The Increasingly Challenging Healthcare Landscape
Having a team of highly qualified staff and clinicians is always important for any healthcare organization. Yet, the growing shortage of workers in the medical sector, the ever-increasing competitive landscape of the healthcare industry, and the sharp surge in demand for medical staff due to the COVID-19 crisis has left many organizations in the healthcare industry struggling to attract and retain top talent. For instance, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) forecasts the physician shortage to reach up to 139,000 doctors by 2033.
As the elderly population grows, healthcare providers find themselves in an increasingly complex situation needing to cater to the growing need of medical staff. This shortage also creates a more competitive job market, where the power has shifted to the hands of the employees, and not the employer. As the staffing shortage worsens and the pressure on healthcare providers increase, operations executives and CFOs are predicting hospital labor costs to increase, with some even forecasting an increase of over five percent.
In the current situation, ineffective or inefficient workforce management practices can potentially have edge some healthcare organizations closer to running at an operational loss. Going for expensive recruitment agencies to fill the gaps or giving a bump to current employees compensation in an attempt to retain them is only a temporary fix and will not solve the long-term problems. Healthcare providers cannot allow their labor costs to increase indefinitely. Labor expenses can account for up to 60 per cent of their operating budget and hospital operating margins are steadily decreasing.
Getting more control on workforce expenses is a top priority for healthcare executives to ensure business continuity. However, ensuring optimal staffing levels while facing a shortage of healthcare practitioners and at the same time getting a grip on labor costs puts healthcare financial leaders in a tough position.
Below we discuss three methods that can help you optimize the workforce management of your healthcare organization.
3 ways to optimize healthcare workforce management
1. Think long-term
Optimizing the healthcare workforce management starts with the recruitment process. According to a 2018 survey, almost 30 percent of hospital C-suite executives and human resource leaders said their organization is failing to find enough candidates to fill open positions within their institutions. The recruitment process is often slow when going the traditional way, i.e. posting a job advertisement, constant emails back and forth, or turning to a staffing firm. This often leads most healthcare organizations having to wait for several months to fill key positions.
One way to up your recruitment game is by identifying potential talents early on. Most healthcare positions require advanced certifications, which normally take years to complete. Plan ahead of time and offer internships to promising campus talents. From there on nurture your prospects and adequately train them to fill in your hiring funnel. At this point, it is essential that your fresh recruits have at least one mentor from your organization; this will help them grasp your organization’s culture and have someone to turn to when they have questions or even concerns.
Start with attending career fairs on campuses where you plan to hire; this will give more exposure to your organization. Additionally, you may host competitions and informal lunch-and-learns to get an idea of who are really interested in your internship offer. Keep in mind that not all students will react the same way since different backgrounds and majors can influence their choice for a first-time internship. Consider a customized approach for individuals you really want to get onboard, instead of simply collecting some resumes.
2. Optimize your workforce scheduling
Whether an organization employs a dozen workers or a thousand of employees, efficiently scheduling employees is essential for any healthcare organization looking to reduce its operating costs and improve its service quality. Failing to do so can also be a costly mistake; in 2017, airline company RyanAir had to cancel 20,000 flights due to a roster scheduling mistake. Yet, this process is often tedious and poses a significant challenge; human resource departments routinely have to juggle with no-shows, sick leaves and paid time off, while ensuring each department is properly staffed for its daily operations. In many cases, this is all done with excel spreadsheets or even worse; by keeping attendance books.
Timing is critical when it comes to scheduling medical staff. One hack to optimize your workforce schedule is by planning ahead of time. For instance, provide your employees with their work schedule at least 1 week in advance; this gives your staff more time to prepare and allows them enough time to swap shifts if necessary. Planning ahead of time gives more room to everyone to adjust and can potentially reduce last minute scrambling to replace a no-show.
Additionally, you may consider investing in a workforce management system to better schedule medical staff. Going this route will also enable you to gather worker’s performance data and identify opportunities for staffing improvements. For example, Mercy Hospital Network has reported saving over $4.3 million after implementing a workforce management platform and using it to make key decisions.
3. Reduce employee turnover
Retaining top talent is just as important as recruiting high-quality staff. In a survey by the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), medical practice leaders jointly agreed that employee retention was a top priority in the healthcare industry. Moreover, previous studies suggest that costs associated with nurse turnover can reach as much as $61,000 per nurse. According to the 2020 NSI National Health Care Retention & RN Staffing Report, current hospital turnover rate stands at 17.8 per cent.
One way healthcare organizations can bring down the medical staff turnover rate, is by implementing an employee appreciation program. Having a reward system in place for meeting individual and team goals eventually leads to a happier and more committed workforce. Studies by MGMA show that having a well-oiled employee appreciation program lowers employee turnover rate across almost every role.
Top up your employee appreciation program by regularly conducting staff evaluations. This allows you to assess how close an employee is to reaching his personal goals and your organization’s objectives. Evaluations also help ensure each staff member stays on track to meet their target, while allowing you to identify low performers and consequently take the appropriate actions to remedy, such as additional coaching.
Off you go
As the healthcare industry gets more and more competitive, organizations are facing pressure to reduce their costs in order to stay in the game. Staff recruitment, employee scheduling and retention are all crucial components for business continuity in the healthcare sector. Taking control of these aspects are essential towards a more sustainable medical industry.
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