COVID-19 Accelerates How Healthcare Organizations Must Invest in Workforce Technology

Workforce Technology

In 2020, the healthcare workforce landscape looks unlike anything we could have imagined. COVID-19 is accelerating, contributing to significant labor shortages due to early retirements or patient complexities, requiring more resources. This is happening in both the clinical and non-clinical healthcare professions on top of shrinking margins. According to the American Hospital Association, U.S. hospitals are estimated to lose $323 billion this year due to lower patient volumes and canceled elective procedures. Before the pandemic, consulting firm Oliver Wyman predicted a shortage of 100,000 physicians by 2030, as well as 100,000 nurse practitioners and 400,000 home health aides by 2025. 

At the same time, work environments are changing rapidly due to the need to support co-working with digital systems. And contrary to popular belief, the increasing availability of AI-based tools concentrates the value of team members, as only humans can do the work that develops and retains other humans. There may be fewer people required, but those individuals will be expected to be more productive. In other words, human work will be amplified with a keen focus on the more complex processes and actions that require real-time critical analysis. Machines will automate repetitive and less complicated tasks.

Other challenges facing the healthcare workforce include new disciplines with no established talent supply (such as genomics) and new models of patient care (involving a complex web of social workers, nutritionists, case managers, clinicians, health insurance companies, and hospital systems). Layered on top of every healthcare role will be, of course, the ability to understand and integrate relevant technology. 

The state of HR technology usage in 2020

HR and talent management are at the center of these evolutions. At the recent HR Technology Conference, workforce consultancy Sapient Insights unveiled its 2020–2021 HR Systems Survey White Paper, 23rd Annual Edition. The research represented 27 million employees and contingent workers across 1900 organizations and 64 countries. 

Although the Sapient research didn’t focus specifically on healthcare, the results tell us a lot about how we should be shaping our workforces for future health and non-health-related disruptions, and where we may be behind our competitors. Among the findings:

  • 39 percent of organizations said their HR system environments are being utilized to inform business strategy this year.

  • 35 percent of organizations plan to continue to have at least 50 percent of their workforce work remotely after COVID-19. 

  • Over 30 percent of organizations are rethinking Learning, Time, and Recruiting solutions. 

  • Over 40 percent of HRIS/HRIT professionals are held accountable for their companies' HR content security and HR System configuration decisions. 

  • 17 percent of organizations are using standalone HR analytics platforms this year, and 55 percent are using their HRMS analytics packages. 

Talent-related actions taken during COVID-19

When Sapient controlled for size, industry, and regional issues, there was a clear difference in the responses based on alignment with increased talent management outcomes. 

Talent management outcomes are measures of how well an organization has been able to acquire, develop, retain, and mobilize their talent over the last 12 months. Organizations with high talent management outcomes were in a better state of readiness for COVID-19 and were more likely to take strategic steps to increase and redistribute critical workforces with the tools they needed. Those who had not invested in their talent management preparations and whose actions focused on reducing salaries and laying off various workforces for the foreseeable future did not fare as well. 

According to Sapient, organizations with high talent outcomes increased salaries of essential roles, rapidly hired critical workers, increased technology infrastructure spend, and redistributed their critical workforces. On the other hand, organizations with lower talent outcomes reduced executive and management salaries, eliminated contract workers, laid-off workers with no plans to hire them back and immediately furloughed workers.

Organizations that leveraged technology to creatively redeploy their workforces were simply able to do better than those who relied on the short-term thinking associated with mass staff reductions. 

Case Study: Holland Home’s scheduling complexity reduced by HCM technology

As Michigan’s largest nonprofit provider of senior services, Holland Home needed daily access to employee time data to effectively manage and avoid unnecessary overtime. With no real-time visibility into employees’ accrued time, managers granted time off that employees hadn’t accrued, requiring payroll staff corrections. A mix of automated and manual scheduling, timekeeping, attendance, and payroll systems was both inefficient and costly to maintain.

Using an HCM solution that rapidly assembles and manages talent, Holland Home now creates schedules based on budget and empowers any scheduler to fill open shifts with qualified staff. Via a variety of self-service tools, employees enjoy checking their schedules, timecards, earnings, and accrual balances at time clocks or on mobile devices, increasing their satisfaction. 

Now that they have access to real-time accrual balances, managers approve only time off that employees have accrued. Managers also receive daily overtime reports so they can control overtime while meeting resident needs. Automated tracking of regular and contract staff hours also supports compliance with the Affordable Care Act. 

Although Holland Home didn’t make these shifts directly in response to COVID-19, the timing was ideal for this continuing care provider given the challenges the industry has been facing. The need to be more resilient, flexible, and resourceful with their staff was crucial. Using HCM technology to drive a more agile workforce, you too can well-positioned for whatever 2021 may bring us. 

If you’d like to learn more about the future of the healthcare workforce, check out the recent UKG Healthcare webinar, Humanity Works: Future-Proofing Your Healthcare Organization and Career.