10 Workforce Management Trends in 2020

March 3, 2020 Lynne Jackson

10 Workforce Management System Trends in 2020

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 skilled nursing and 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.

In 2020, workforce management trends will revolve around the value the solutions deliver. A big focus will be how the systems address some of the greatest challenges senior care providers face. Industry movers and shakers will deliver systems that:

  • Deliver proven return on investment (ROI).
  • Promote higher quality care of residents and employees.
  • Use regulatory compliance to create a competitive edge.

However, before implementing a workforce management system to achieve desired business outcomes,  senior care providers must decide how each feature addresses specific problems. They must also understand how each feature will impact their workplace culture. See how to choose workforce management software.


1. Outcome-based workforce management systems       

Advanced systems will help skilled nursing, long-term care and assisted living providers tackle challenges hurting their long-term growth. Falling revenues and rising costs have put many providers on shaky financial footing. The average operating margin for skilled nursing facilities fell below zero (-0.1%), according to Skilled Nursing News 34th SNF Cost Comparison and Industry Trends Report.  

Many top performers are suffering from poor returns while others border on the brink of bankruptcy. Therefore, traditional approaches will no longer work. In addition to automating schedule creation, attendance tracking and compliance reporting, workforce management systems must reduce labor costs and improve efficiency. 

 “If skilled nursing facility (SNF) operators have learned anything over the past several years, it’s that the status quo will not suffice. The magnitude and page of change we’re seeing in the industry today is requiring operators to gather new data, accept new risks, and respond to changing market conditions with an unprecedented sense of urgency.”  Source: Skilled Nursing News 34th SNF Cost Comparison and Industry Trends Report.

Workforce management systems will use advanced analytics to inform decisions, close inefficiencies and identify cost reduction opportunities. Many will also help providers expand and retain their staff.


2. Systems with advanced analytics and artificial intelligence 

Business analytics and AI will permeate nearly every aspect of workforce management. This includes planning and forecasting to staffing, compliance and HR. Healthcare providers will turn to specialized analytics to gain meaningful insights in small and big ways. As a result, the investment in artificial intelligence for healthcare information technology has surpassed $1.7 billion.

 “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.


3. Workforce management systems that reduce labor costs

Progressive workforce management systems will move beyond streamlining core functions, such as scheduling, attendance, compliance and HR. They’ll adopt integrated features and pursue capabilities that reduce labor costs, especially overtime, and better control staffing. Although skilled nursing operators often resort to overstaffing, overtime pay and high-priced agency workers to keep their facilities properly staffed, many will seek technology that can fill scheduling needs without overtime and agency staff.

Streamlined scheduling

Senior care facilities must routinely adjust schedules to reflect changes in the resident population. This includes changing healthcare needs (acuity). Workforce management systems will use unified scheduling and attendance tracking to notify administrators of scheduling gaps as they happen.

Lower overtime and agency costs

Providers resort to overtime and agency costs to make up for surprise absences and tardiness. Integrated systems can alert administrators of new openings.  

They can also suggest workers who can work the openings without racking up overtime. See how Oriole Health Care slashes overtime

Greater efficiency 

Senior care providers will migrate from generic workforce management systems to industry-specific systems. 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  internal policies and government regulations.


4. Unified systems that drive real-time decision making

Skilled nursing, long-term care and assisted living facilities are moving to unified workforce management platforms designed for their 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.

This approach can’t deliver the business outcomes and intelligence needed to reduce labor costs and increase quality of care. As such, workforce management systems will continue moving into integrated, cloud-based platforms with access to real-time scheduling, attendance, compliance and analytics. In fact, about 65% of hospitals 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 SmartLinx console also lets users drill down for details. And it alerts them when a status changes on a facility or another KPI threshold is reached.


5. Workforce management systems that improve quality 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 need.

Providers will demand workforce management systems that support industry requirements, especially Patient Per Day census values and the new Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM). In October 2019, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) changed the PDPM model, which made the payment system dependent on specific data. Systems, like SmartLinx, that are specifically designed for skilled nursing, long-term and post-acute care facilities, are better equipped to handle PPD and new PDPM requirements.

SmartLinx proactively defines the best staffing level based on the number of residents, resident acuity and regulatory demands. Administrators can easily create and modify schedules to support changing PPD and PDPM values.

Senior care organizations must staff their facilities to support their changing resident populations and their changing needs.

A workforce management system designed specifically for these environments can make sure schedules:

  • Support the precise resident population.
  • Adjust to resident acuity when residents need more care.
  • Maintain the proper ratio of nurses, certified nursing assistants and medical staff.

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.

Analytics and AI help administrators quickly resolve issues. Systems will 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 solutions will then automatically notify the chosen employee of the opening in their preferred method, such as text, email, voicemail, or mobile app alert. To learn more, read how Trilogy advances quality care and reduces costs.


6. Systems that improve hiring practices

Skilled nursing and assisted living facilities struggle with finding and keeping qualified workers amid the worsening nursing shortage and low unemployment rates. HR teams will use artificial intelligence in recruiting, hiring and onboarding processes. These workforce management systems can evaluate and score candidate applications based on provider criteria. Facilities will screen candidates for a culture fit as well as their skillset by customizing questions 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

Senior care providers will battle staffing shortages in multiple ways, such as holistic approaches to better engage employees. Workforce management systems will help promote and deliver employee benefits designed to attract and retain talent. This includes creating rewards and recognition programs to wellness programs, childcare and more.

Workforce management systems will also help employees take control of their schedules and work more efficiently. Self-scheduling tools and real-time access to key information will enable workers 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 will auto populate key HR systems, which will streamline administration. More importantly, AI-equipped workforce management systems will 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 will 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 healthcare workers.
  • Deliver the information they need to make informed decisions.
  • Enable workers to access benefit information, pay details, schedules, and more.
  • Help employees balance work-life responsibilities with easy access to updated schedules and PTO requests. 

Learn how to use a mobile app to enhance employee productivity.

Achieve business goals

Analytics and mobile workforce management systems help senior care 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. Learn more about the SmartLinx workforce management app.

9. Systems that improve marketability 

Reputation means more now than ever. Online reviews, government ratings and physician referrals can make or break a facility’s future. Innovative systems are evolving to help facilities enhance their reputation. This is done by tracking measurement criteria against real-time staffing information. SmartLinx workforce management system alerts users when staffing levels fall below their desired criteria. Then, it tells them how to remedy it.

Reaching for Five Star Ratings

Consumers and physicians alike use CMS Five-Star Ratings to choose facilities for prospective residents. Financial institutions base lending decisions and insurance rates on the ratings.

To maximize Five-Star Ratings, facilities will turn to workforce management systems that monitor staffing and predict Five-Star Ratings. The system will identify issues that can damage scores. Then, they will provide resolutions.

The SmartLinx workforce management system lets skilled nursing providers set a desired Five-Star Rating and then instructs them how to staff to meet this goal. It also tells them how to resolve issues that jeopardize this goal  — in real time.          

 SmartLinx aggregates hourly staffing data in the Payroll-Based Journal, attendance and employee scheduling systems and factors in CMS calculation criteria and evolving requirements. Read more about SmartLinx Workforce Management System with Five-Star Predictor.


10. Workforce management systems that demonstrate compliance on demand

Traditionally, workforce management systems generate quarterly compliance reports. Then, the reports are submitted to state and federal governing bodies. Administrators often had to collect relevant data and feed it into the system. This manual process lacks auditability. Systems created for skilled nursing and long-term care environment are easier to navigate.

“SmartLinx PBJ reporting took me 45 seconds to run, and an additional 2 minutes to go ahead and submit to CMS, compared to 60 hours with our old payroll vendor,” said Mordechai Finkel, Director of Human Resources, Greek American Rehabilitation & Care Center.

Innovative workforce management systems are evolving to produce compliance reports on demand. They do this by integrating with real-time scheduling and attendance data. SmartLinx automatically tracks compliance data across each site. Centralized dashboards let administrators view or print real-time compliance data for all facilities and drilldown to specific periods. See how Greek American refuted a compliance allegation in moments.


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