Maximize Quality and Minimize Labor Costs with Workforce Management Software

May 24, 2024 Lynne Jackson


The difference between SmartLinx and Kronos workforce management software

Doing more with less is a fact of life in long-term, post-acute and senior care as operating margins shrink and costs escalate.

Unlike other industries, you can’t reduce your largest expense—labor—by downsizing functions or instituting a hiring freeze. Nor do you want to decrease your nursing staff. You understand the correlation between a well-staffed facility and the quality of care delivered to residents. After all, giving residents high-quality care is why you do what you do.

Therefore, you turn to workforce management software for help driving efficiency without reducing nursing staff. But can workforce management software really reduce your highest expense without jeopardizing the care you provide?

The answer depends on which software system you choose.

Addressing the staffing dilemma 


Many healthcare providers rely on workforce management software for key functions, like scheduling, since they need the right people in the right positions to deliver quality care every day.

A lot of workforce management systems, like Kronos, help skilled nursing and senior care facilities perform rudimentary employee scheduling. The workforce management software automatically generates schedules based on scheduling history, positions, and employee credentials. This approach would work fine if employee schedules and resident populations remained stagnant.

However, as we know employees miss shifts, take unexpected PTO, and show up late every day. We also know resident populations change frequently as do individual medical needs and care requirements. Skilled nursing and senior care facilities need workforce management software with flexible and intuitive scheduling capabilities to drive business outcomes.

How workforce management software can slash costs AND improve quality

Workforce management software must do more than pump out schedules. They must quickly adjust to support changing scheduling needs and resident needs to promote quality care. To maximize efficiency and reduce labor costs, workforce management software must be optimized for skilled nursing and senior care environments. A one-size-fits-all approach cannot achieve the desired results as it will fail to address overspending and be difficult to navigate. Read why Caring Health Systems switched from Kronos to SmartLinx.

Why ease of use matters

Kronos offers a broad base of scheduling features for a wide array of healthcare providers. As a result, skilled nursing and senior care administrators must hunt and peck their way around the workforce management software to configure their scheduling needs. This complex and inefficient process proves draining and prompts many administrators to revert to manual scheduling practices and spreadsheets.

Designed specifically for skilled nursing and senior care providers, SmartLinx workforce management software streamlines the administrative processes by presenting all scheduling functions in an intuitive graphical dashboard. Administrators can quickly access what they need and modify schedules on the fly. Not only that, the SmartLinx centralized console lets administrators view schedule status for all their facilities at once and drill down to analyze details. See how SmartLinx streamlines scheduling at 110 facilities.

Adjusting for resident census and acuity

Skilled nursing and senior care providers must abide by different regulations than other healthcare providers. For example, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) places strict regulations on staffing at long-term care and post-acute care facilities. CMS staffing regulations define the number and type of staff required to support various resident populations based on the size of the population and acuity needs. 

Meeting CMS compliance regulations is enormously challenging. In fact, most skilled nursing facilities fail to consistently comply with CMS staffing requirements.

A July 2019 study by Harvard and Vanderbilt University researchers reports that most skilled nursing facilities do not fully comply with the required level of nursing staff, which jeopardizes the quality of patient care. “One troubling aspect of our findings is that 75% of nursing homes were almost never in compliance with what CMS expected their RN staffing level to be, based on residents’ acuity,” wrote Fangli Geng, David Stevenson, and David Grabowski in Daily Nursing Home Staffing Levels Highly Variable, Often Below CMS Expectations for HealthAffairs.

The role of workforce management software in staffing acuity 

Workforce management software must do more than schedule personnel based on the number of residents and services provided. They must also quickly adjust schedules to support changing patient per day (HPPD) census values and medical needs often referred to as acuity staffing.

One-size fits all systems, like Kronos, cannot automatically adjust schedules based on changing PPD census values. Therefore, administrators must manually research PPD values and determine how to apply them in each facility, every day. If they falter, they risk non-compliance and jeopardize Medicare reimbursements and the facility’s Five-Star Rating.  

SmartLinx — workforce management for LTPAC and senior care 

SmartLinx workforce management automatically adjusts schedules to changing PPD census values and notifies administrators when a sudden scheduling change (missed shift, tardiness) causes a facility to fall out of compliance. Administrators can verify full staffing at every facility by glancing at the SmartLinx dashboard and quickly drill down to discover the source behind any scheduling issue.

In addition to alerting them of open shifts, SmartLinx workforce management software automatically presents administrators with a list of qualified employees able to close the scheduling gap. With a quick click of the mouse, administrators can offer the shift to employees in each one’s preferred method, such as the SmartLinx Go mobile app, a text message, email, or phone call. SmartLinx automatically collects employee responses and notifies administrators, who can easily close the gap.

Controlling Labor Costs 

Labor consumes 50 to 80% of the budget for skilled nursing and senior care facilities everywhere. Workforce management software providers, like Kronos, promise to reduce overhead by automating manual processes and enabling administrators to concentrate on more strategic work. These systems provide a range of functions, from employee scheduling to time tracking and compliance reporting.  However, the software’s effectiveness is limited by its failure to fully integrate different functions and present the real-time data providers need to reduce costs in a quick and consolidated format.

Overtime costs and agency fees continually erode the provider’s bottom line but are difficult to prevent. When employees call out sick or the census values change, schedulers scramble to fill the need. They often turn to their most reliable or visible employees. In many cases, employees feel obliged to work longer hours to cover for an absent co-worker or care for needy residents. In other cases, the gap remains unfilled. To avoid this noncompliance when they can’t find someone quickly, many administrators call a nursing agency and hire costly contract workers to fill the void. 

Since they can’t deliver real-time exception reports when an open shift occurs, many workforce management software providers, like Kronos, cannot quickly close scheduling gaps, let alone prevent them. Consequently, skilled nursing and senior care watch their overtime and agency costs escalate.

How SmartLinx reduces overtime and agency fees

Leveraging advanced business analytics, SmartLinx workforce management software helps providers prevent overtime. At-a-glance, administrators can see the hours each employee worked in the pay period as well as their remaining hours. SmartLinx takes this to the next level by continually analyzing employee hours and projecting each one’s likelihood of accumulating overtime hours. See how Excelerate cut overtime by 30% and overall labor costs by 15%.

Using the workforce management software's unified dashboard, administrators can quickly ascertain who's approaching overtime and adjust schedules accordingly. When a shift opens, SmartLinx automatically recommends qualified employees who won't incur overtime and do satisfy internal policies, such as seniority. With a click of the mouse, administrators can send out shift requests, knowing the workforce management software will notify them when employees respond.

 How to contain incidental overtime

Every day, many employees clock in a little early and clock out a little late. Over time, these extra minutes add up to substantial costs. Most workforce management software, like Kronos, require administrators dig through volumes of attendance data to identify these incidents and then manually address them. 

SmartLinx workforce management software identifies all incidental overtime on one unified console, enabling administrators to quickly spot trends and implement policies to block early punches, late punch outs, and buddy punching. In addition, SmartLinx ensures that every employee receives a 30-minute meal break for each eight-hour shift, regardless of whether they remember to clock in and out.

Increase revenue using workforce management software to improve Five-Star Ratings 

In skilled nursing, the importance of Five-Star Ratings cannot be overestimated. In addition, to determining a facility's per-patient Medicare reimbursements, Five-Star Ratings make or break a facility's reputation. Facilities that earn all five stars receive about 50% more PPD reimbursements than those receiving three stars. Consumers and physicians base their choice of nursing homes on Five-Star Ratings while lending institutions leverage them to rank creditworthiness. Learn about the Growing Influence of Five-Star Ratings. 


CMS revises the ratings quarterly after receiving the facility’s Payroll-Based Journal reports and publishes them on the government website. In late 2019, the federal agency began posting bright red icon next to facilities that received fewer than three stars.

Workforce management software systems, like Kronos, can support compliance reporting requirements. But they cannot help skilled nursing providers improve their Five-Star Ratings because they cannot remediate scheduling and attendance data against CMS requirements in real-time. 

SmartLinx workforce management software helps providers evaluate their staffing rating long before the CMS Payroll-Based Journal deadline. The workforce management software automatically rates each facility in real-time. It aggregates hourly staffing data and factoring in CMS calculation criteria. SmartLinx displays warnings when any facility’s staffing falls below established thresholds. It also indicates whether the problem could jeopardize the facility’s desired Five-Star Rating. The workforce management software then recommends steps the provider can take to remediate the issue before it impacts their desired Five-Star Rating. Learn more about how SmartLinx Spotlight improves Five-Star Ratings.

Avoid noncompliance penalties

Workforce management software helps providers comply with CMS reporting requirements by generating Payroll-Based Journal reports. Providers, like Kronos, collect historical staffing information and format it at the end of the quarter. Frequently, administrators must manually manipulate the data, which is very time-consuming.

SmartLinx workforce management software leverages its real-time attendance and scheduling capabilities to automatically collect and format Payroll-Based Journal reports with minimal user efforts. Facilities can create compliance reports at any time in moments. See how Greek American reduced PBJ reporting from 60 hours to 2 minutes.

Improve employee productivity

It’s no secret. Engaged employees are more productive and committed than their less engaged counterparts. According to Gartner, “highly engaged business units realize a 41% reduction in absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity.”

In addition to automating administrator tasks, workforce management software can drive productivity by giving workers what they need to effectively manage their schedules and balance work-life priorities. Most providers, like Kronos, enable employees to access scheduling information and receive shift requests on their mobile devices.

SmartLinx workforce management software takes productivity to the next level. It enables employees to adjust their schedules on demand. If they cannot work a scheduled shift, employees can use SmartLinx mobile workforce management software to swap shifts with qualified co-workers, request PTO, and view responses in real-time. Discover How to use a Mobile App to Enhance Productivity.

Employees can also receive and respond to open shift requests in real-time on their mobile devices. SmartLinx mobile workforce management software gives 24/7 ability to access and print paystubs and employee profile information. This helps employees more effectively manage their personal finances. SmartLinx is designed specifically for skilled nursing and senior care workers. The intuitive workforce management software app presents information in the way employees desire.


Skilled nursing and senior care facilities need workforce management software specifically designed for their unique environment. Workforce management software designed for healthcare facilities, like Kronos, lacks real-time analytics and usability. These features are needed to substantially reduce costs and improve quality. Learn more about how SmartLinx workforce management software stacks up against Kronos.


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