Three Keys to Unlocking Your Total WFM Strategy

April 18, 2022 Lynne Jackson

If you’re like many long-term operators, you’re always looking for enhance resident care and resolve staffing problems.  

After facing down the greatest healthcare crisis in a century, you’re ready to move on and close any  operational gaps the pandemic exposed.  You’d also like to rebuild your workforce and equip it to handle future challenges.

Organization of all types and sizes are turning to technology to improve performance and contain costs.

McKinsey & Company reported that “92% of companies expect to adopt digital technologies.”  And that was before COVID-19.

Technology helped senior care operators battle the pandemic on multiple fronts from connecting residents to loved ones to meeting healthcare needs through telemedicine to limiting the spread of contagious bacteria via touchless and thermal-sensing systems.  Long-term care operators are hoping technology can take their operations to the next level.

Before 2020, Ardent Partners Research called out total workforce management strategy as an emerging approach for enhancing the organization’s infrastructure.

“Sixteen percent (16%) of businesses today have some form of a total workforce management program in place (9% in place for several years, 7% only just within the past 12 months.”

Now healthcare organizations across the nation consider a total workforce management (WFM) strategy critical to their long-term success.

Healthcare providers use total workforce management strategies to tackle workforce challenges that jeopardize their long-term viability, such as rising labor costs and shrinking staffs. A total workforce management strategy also leverages WFM technology to achieve strategic objectives.

Total workforce management takes a proactive approach to a traditionally reactive functions by anticipating future workforce needs from projecting the number and type of employees needed to fill anticipated gaps and managing the workforce daily.

A total workforce management strategy combines elements from traditional workforce management, human resource management systems, and human capital management (HCM) with cutting-edge digital transformation initiatives. When crafted into a comprehensive total workforce management strategy, this solution can help operators:

  • Define current and future staffing needs
  • Deliver integrated hire to retire services
  • Enhance employee engagement by improving the employee experience
  • Streamline operations
  • Reduce costs
  • Identify and address workforce trends real-time

Envision Your Total Workforce Management Strategy

Crafting your total workforce management strategy starts with casting a vision and getting buy in. To succeed, a total WFM strategy must involve every level of your organization from the C-level suite seeking to address big picture issues to the end user employees tasked with using the new software.

Keep in mind, the total workforce management strategy is much more than a technology rollout or infrastructure change. Sure, these are key components of any total WFM strategy but if you focus on implementing individual applications rather than a holistic approach, you could miss out on the long-term benefits a total workforce management strategy offers.

For example, because of the staffing shortage many senior care operators focus their total workforce management strategy on talent acquisition and talent management. This approach offers limited but important benefits, as operators combat rising employee turnover that topped 129% in many skilled nursing facilities. But focusing on one aspect, even the toughest one, will leave other ones vulnerable.

Your total workforce management strategy should serve as a blueprint for creating a workforce equipped to address short-term challenges and meet long-term business goals. You must first forecast future workforce needs and then evaluate your workforce management and human capital management approaches through a strategic lens to understand where they may fall short.

Workforce management essentially puts the right people to work, in the right place, at the right time. When you start defining a total workforce management strategy, you must choose WFM technology that empowers the systems and processes required to facilitate employee productivity in years to come.

Before you start planning out technology spends, you should analyze future demands on your workforce and what you’ll need to support them. When you evaluate existing workforce management and HCM capabilities, consider planned enhancements, and then align all capabilities with future workforce demands and look for gaps.

Once you map out where you want to go and what’s needed to get there, you can evaluate current and emerging technologies to determine the functions best suited to power your vision. The following steps can help.  

  1. Break down desired functions
  2. Compare features
  3. Insist on seamless integration between functions
  4. Evaluate the user experience for every role in every application
  5. Prioritize user friendliness
  6. Find analytics that can spot trends, inform decisions
  7. Request live demos of key functions
  8. Create a communication and change management plan

Remember to envision a WFM infrastructure beyond standalone applications. Your total workforce management strategy must extend beyond siloed functions to encompass complementary capabilities from human capital management to enterprise resource planning and more.

Make Integration a Top Priority

In addition to implementing effective workforce management capabilities, you must ensure they interoperate. Many workforce management and human capital management functions originated as standalone applications, such as scheduling, time tracking, payroll, and HR management systems. They streamlined routine operations and helped operators drive efficiency, contain costs, and improve quality.  However, what was once effective is now inefficient as these siloed applications are ill-equipped to handle future demands.

Workforce management solutions are evolving into an integrated suite of related capabilities. Integrating core staffing, attendance, and management functions helps optimize these processes, expose inefficiencies, and ensure the consistent and accurate application of workforce policies.

However, not all integrations are the same. Some systems exchange data periodically via batch reports. Others use application programming interfaces. The best are often native applications to the platform.  Look for a workforce management solution that shares real-time data between all the functions and presents live workforce information on a centralized system. It’s important to be able visualize real-time staffing data across the entire enterprise on one dashboard.

Make sure to include the following foundational workforce management capabilities into your strategy.

  • Employee scheduling and shift management
  • Employee attendance management
  • Compliance tracking and reporting
  • Payroll
  • Workforce planning/forecasting
  • Total talent management

The most effective WFM applications are the ones that are purpose-built for long-term care and senior living.  They’re easier to use and help operators comply with federal and state regulations.

Benefits of Integrated Workforce Management

In addition to optimizing workforce operations, a total workforce management strategy should increase employee productivity and match hiring with business. Expect to reap the following benefits from your total WFM strategy.

Streamlined Administrative Functions: Integrated WFM systems streamline standard staffing operations from creating and adjusting schedules to tracking attendance in real-time. Access to real-time scheduling and attendance data lets you immediately spot employee issues, absences, tardiness, and overtime.

Lower Labor Costs: When your workforce management system is fully integrated, it helps solve problems in real-time. For example, it can close open shifts without incurring unnecessary overtime or agency fees. Oriol slashed overtime by 25% in three months. It can also help prevent overstaffing and understaffing, using analytics to detect inefficiencies and inform decisions.

Achieve compliance and demonstrates Compliance on Demand: Payroll-Based Journal systems that are fully integrated with WFM systems can automatically track compliance data across each department and display the data on demand. Since the systems continually collect compliance data, they can also rapidly generate reports, making compliance reporting quick and easy.

Get Smart with Analytics

Total workforce management strategies have taken on new life as organizations deploy them to anticipate workforce demands, develop better workforce contingency plans, and improve end-to-end workforce operations.

”An increasing number of organizations are embarking on programs to embed data and analytics at the heart of their operations, aware of the potential to transform performance,” according to the McKinsey Global Institutes, which “estimates data and analytics could create value worth between $9.5 trillion and $15.4 trillion a year if embedded at scale—and $1.2 trillion of that in the public and social sectors.”

To achieve these forward-thinking goals, you need to leverage real-time data to inform decisions and analytics to identify trends and project future needs. Data and analytics also give you greater transparency into your operations.

Advanced Workforce Management Analytics

Organizations across multiple industries are turning to workforce analytics to optimize their business and consider a total workforce management solution a strategic investment.  

According to a Datis study “more than two-thirds of CFOs indicate they want to invest in data analytics” to better understand their workforce and create cost efficiencies.

Analytics based on real-time data empowers leaders with the insights they need to inform a variety of decisions from proactive workforce planning to on-the-fly resource allocation. In addition to optimizing routine functions, analytics can help you identify and prepare for future demands and adjust your technology to support evolving business goals.

In long-term care, you can use analytics  to adjust scheduling criteria to match changing regulatory demands and patient acuity. Instead of relying on administrators to determine how to reallocate staff to care for residents  with escalating medical needs, providers can use WFM analytics to automatically modify schedules, alert  schedulers of additional needs and gaps, and offer open shifts to qualified workers. The most advanced systems can also create ideal schedules in compliance with PPD and CMS regulations and identify the most qualified employees not poised to incur overtime.

As a senior care operator, you must be able to do more than just optimize employee schedules—you need the ability to adapt quickly to changes, especially sudden scheduling gaps. Purpose-built WFM systems can provide at-a-glance views of live attendance and scheduling data across all facilities, enabling administrators to analyze patterns and identify problems. Fully integrated solutions will then automatically notify the chosen employee of the opening in their preferred method. See how Trilogy Advances Quality Care and Reduces Costs.

Better Five-Star Ratings

Five-Star Quality Ratings can make or break a provider’s reputation. Consumers and physicians alike use Five-Star Ratings to choose facilities for prospective residents. Financial institutions base lending decisions on a facility’s Five-Star Rating. Likewise, the government uses it to calculate per-patient Medicare reimbursements. Despite their importance, most facilities struggle to support federal staffing requirements.

 In fact, 75% of nursing homes don’t comply with required levels of nursing staff, according to researchers from Harvard and Vanderbilt.

By integrating real-time scheduling and attendance systems, a total workforce management strategy  can help you adjust staffing to ensure compliance despite fluctuating dynamics. The most sophisticated WFM systems can help you achieve your desired Five-Star Rating by predicting your rating based on staffing data and instructing  you how to improve it long.


Adopting a total workforce management strategy that includes a digital transformation will help long-term care operators dramatically reduce costs while increasing transparency and efficiency across all related workforce operations. This innovative approach helps you manage the entire workforce from hiring to retiring and encompasses daily workforce operations and compliance as well as providing centralized data for business managers.

Additional Resources

Senior Care Guide: Crafting Your Total Workforce Management Strategy

Schedule a Live Demo of SmartLinx workforce management solution suite.

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