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Predictive Scheduling: A Workforce Trend You Can't Ignore

In any industry, particularly in long-term care, managers face many unknowns. What will our capacity be in the coming weeks, months, years? How will government regulations change in the near future? Who will make up my pool of employees? And, perhaps the most challenging unknown, one that is impacted by the others: How can I schedule for shifts given all these fluctuating variables?

All these factors point to a relatively new workforce trend: predictive scheduling.

For some employers, such as those based in Oregon, advance scheduling is no longer a "nice to have." Oregon was the first state in the country to require that employers give workers their schedules at least a week in advance. The measure — referred to as a "predictive scheduling," a "restrictive scheduling" or a "fair scheduling" law — went into effect July 2018. Employers in the retail, food service and hospitality industries with more than 500 workers must give employees their schedules in writing at least a week ahead of time. Employee advocates are calling work schedule predictability the new minimum wage.

Oregon is not the only entity enacting laws to protect workers. Laws passed recently in New York City, Seattle, and San Francisco attempt to cut down scheduling practices — such as last-minute schedule changes, penalties for turning down shifts and "clopenings" (back-to-back closing and opening shifts) — that shift workers dread.

Another law that was designed to protect workers has been defeated. Last month, a federal judge struck down an Obama-era regulatory change that would have increased the salary level of employees eligible for overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476.

Oregon's law is designed to prevent on-call scheduling, where employees are asked to work on short notice. Such an arrangement makes it difficult to obtain transportation and child care. However, given the flux of the workforce with call-outs and no-shows, advance scheduling is often very difficult for managers to accomplish.

Some employee advocates blame technology for such inconsistencies. This is why it's important for LTC providers to choose a scheduling solution that's designed to prevent such occurrences.

Managing staff schedules is a tedious but important task. If your facility is overscheduled, it can negatively impact your bottom line. If you are under-scheduled, quality can suffer — and so can your Five-Star Quality Rating.

Look for a solution that allows your schedulers to:

  • Staff shifts based on census
  • Predict overtime to control labor costs
  • Manage PTO
  • Put the right person on the right job
  • Easily access PPD calculations
  • Maintain regulatory compliance
  • Manage call outs and replacements with text messaging

Implementing a scheduling tool can keep you compliant ahead of your workweek, not as an afterthought. That's what predictive scheduling is all about.

While a scheduling platform can help employers fill slots, employers still must take both the human factor and applicable regulations into account. A schedule optimizer should give the scheduler a view of all employees and their shifts, so as to avoid the overscheduling that many of these laws are designed to prevent. Regardless, employers should approach open shifts on a case-by-case basis, using technology to guide them.

A recent industry study revealed it can cost organizations as much as $100,000 each time a federal, state, or even local labor-related regulation is created or changed. So it's even more important for LTCs to operate as cost effectively as possible.

Labor is probably the largest cost at your organizations. Proper use of scheduling technology can also put a dent in overtime hours, translating to a huge cost savings.

In addition to streamlining the scheduling function, scheduling technology can reduce the time spent on schedules. This will free up your staff to spend more time on the floor and, as a result, improve patient care.

For more SmartLinx insights, check out our on-demand webinars.

About the Author

Frank Estevez joined SmartLinx Solutions as Development Manager in 2012 and transitioned into a Product Manager role in 2015. He provides release program management of the various SmartLinx products. He has 20 years' experience in providing software solutions across numerous industries.

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