Nine Workforce Management Trends in Senior Living

April 18, 2022



Workforce management systems can ease the pain that rising costs and falling revenues cause. They drive efficiency and increase quality across most industries, especially those that rely on hourly and shift workers.

In assisted living facilities, workforce management systems are closely linked to the quality of resident care and labor costs. Top systems can target key performance indicators (KPIs) near and dear to the organizations’ livelihood and ultimate success.

In 2020, workforce management trends revolve around the value the solutions deliver. A big focus is how these systems address some of the greatest challenges social assistance industry faces. While most workforce management systems offer help, only premier systems:

  • Provide proven return on investment (ROI).
  • Promote higher quality of life to residents and work satisfaction to staff.
  • Use proactive and innovative features to deliver a competitive edge.

Before implementing a workforce management system to optimize business outcomes, senior living operators should understand how each capability was designed and how it addresses real-world problems. Also, senior managers must also understand how each feature will impact their workplace culture. For example, what experience will administrators or schedulers have when they deploy this capability? How will it work in your assisted living operation? Will it flex to meet your unique needs?  See how to choose workforce management software.

Here are the top nine attributes any premium workplace management system should include.

1. Outcome-based workforce management   

Advanced systems help assisted living providers tackle challenges hurting their long-term growth. Falling revenues and rising costs have put many providers on shaky financial footing. 

Amid the challenging business climate, many senior living operators are suffering from poor returns. Therefore, traditional workforce management no longer suffice. In addition to automating schedule creation and attendance tracking, workforce management systems must also reduce labor costs and improve efficiency.

Workforce management systems should use advanced analytics to inform decisions, close inefficiencies and identify cost reduction opportunities. The more robust systems can also help providers expand and retain their staff.

2. Advanced analytics and artificial intelligence

Systems with advanced analytics and artificial intelligence stand above the rest.

Business analytics and AI permeate nearly every aspect of workforce management, from  planning and forecasting to staffing, organizational compliance and human capital management. Social assistance organizations, especially senior living operators, are turning to specialized analytics for insights that advance small and large objectives. As a result, the investment in artificial intelligence for healthcare information technology has surpassed $1.7 billion including the social assistance industry.

 “50% of all healthcare companies will have resources dedicated to accessing, sharing, and analyzing real-world evidence for use across their organizations….We further anticipate that by operationalizing AI platforms across select healthcare workflows would result in 10–15% productivity gain over the next 2-3 year.”   Source: Frost & Sullivan.

Analytics and AI help senior living operators quickly resolve issues. Systems can recommend staff qualified to fill a new opening without incurring overtime hours. Some can even adjust to organizational policies, such as union rules. Fully integrated workforce management solutions will then automatically notify the chosen employee of the opening in their preferred method, such as text, email, voicemail, or mobile app alert.

3. Workforce management systems proven to reduce labor expenses

Progressive workforce management systems move beyond streamlining core functions, such as scheduling, attendance, and HR. The best ones can leverage integrated functions to reduce labor costs, especially overtime, and better control staffing.

Inferior systems force operators to overstaff or turn to overtime and high-priced agency workers to keep their assisted living communities properly staffed. Let’s look at several features that can increase efficiency and reduce expenses.

Streamlined scheduling means optimal scheduling

Senior living facilities must routinely adjust schedules to reflect changes in the resident population and their needs (acuity). A robust workforce management system uses unified scheduling and attendance tracking to notify administrators of scheduling gaps as they happen, rather than hours later, when closing them is costlier or quality care suffers.

Lower overtime and agency costs, avoiding these are the key

Assisted living and continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) resort to overtime and agency costs to make up for surprise absences and tardiness. Integrated systems are designed to alert administrators of new openings, to avoid these costly wage-burners. The best systems also suggest workers who can work the openings without racking up overtime. See how Oriole Health Care slashes overtime.

Greater efficiency is the goal

To gain efficiency, senior living operators must migrate from generic workforce management systems to industry-specific systems. Among other, better features, these systems target inefficiencies and use analytics to:

  • Proactively create and adjust schedules.
  • Identify attendance trends/problems.
  • Align real-time and projected staffing needs with the needs of your staff.

4. Unified systems that support real-time decisions  

Senior living facilities are moving to unified workforce management platforms specifically designed for their unique operations. These platforms are optimized to drive business outcomes. However, many workforce management systems continue to operate in silos. Such silos exist among scheduling, attendance management, payroll, compliance, and HR. They rely on batch reports to share info and support historical trend analysis.

A siloed approach can’t deliver the business outcomes and intelligence needed to reduce labor costs and increase quality of care. As such, workforce management systems continue to move into integrated, cloud-based platforms with access to real-time scheduling, attendance, compliance and analytics. In fact, about 65% of hospitals now use cloud software services.

"The market has been crying out for a one-stop shop for employees, managers and executives to do all their digital work (not just HR tasks) for some time now and, of late, we are seeing leading vendors strive to deliver on the promises it brings. The unified engagement platform promises to eradicate the choppy, highly variable and often frustrating experience of using individual system interfaces, replacing it with a unified digital experience where the user will have no idea which (now backend) system they are actually in." Source: John Brownridge, Principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP

For example, providers can get status information for all their departments at-a-glance on SmartLinx unified workforce management system. The color-coded dashboard also lets users drill down for details and alerts them when a status changes on a facility or another KPI threshold is reached.

5. Workforce management systems that improve resident care 

Workforce management systems must do more than pump out schedules and track attendance. They must adjust to meet changing scheduling needs based on the services and care residents’ needs.

Systems like SmartLinx, which are purpose built for assisted living facilities, are better equipped to handle the ever-changing needs. SmartLinx proactively defines the best staffing level based on the number of residents, resident acuity, and organizational demands. Administrators can easily create and instantly modify schedules to support their changing resident populations and their changing needs.

Scheduling for optimum care fulfills only part of the quality equation. Lateness and sudden absences plague every operation. Facilities must be able to find and close gaps before they impact resident care. To do so requires first integrating attendance management, time tracking and scheduling data. Next, it requires providing real-time alerts and scheduling fixes when gaps occur.

SmartLinx workforce management system can provide at-a-glance views of live attendance and scheduling data across all facilities. This enables administrators to quickly identify problems, then drill down for a deeper analysis. To learn more, read how Trilogy advances quality care and reduces costs.

6. Systems that optimize hiring practices

Assisted living facilities struggle with finding and keeping qualified staff especially amid these trying times. HR teams use artificial intelligence in recruiting, hiring and onboarding processes. These workforce management systems can evaluate and score candidate applications based on provider criteria. Hiring managers can use custom questions to screen candidates for a culture fit as well as their skillset early in the hiring process.

Savvy providers will also use the system to enhance the candidate experience and differentiate themselves from competitors. They can then use AI-equipped systems to promote their values, culture and benefits.

“We’ll also see AI/machine learning integrated into other aspects of the hiring process. AI can help with mitigation of unconscious bias among hiring managers to increase qualified diversity hires,” says John Stross, President and Co-Founder of Greenhouse.

7.  Systems that enhance employee engagement

An engaged workforce leads to happier residents and employees. Senior living providers battle staffing shortages in multiple ways, such as holistic approaches to better engage employees. Workforce management systems help promote and deliver employee benefits designed to attract and retain talent.

Workforce management systems also help employees take control of their schedules and work more efficiently. When you offer staff self-scheduling tools and real-time access to key information, you empower them to:

  • Swap shifts with qualified co-workers
  • Request time off
  • Access earned pay without waiting for payday
  • Fix missed and inaccurate punches
  • Download paystubs
  • Update personal employee data

Integrated workforce management systems will simplify complex benefits and performance management programs. New hire information auto populates key HR systems, which streamlines administration. More importantly, AI-equipped workforce management systems help employees better use their benefits to meet their personal needs and budget. Learn how to maximize employee benefits while reducing costs.

“Companies that have higher employee engagement experience 16% greater profitability, as well as 37% lower absenteeism. This can translate into 2.5 times higher revenue and an 18% increase in productivity. Organizations with higher levels of employee engagement also report 65% reductions in turnover,” according to Gallup.

8. Mobile workforce management systems 

Poor communication disengages employees across every industry. “66% of organizations actively struggle with communication between departments,” according to Datis’ The 2018 State of Workforce Management report.

Mobile apps help close the gap and connect employees to the resources they need. As a result, the global mobile workforce management market is growing rapidly and should exceed $7 billion by 2023, according to Statista.

Mobile workforce management systems alleviate employee frustration by automating routine manual tasks. Then, they serve up the information workers need to make informed decisions. Providers are embracing mobile systems to:

Communicate more effectively with your staff

Everyone who has worked in a senior living facility knows that a well-run facility with a contented staff is the key to extremely satisfied residents, but this direct correlation does not stop there. The happier your staff, the more they can focus on residents. When your staff turns focuses fully on residents, without worrying about manual administrative tasks, they impact what’s important: the safety, security, and happiness of residents.

Deliver the information they need to make informed decisions

Senior living employees struggle to balance work and life responsibilities. Allowing them to get the information they need anywhere, anytime helps the balance these competing priorities. For example, when you enable workers to access benefit information, pay details, and more quickly and easily, you alleviate frustration and help them focus on job responsibilities.

Providing access to real-time scheduling information and giving them the ability to submit PTO or swap shifts on the fly helps them better manage their lives and makes them feel in control and valued.  Learn how to use a mobile app to enhance employee productivity.

Achieve business goals

Analytics and mobile workforce management systems help assisted living providers achieve tangible business outcomes. They also help better engage employees. For example, the SmartLinx workforce management system and the SmartLinx Go app help close open shifts and reduce overtime costs.

SmartLinx integrates scheduling and attendance tracking. As such, it immediately recognizes when a shift opens and automatically notifies administrators of the opening and the employees qualified to fill it. At the click of a mouse, administrators can notify select workers of the opening and receive employee response in real-time.

9. Systems that improve marketability to lessen your vacancy rates

Reputation means more now than ever. Poor online and word of mouth reviews can make or break a facility’s reputation. Innovative systems are evolving to help facilities enhance these. This is done by tracking key performance indicators against real-time workforce data. For example, SmartLinx workforce management system alerts users when staffing levels fall below their desired criteria. Then, it tells them how to remedy it.

Management strategy dictates how the facility will address the growing demand, changing residents’ requirements, and staffing limitations. Many of the workforce management systems used in today’s facilities are antiquated and not dynamic.  While they may help create schedules, they cannot keep up with the on demand, real-time reports, approaching overtime warnings, and instant scheduling changes.

Lean utilization procedures and workforce management systems help industries deliver high service levels with limited resources.  Senior Living operators must determine how inadequate staffing impacts resident services. They must also create strategies that can alleviate staff burdens and better position staff to deliver quality care.


Innovative workforce management systems are evolving to produce staffing reports on demand. They do this by integrating with real-time scheduling and attendance data.

SmartLinx workforce management system enables assisted living providers to achieve highest resident satisfaction that comes from proper staffing levels by instructing them how to staff to meet this goal. It also tells them how to resolve issues that jeopardize this goal—in real time Centralized dashboards let administrators view or print real-time staffing data for all facilities and drilldown to specific periods.    

A premier workforce management system designed specifically for assisted living environments will:

  • Use technology to improve employee hiring and engagement
  • Be easy to navigate so administrators can find needed information at-a-glance.
  • Provide real-time notifications before cost issues arise (such as staff overtime hours).
  • Make recommendations that help avoid staffing shortages and close openings.
  • Promote quality through proper staffing and attendance management

Not all workforce management systems are created equal. Assisted living providers must ensure their system can promote the business outcomes that advance quality and counter staffing shortages. ​Overly complicated systems frustrate users, who often search for manual workarounds to avoid using the system, wasting resources, and losing the advantage the system offers. 

Avoiding unnecessary expenses is key to improving operations. In fact, it’s the whole ball game.  Real-time data and analytic project where scheduling issue will occur in the future, so you can remedy them before they happen, avoiding costly last-minute staffing traps. Your residents can enjoy a life rich in quality care, genuine friendships, and fun activities when your staff operates at the highest quality.

Ready to learn more?

Book SmartLinx Demo.

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