win-win situation.
It’s a short-term solution with long-term benefits. Engaged employees tend to be more loyal. Given the high turnover rate in the LTC industry, it’s important to boost employee morale whenever possible. High turnover translates to inconsistent patient care and, in many cases, reduced quality of care.
Think of scheduling as more than just filling slots. Predictive scheduling is the key to a more efficient, effective and engaged workforce.
About the Author
Jennifer Compagni is a global HR executive with extensive experience in corporate businesses, research, government, and educational institutions. Prior to joining SmartLinx, Jennifer ran her own organizational consulting practice, serving a diverse range of clients including Cardinal Health, Alpharma Inc. and The National Research Council of the National Academies. She holds a Master of Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell University and a B.A. in Economics from Siena College.