Evolving labor models and resource allocation methods have put critical focus on centralized staffing and scheduling to meet volatile patient care demands during the COVID-19 pandemic. Organization success has largely been dependent on swift cohesion of front-line staff and operational leaders to rapidly deploy new staffing and scheduling processes and technology functionality or configuration.
The spotlight on this positive teamwork, collaboration, and innovation should not be lost as we continue adapting to our new healthcare world. Our “new normal” makes it more imperative than ever to employ a workforce management governance structure to further refine staffing and scheduling processes and effective technology utilization while promoting transparent communication and efficient decision-making capabilities. A workforce management governance structure is ideal to examine current workforce management processes and associated technology use while fostering employee engagement and accountability to ensure consistent and viable practices sustain well into the future.
Why do we need a governance structure – we’ve got this figured out, right?
Many relationships quickly evolved in organizations to mitigate operational disruptions to patient care. These relationships enhance centralized staffing and scheduling initiatives and involve stakeholders from different specialty realms to ensure large-scale change success. A governance structure will continue these positive relational efforts by providing a formal comprehensive and cohesive method to:
- Evaluate current workforce management practices and supporting technology
- Empower staff and leaders to provide essential feedback to inform process improvement
- Embrace an environment fostering solution development and practice progression
Organizations with strong workforce management governance structures are nimble to formulate innovative pathways and optimize collaborative efforts to streamline workflows, enhance transparency, and foster consistent application of associated policies.
Collaboration is critical
Healthcare workforce logistics affect multiple entities within an organization. Collaboration to develop efficient communication pathways and process workflows can decrease potential negative ramifications to both employees and the organization. As an example, if a staff RN works an alternate assignment, but the hours aren’t transferred, this will impact financials, productivity, reporting, and potentially pay to the employee.
A collaborative governance structure should be cross-sectional to involve key stakeholders from:
- Human resources
- Information technology
Workflow development and discussion through a governance structure will mitigate silos and encourage stakeholders to provide intimate knowledge and feedback on how proposed changes to staffing and scheduling practices and technology functionality would affect operations.
It is helpful for stakeholders to serve as liaisons to colleagues in their areas to facilitate open on-going dialogue regarding current practices or suggested process improvements the governance structure can explore to effectively address any workforce management challenges. This will ultimately inform consistent and streamlined staffing and scheduling processes to ensure accountability, ownership, and initiative success.
We’d like to start a governance structure – where do we start?
An executive sponsor is critical. The sponsor should serve as a liaison to determine process feasibility, if necessary, facilitate conversations with the executive team, and serve as a resource to ensure the organization’s mission and vision is achieved with planned staffing and scheduling endeavors.
A baseline assessment or gap analysis of current staffing and scheduling practices and supportive technology usage is beneficial to formulate an initial process framework. Key findings can include:
- Work arounds
- Communication breakdowns
- Technology improvements and usability
Technology usability is vital to successfully staff and schedule as data should be readily available to make data driven decisions in real-time. Baseline assessments often reveal process and technology incongruencies that may need to be rectified to ensure the initial executive sponsor vision is achieved.
A steering committee should be formed and meet on a regular cadence to:
- Conduct a workforce management baseline assessment and discuss key findings
- Facilitate future improvements to workforce management processes
- Inform executive sponsor and/or leadership team of workforce management recommendations (i.e. technology, additional resource needs, etc.)
- Maintain ownership to workforce management related policies, educational endeavors, and solicit continued feedback from colleagues
Core attendees should include key contacts from information technology, human resources, finance, and clinical that will serve as the organization’s operational subject matter experts.
It’s Worth It!
A workforce management strategy allows organizations to make the right decisions at the right time with the right information to not only efficiently and effectively utilize resources available, but to provide safe and equitable care to diverse patient populations. A governance structure can accelerate strategy achievement due to its cross-sectional and collaborative nature. As we begin to examine and refine staffing and scheduling processes, development of a formal workforce management governance structure provides necessary insight to streamline current workflows. It also serves as a strong basis for workforce management decision-making capacities well into the future to assist your organization be as resilient as possible in our evolving healthcare landscape.