The Building Blocks of Total Workforce Management

June 11, 2021 Lynne Jackson

How to empower senior care with a strong WFM infrastructure

Innovative workforce management technology is shining a welcome light in a period darkened by COVID-19 that has left organizations scrambling to recover losses, advance business goals, and safeguard operations against future catastrophes.

Post-acute and senior care organizations stand to reap huge gains from technology advancements as many suffered some of the biggest pandemic-related losses.

While technologies, like telepresence and Zoom video conferencing, received national attention for connecting residents with loved ones, lesser-known technologies offer much needed hope to many organizations. Innovative technologies emerged to better protect residents, future-proof facilities, and improve operational efficiency.

Total workforce management (WFM) strategies are gaining ground as a holistic way to transform senior care infrastructures and optimize operations from previous disparate workforce and human capital management approaches.

In addition to helping long-term care and post-acute care providers recover from COVID-related financial hardships, a total workforce management strategy can empower the workforce to support future demands and navigate uncertainty.

What is Total Workforce Management?

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.

Total workforce management stretches beyond siloed functions to consolidate related functions. It also grew to encompass complementary functions, such as human capital management and enterprise resource planning before evolving into total workforce management. Total workforce management takes a proactive approach to a traditionally reactive function by anticipating future workforce needs from projecting the number and type of employees needed to fill anticipated gaps and managing the workforce daily.

Adopting a more comprehensive WFM strategy that includes a digital transformation approach will help organizations dramatically reduce costs while building 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.

At its core, workforce management puts the right people to work, in the right place, at the right time. Underlying WFM technology provides systems, processes, and procedures designed to facilitate employee productivity.

Why prioritize a Total Workforce Management Strategy?

If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s just how catastrophic the costs can be when healthcare organizations are unprepared for a crisis. Skilled nursing organizations bore the greatest losses and endured the greatest workforce challenges. Sadly, this was not a total surprise. Since most long-term care and 

post-acute care facilities work under near zero operating margins and face ongoing staff shortages, they have more difficulty making the large-scale adjustments needed to battle an evolving healthcare crisis. Unfortunately, this made residents and employees more vulnerable to COVD-19’s devastating effects.

Overall, senior care organizations fought gallantly to keep their facilities running, care for residents, and support staff. But the costs of doing so drained their already tight budgets and jeopardized the organization’s long-term viability.

Before the pandemic, operators strove to tighten expenses and refrained from embracing new technologies because of tight budgets and escalating staffing demands. Instead, they adopted a wait and see approach, evaluating the impact of new technologies in other organizations before gradually rolling out the most promising ones.

Times have changed.

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. Data and analytics have risen to the forefront since organizations seek greater transparency into their operations. Across the board, senior care organizations are recognizing the transformative power of technology and the flaws of a wait and see approach to technology.

Solving senior care challenges with a Total WFM Strategy

Skilled nursing, assisted living, and continuing care retirement communities faced unfathomable workforce challenges in recent months. Their shrinking labor force turned the shortage into a full-fledged staffing crisis.

Health Affairs analysis estimated that turnover rates among nursing staff grew from a staggering 94% in 2017 and 2018 to 140.7% for registered nurses (RNs), 129.1% for certified nursing aides (CNAs) and 114.1% for licensed practical nurses (LPNs).

It’s no wonder. These frontline workers experienced enormous stress and burnout during the pandemic despite operator attempts to strengthen employee communication and recognition. Short-staffed facilities left workers struggling to keep up with escalating demands as well as balancing work and family demands.

Total workforce management strategy is evolving to meet projected workforce needs with technology and practices that improve employee experience while more efficiently managing the workforce. The days of disparate WFM applications and manual process are coming to end, as operators seek to use technology to improve long-term quality care and optimize operations.

“Assisted living will be permanently reshaped by the pandemic with operators placing a greater focus on health and wellness, while also harnessing technology to meet resident needs more appropriately.”  Marcus & Millichap, Investment Outlook Report

Ingredients for creating a Total Workforce Management vision

Implementing an effective total workforce management strategy requires more than an updated infrastructure. It must start with a strategic initiative from senior leadership that is mapped out across departments, functions, and end-users. Like any cross-departmental technology initiative, leaders must communicate a vision of the future state and expose the ineffectiveness of the current state.

A total workforce management strategy is only as successful as its underlying functions. The most effective WFM applications are those purpose-built for the respective industry. They’re easier to use and help organizations comply with federal and state regulations.

Initially, workforce management focused on improving operations by automating manual components in these core functions. Now total workforce management strives to continually increase employee productivity and match hiring with business needs as well as optimize the core functions. Workforce management solutions are evolving from a set of individual functions to an integrated suite

of complementary capabilities. Integrating core staffing, attendance, and management functions helps optimize these processes, expose inefficiencies, and ensure the consistent and accurate application of workforce policies.

The following core WFM capabilities are integral to crafting a total workforce management strategy:

Employee scheduling and shift management

Some software-as-a-service (SAAS) providers have designed industry-specific workforce management systems that cater to an organization’s specific needs. They are generally easier to use and maintain. These systems often generate higher returns on investment than their generic peers. Employee or nurse scheduling software alleviates these error-prone manual processes by automatically creating and adjusting employee schedules to support changing dynamics and prevent understaffing. The technology analyzes historical staffing data to define potential demand, using an algorithm to calculate demand and convert it into staffing needs. Many systems also allow organizations to set up rules to handle specific demands and support manual adjustments.

Skilled nursing facilities must staff their facilities to support their fluctuating resident populations and their changing needs.

Employee attendance management

A total WFM system can optimize the operation by automatically tracking the employee hours and analyzing the correlation between attendance patterns and expenses. The attendance management application should also share data between scheduling and attendance functions and support historical trend reporting.

Therefore, to work effectively, your total workforce management solution must seamlessly integrate scheduling and attendance capabilities. You should be able to see a consolidated view of live staffing (scheduling and attendance data) anytime. Access to real-time scheduling and attendance data lets managers immediately spot employee issues, absences, tardiness, and overtime. Learn how to Set your time clock to advance your goals.

Compliance tracking and reporting

In workforce management, compliance generally refers to staffing-related regulations. Meanwhile compliance requirements for federal employee laws, disability, nondiscrimination laws

and the Family Medical Leave Act falling under human capital management umbrella and now a total workforce management strategy. Compliance is certainly not a straightforward capability but rather one fraught with complication as are the federal, state, and local regulations supported. In addition to automatically tracking requirements, the total workforce management system must facilitate compliance by exposing noncompliance and contributing factors. 

Failure to deliver compliance reports on time or providing late or inaccurate submissions can result in hefty fines. In the healthcare industry, lack of compliance also jeopardizes the provider’s ability to collect federal reimbursements for covered individuals and services. Skilled nursing operators must be extra diligent now since they are  subject to increased government oversight.


In addition to managing employee pay, these systems provide audit-ready reports that support local, state, and federal requirements.

Many organizations automated their payroll system long before they adopted a workforce management system or automated any of its core components. As such, they’re forced to navigate disparate solutions that cannot share information. When integrated with a total workforce management strategy, payroll systems help organizations drive efficiency and ensure accuracy between payroll and attendance.

Workforce planning/forecasting

Workforce planning determines future staffing needs while seeking to gain efficiency and contain labor costs. Together, workforce planning and forecasting calculates the staff needed to meet operational goals. They then break the analysis down to the number

of shifts required for any given period. This analysis helps organizations prevent under and overstaffing by proactively identifying potential vacancies and the steps needed to fill them.

Workforce planning and forecasting is especially critical for organizations that must provide services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. To compensate for shortages, some organizations outsource specific functions or allow individuals and teams to double up on designated responsibilities. However, not

all organizations have this flexibility. Government regulations prevent healthcare organizations from assigning responsibilities outside their certification. They often require a specific patient-to-worker ratio. These organizations therefore resort to overtime and agency workers to fill staffing gaps.

Total talent management

Total workforce management vision requires fostering a culture of continuous talent management. Operators must assess future business requirements and the skill sets needed to support the facility and technology investment.

In senior care, hiring represents an ongoing priority. A total WFM strategy should encompass  end-to-end HR processes—from hire to retire. 

The right workforce management technology can automate all hiring processes and integrate them  onto a centralized system. e system should also handle all routine functions, such as leave management and workers compensation management, in the same automated and integrated fashion. In addition to streamlining processes and promoting visibility across the enterprise, integrating HR functions boosts engagement by delivering a seamless employee experience.

Remember to include contract workers 

Your total workforce management strategy should encompass the entire workforce, full-time, part-time, permanent, and contract workers. In senior care, contract workers are playing a growing role by enabling operators to fully staff their facilities despite a shortage of full-time nurses.


Workforce management solutions have grown from multiple standalone capabilities that automate basic tasks to intelligent, integrated solutions that inform real-time decisions and drive quality service at lower costs. Solutions designed for the organization’s industry deliver the highest returns on investment with applications proven to be easier to navigate and maintain.

Download this eBook to Learn how to Craft a Total Workforce Management Strategy.

Schedule a Live Demo of SmartLinx Workforce Management Suite.

Previous Article
How to Make Payroll-Based Journal Easy
How to Make Payroll-Based Journal Easy

Creating Payroll-Based Journal reports is notoriously problematic. It's resource-intensive and serves as a ...

Next Article
Using AI to Help Address Pain Points in Elder Care Industry
Using AI to Help Address Pain Points in Elder Care Industry features SmartLinx CTO Anil Chillarige shares how advanced algorithms, machine learning, and art...


Subscribe to Smartlinx News and Latest Industry Insights

First Name
Last Name
You've been subscribed! Thank you!
Error - something went wrong!