Is Your Organization Wasting Its Most Valuable Resource?

April 18, 2022 Lynne Jackson


Every day skilled nursing and senior living operators strive to take better care of residents while containing costs. Limited resources mean stretching every dollar and searching for ways to gain efficiency.  

However, we often overlook our most precious resource without realizing that better caring for this resource can advance business goals and contain costs. .The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, reminds us to proactively care for what’s important to us.

As we search for ways to preserve our resources, we confront the need to change our culture—the way we think and act every day. In many instances, we can turn to workforce management technology for help.

How workforce management cares for your most valuable resource 

Despite their dedicated efforts, many organizations are inadvertently neglecting their most precious resource—their workforce. People comprise the heart and soul of all organizations. In skilled nursing and senior living facilities, they play an even more important role—caring for our loved ones.

Therefore, skilled nursing and senior living facilities must find proactive methods and technologies to support employees in their everyday life.

After all, taking care of others can be very difficult with too few rewards. As a result, many caregivers abandon their positions and often the industry to pursue other opportunities.

“Turnover in senior living remains between 40 and 70 percent a year", according to the 2020 Argentum Forecast Report.

Many skilled nursing facilities report even higher rates with turnover exceeding 75% a year. Workforce management systems with proactive employee scheduling can improve employee engagement and reduce turnover while also increasing efficiency.

Understand employee challenges

Before deploying a workforce management system to boost engagement, you should take a long, hard look at your workers’ well-being and the challenges they face every day. Get to know as many caregivers as you can. Hold town hall meetings or conduct surveys to better understand their needs. Then look for technology that alleviates some of their biggest frustrations. Show you value them.

You can also extend your research beyond your own four walls. The same factors contributing to high employee turnover in other industries often apply to skilled nursing and senior living. Create a comprehensive workforce management strategy to address as many of these factors as possible.

The Understanding Staffing Shortages eBook discusses strategies being used to combat turnover in long-term and senior living industries.

Look for workforce management tools for help

Fortunately, not all factors are difficult to address. Put employees in an environment where they can succeed. Leverage workforce management tools to help them balance work-life responsibilities. Doing so can go a long way in boosting employee retention.

Consider your employees’ lifestyle. Many skilled nursing and senior care employees live on the go, alternating between different shifts and units. They need workforce management tools they can use to gain control of their schedules. They also need access to the resources they need to efficiently manage their work and personal responsibilities.

The best workforce management options start with employee-centered scheduling

Hiring competent and committed employees is a critical first step in increasing retention. Workforce management systems can streamline hiring and even help you find candidates that fit your culture. Watch Employee Retention: You Had Me at Onboarding.

However, great hiring practices account for one part of the equation. In skilled nursing and senior living, employee scheduling is paramount. It affects employees’ everyday life and enables you to deliver proper care to residents.

Without effective employee scheduling, workers will be overworked or overwhelmed when conflict with personal responsibilities. As a result, they won't give their best efforts and will be tempted to pursue other employment.

Consider predictive employee scheduling

Optimizing employee scheduling is critical for a successful workforce management strategy. This is especially true in skilled nursing and senior care facilities. Find out how SmartLinx Schedule Optimizer supports these facilities.

In workforce management systems, predictive employee scheduling defines the appropriate staffing level based on the number of residents, resident acuity, and regulatory demands. When part of an integrated workforce management solution, predictive employee scheduling lets you easily create and modify schedules based on your changing needs.

 Say farewell to ‘favoritism’ with employee scheduling and workforce management

Workforce management systems with proactive employee scheduling also enable you to treat all employees fairly. 

A common practice in skilled nursing and senior living facilities is relying on known “go-to” staffers to fill unexpected open shifts. While it may seem like a great quick fix, in the long run, this practice is inefficient, risky, and detrimental to employee morale. Staff members interested in picking up extra shifts will resent what they view as favoritism toward coworkers who "always" get the first option to work an open shift.

Remember, when employee morale suffers so does their engagement. Disengaged employees are less productive and less likely to provide quality care. Even your “go-to” staffers can suffer from burnout and, in turn, low morale. 

Repeatedly calling on the same staffers to fill open positions can backfire in more ways than one. In addition to promoting favoritism, you’re likely sabotaging your workforce management goals by racking up unnecessary overtime costs and violating internal labor policies.

A comprehensive workforce management strategy should improve employee engagement. It will also implement fair employee scheduling practices and quickly fill unexpected open shifts—without overtime.

It’s challenging but possible. You must be willing to challenge the status quo in employee scheduling and the culture behind it.

Changing culture with workforce management and employee scheduling  

Using a workforce management system with predictive employee scheduling lets you determine staffing levels in advance. You’ll leverage data insights to inform decisions and track effectiveness. The workforce management system also automates manual practices. This eliminates the frustration associated with these error-prone tasks.

Consider how this approach alleviates the pressure on schedulers to constantly adjust schedules on the fly.

Instead of looking back and saying, “You know, if we had staffed better maybe we could have avoided some of that overtime or understaffing,” you will see lower overtime costs and more engaged employees as you look ahead to ongoing efficiency gains.

See how Trilogy Health Services uses workforce management with proactive employee scheduling to advance quality care and drive efficiency across its 110 skilled nursing and senior living facilities.

The art and science behind employee scheduling

Anyone working in senior care knows employee scheduling is both an art and a science. Employee scheduling can be considered an art because you must be adept at intangible skills, such as:

  • Determining the strengths and weaknesses of your staff.
  • Identifying which staffers work well together (and which don’t).
  • Understanding which staffers perform best at which shifts.

Employee scheduling is also a science because schedulers in skilled nursing facilities must staff according to concrete rules. This includes:

  • Patient (resident) acuity
  • PPD values that change daily
  • Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regulations
  • Departmental budgets

Preventing compliance problems

Facilities must quickly adapt to these changing factors. When census data indicates your skilled nursing facility is not at the optimum staffing level next month, you’ll have time to adjust employee schedules in advance. Leveraging this proactive workforce management approach helps ensure residents receive the proper care. It also enables employees to better balance work and personal schedules.

In addition, integrated workforce management and employee scheduling can ensure staffing aligns with compliance requirements. It can even simplify compliance reporting.

As you know, staffing is a key component of the CMS Five-Star Rating system. Workforce management systems that use proactive scheduling can generate and automatically adjust employee schedules to support CMS requirements. SmartLinx workforce management suite notifies you when staffing threatens to fall below your desired Five-Star Rating requirements and tells you how to correct it. Find out about The Growing Influence of Five-Star Ratings.

When it comes time to generate your Payroll-Based Journal reports, you can do so quickly and easily, knowing your numbers will demonstrate compliance with staffing guidelines. Get 7 Secrets to Payroll-Based Journal Success.

In addition, as part of a comprehensive workforce management strategy,  employee scheduling helps prevent employee burnout by preventing excessively-long shifts, back-to-back shifts, or too much overtime. By having all the data available, you can better manage employee scheduling. You can also accommodate PTO and any special requests. This will also result in happier employees and higher quality resident care.

Create the ‘ideal employee schedule’ with  workforce management

It is possible to create your ideal schedule with a workforce management tool that’s equipped with strong, proactive employee scheduling. Before implementing a new workforce management system, you should ensure the following factors are in place:

  • Knowledge of your census and resident counts
  • Knowledge of when staff are clocking in and out
  • Integrated employee scheduling and attendance data
  • Knowledge of when employees take PTO
  • Knowledge of when shifts are not filled on time
  • The impact of holiday and weekends on nursing levels  
  • Full visibility of real-time employee scheduling and attendance data across departments, facilities, and locations

Keep employees in the loop

Workers who feel they have input into their schedules 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. Employee scheduling features available on a mobile workforce management app can go a long way in improving engagement and retention by letting employees use their mobile device to:

  • View employee schedules in real-time.
  • Receive automatic alerts when an open shift becomes available.
  • Swap shifts with qualified co-workers on the mobile workforce management app.
  • Submit time-off requests anytime, anywhere on their mobile device.
  • Receive approval/rejection notices quickly.

In addition, consider how much easier you'll make your schedulers’ lives when you deploy a workforce management system that lets them easily post and fill open shifts by automatically communicating with employee mobile devices.

Keep in mind, mobile workforce management technology provides short-term solutions with long-term benefits. Engaged employees tend to be more loyal.

“Engaged employees make it a point to show up to work and do more work -- highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity. Engaged workers also are more likely to stay with their employers. In high-turnover organizations, highly engaged business units achieve 24% less turnover,” according to Gallup.

No more scrambling to fill last-minute call-outs while ensuring everyone gets the same opportunity to take on more hours. Giving employees the ability to see and request open shifts from their mobile devices is a win-win situation. Find out How to Use a Mobile Workforce Management App to Enhance Employee Productivity.

Given the high turnover rate in the skilled nursing and senior care industries, it’s important to boost employee morale whenever possible. High turnover translates to inconsistent and often reduced quality of care.

Think of workforce management and employee scheduling as more than just filling slots. Predictive scheduling is the key to a more efficient, effective, and engaged workforce.

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