Centralize Workforce Management to Achieve Business Goals

February 15, 2023 Lynne Jackson

Centralized Workforce Management Enhances Quality and Cuts Costs

No matter how well-run a facility is, workforce management operations, especially staffing, scheduling and compliance, remain complex and challenging. As a result, workforce management significantly impacts quality of care provided and how the organization manages its largest expense: labor. One solution to this problem is centralized workforce management.

How Workforce Management Impacts Resident Care

Over the last two decades, research continually demonstrated the link between staffing and the quality of resident care. The role of registered nurses (RNs) shines through as a beaming example of what happens when facilities experience even short bouts of inadequate staffing.

A 10% increase in the number of bachelor’s degree nurses on staff can lower patient mortality rate by 7%, according to researchers.

The New England Journal of Medicine reports estimates the mortality rate for understaffed units as 6% higher than their fully staffed counterparts.

 A UCLA study states increasing the number of RNs and hours of nursing care per patient could save 6,700 lives and 4 million days of patient care in hospitals each year.

Nursing Today concluded cutting nursing staff and overloading remaining nurses adversely affects residents, based on a study that found “for each additional patient assigned to a given nurse, the patient has a 7% increase in the likelihood of dying within 30 days of admission.”

The growing nursing shortage has drained the nursing pool in long-term, post-acute and senior care facilities alike. Although facilities turn to workforce management systems to automate schedule creation and help manage staffing needs, they continue to struggle to maintain proper staffing levels.

In fact, most skilled nursing facilities consistently fail to meet federal staffing guidelines.

According to a July 2019 study by Harvard and Vanderbilt University researchers, 75% of nursing homes do not fully comply with the required level of nursing staff.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services requires skilled nursing facilities to keep a registered nurse (RN) onsite eight hours a day, every day. Many long-term care facilities met this requirement during the week but failed on weekends.

Centralized Staffing vs. Decentralized Staffing 

The primary difference between centralized and decentralized staffing in nursing is the location of the decision-making. Under a centralized staffing model, a central office handles all nurse staffing and scheduling. With a decentralized staffing model, each unit is responsible for its staffing needs.

The staffing model a healthcare organization uses has a direct impact on its ability to provide quality care to patients. The organization's size also influences whether a centralized or decentralized model is ideal. Larger organizations, which need to schedule nurses at multiple locations, may benefit more from centralized staffing vs. decentralized staffing. 

Centralized vs. Decentralized Staffing Advantages and Disadvantages

Reviewing the pros and cons of each model can help you decide which is most appropriate for your organization.

Centralized Staffing Advantages

A significant advantage of a centralized staffing model is that it standardizes an organization's hiring and scheduling procedures. Following a centralized model ensures an organization follows best practices at all its locations. 

With a centralized staffing process, nurses are better equipped to:

  • Focus on their jobs. 
  • Provide the best care to the correct patients at the right time.
  • Increase efficiencies.
  • Keep track of outcomes data.

Centralized Staffing Disadvantages

A centralized staffing model can have some drawbacks. One possible disadvantage of the model is that it can increase the risk of nurse burnout. The staffing and scheduling process may become depersonalized. Organizations that embrace a centralized model must pay special attention to their staff to ensure each team member feels supported throughout the hiring and staffing process.

Decentralized Staffing Advantages

In certain contexts, a decentralized staffing model offers some benefits over a centralized model. A decentralized model gives each unit or hospital full control over hiring and scheduling. In some instances, the model can lead to better patient outcomes and improved nurse happiness. The decentralized model operates under the assumption that each unit best understands its needs. 

Decentralized Staffing Disadvantages

Decentralized staffing also has some disadvantages. When each unit is responsible for hiring and scheduling, it's possible to waste or underuse resources. Each unit may have its own method, which can become confusing if nurses work across units or hospitals. 

In addition to inefficiency, a potential disadvantage of decentralized staffing is the limited implementation of technological solutions. One unit may use a piece of technology, but not another unit, which may create inconsistencies and confusion. 

How Centralized Workforce Management Systems Help

Centralized workforce management systems can integrate diverse staffing management functions and provide transparency across multiple facilities. But before embracing these systems, you should evaluate how its advantages over decentralized workforce management systems would play out in your environment.

Why change from decentralized to a centralized workforce management approach?

How you structure your management staff or workforce management approach can pose new challenges considering the different cultures and personnel in each facility. You must decide if scheduling should be done at the local level or centrally.

How you approach workforce management involves more than technology. Organizational culture and legacy functions play a large role in the effectiveness of workforce management. Core workforce was initially launched as individual functions:

  • Scheduling
  • Staffing management: Attendance tracking and policy enforcement
  • Compliance to regulations

These functions are often handled by multiple people. In many organizations, schedulers handle some staffing functions, such as creating and updating schedules.  Meanwhile, administrators manage the workforce from a quality and policy perspective and keep a close watch over time and attendance.

Regulatory compliance often comprises a different operation that requires robust reporting and attention to evolving federal and state policies, which is done by a compliance or HR director. As a result, many organizations inadvertently adopted a siloed workforce management strategy based on a decentralized functional approach.

Would the benefits centralized workforce management delivers be worth the disruption the implementation causes at the local level?

This question plagues industry leaders everywhere until they realize poorly implemented centralized workforce management systems could:

  • Stifle initiative and disengage administrators.
  • Constrain the ability to tailor services at the local level.
  • Burden business divisions with high costs and poor service.
  • Fail to deliver the economies of scale or coordinated strategies needed to grow the business and outperform competitors.

Drivers of Centralizing Workforce Management Systems

Consider the following drivers of centralized workforce management when determining whether to centralize functions across multiple facilities.

  • Can your staff and your managers access workforce information in real-time?
  • Are you less efficient because you don't have a good way to share resources and distribute employees between different locations?
  • Do you want a better way to identify best practices and create new standards of operation around these?
  • Do you want to build greater confidence and accuracy in your enterprise-level forecasts and plans?
  • Or do you want to free up your staff to increase focus on quality at the local level?

Problems Legacy Systems Pose when Centralizing Workforce Management Functions

Using disparate systems damage confidence in data

  • Does your HR/payroll centralization process use hardware and software from multiple providers?
  • Do you spend a significant amount of time synchronizing data across the systems?

Using multiple, disparate systems can compromise data credibility and erode operational control. The bottom line: do you lack a single version of the truth when it comes to the data you need to make decisions?

Legacy systems lack efficiency, prone to error

Organizations using legacy systems tend to rely heavily on homegrown remedies, such as spreadsheets. These resource-intensive methods cannot automatically adjust to scheduling changes or PPD census values. Since they don’t seamlessly integrate with attendance functions, they cannot alert you when workers don’t punch in and scheduling gaps occur.  

Error-prone manual calculations become commonplace

When legacy systems can’t do what’s needed, a manual process arises. All too often, this workaround becomes the rule, consistently leaving room for error via mistakes in data entry, missing information, and incorrect calculations, which put the trustworthiness of time and attendance and payroll data at risk.

Decentralized HR/payroll administration prevents

Tracking various rules used to process payroll across your locations proves problematic, especially when the processes used for payroll and employee management vary from one location to another. Decentralized workforce management systems make even simple employee transfers cumbersome.

Location-dependent, on-premise systems prevent

Older on-premise applications make it difficult or even impossible to handle workforce management functions from multiple sites. This lack of ability to perform centralized workforce management capabilities from any site can act as failure points for your system.

How to Turn Siloes into a Centralized Workforce Management System

Siloed management usually involves a manager controlling the scheduling, deployment, and administrative duties for an individual unit. Managers spend too much time planning and handling day-of-shift issues that cause last-minute call-ins and scheduling errors. This management style can result in overstaffed units sending staff home while similar units run short-staffed. The result? Excessive overtime.

Centralizing resource management, deployment, and alignment at the enterprise level via a centralized workforce management system promotes economies of scale while enabling staff to effectively allocate resources in real time.


Consolidating systems and data on a centralized workforce management system

Long-term and senior care facilities across the industry are migrating from disparate systems that can’t talk to each other to a centralized workforce management system. They recognize the need for multiple functional systems and the value of integrating them into a centralized workforce management system that delivers business-critical data in real time. Through this integration, a system can streamline multiple system processes and reduce errors caused by manual data entry that occurs from one system to the next.

Centralizing workforce management means bringing together data from payroll, scheduling, time and attendance, compliance, HR, training, and business analytics to drive greater synergy across systems. For example, centralized workforce management can:

  • Consolidate workflows and approval processes.
  • Maximize individual user efforts in multiple locations.
  • Enable management to drive efficiency with standard, centralized processes.

In addition, a centralized workforce management system that is robust and configurable let you automate processes and promote consistency across all locations.

Cloud-based efficiencies available on centralized workforce management systems

The integration of modern technology in a centralized workforce management system can streamline processes, gain efficiencies, and improve overall outcomes across the entire employee lifecycle. These systems leverage contemporary cloud-based platforms to extend scalability and security across multiple sites.

  • Data is stored in a safe, secure, hosted environment.
  • Data and applications are available from anywhere in the world. Increased automation

Centralized workforce management systems also maximize efficiency by:

  • Automating repetitive tasks.
  • Incorporating complex time and labor rules into calculations.
  • Reducing manual errors and saving time.

How Centralized Workforce Management Promotes Standardization

When your workforce is spread across multiple locations, centralized workforce management dramatically improves productivity. Being able to view information about the entire workforce from a single, centralized workforce management system enables you to:

  • Quickly identify potential issues, like compliance violations.
  • Resolve problems faster.
  • Take control over labor costs.
  • Make informed decisions when building and executing plans.

When you manage master shift schedules through a centralized workforce management system, you can view the entire workforce and key performance indicators on one dashboard. The centralized workforce management console helps you ensure compliance with updates to internal policies, industry standards, and CMS regulatory requirements.

Centralized workforce management systems also help standardize workflow processes. Disparate systems make standardizing operations management difficult. Centralized workforce management provides the flexibility needed to manage local requirements and integrate them into a consolidated platform. In addition, the centralized workforce management system minimizes the resources needed to handle scheduling, time tracking, payroll, and HR functions.

Having a common framework on a centralized workforce management system means it’s possible to scale on many fronts—the business, teams, productivity, and ability to absorb change. And centralized workforce management drives transparency, empowering decisions with better information, more accurate insight, and greater confidence.

A centralized workforce management system also consolidates the insights needed to make everyday decisions.

Automate the communication process

You can better connect with employees in any location, across the entire organization, from one central platform. You can send messages in various methods based on user preference to resolve scheduling issues, communicate important information and more.  

Better monitor staff

You can manage staff allocation, performance, rates, status and more from one centralized workforce management platform. Data variances and scheduling gaps can be recognized very quickly, allowing you to identify struggling locations. You can also review trends like the difference between absent and replaced hours or the number of employees who failed to punch in this shift quickly with a centralized workforce management view.

Empower employees to act

A centralized workforce management system designed especially for long-term and senior care can empower employees by putting the functions they want at their fingertips. Mobile-friendly employee self-service capabilities allow workers to sign up for new shifts and swap shifts with co-workers. They can also manage personal needs by accessing PTO balances, pay stubs, and key employee details.

Gain operational control

A centralized workforce management system lets you monitor the status of all employee attendance and punches throughout your locations at a glance. Real-time views help you identify attendance trends and avoid costly overtime.

“With a centralized workforce management solution, we now have visibility to manage our facilities and staff to our operational standards,” said Beth Cogavin, CEO of Oriol Healthcare.

Get Centralized Workforce Management Tools from Smartlinx

With the right solution, you can improve quality as well as costs and maximize employee engagement at the same time. Thanks to modern technological support, a well-thought-out plan to centralize your workforce management tools can be an immense boon to your organization, providing new and accurate workforce data while simultaneously reducing operating costs, regardless of whether your company is already physically centralized.

Our Workforce Management Tools work with each other to simplify your needs and workflow. Request a free demo today and learn about SmartLinx™ -- our comprehensive, innovative, and cohesive suite of workforce management solutions.

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