Back to basics: Establishing vision and standardizing workforce practices to drive staff satisfaction

It is a highly competitive recruitment climate for hospitals and health systems thanks to low unemployment and an increasing shortage of healthcare workers.

Organizations are offering appealing incentives to try and draw in talent – including tuition reimbursement and thousands of dollars in sign-on bonuses. While these flashy perks can get people in the door, what happens when they get there? Does the organization foster a positive culture and have processes in place that make staff want to stay for the long haul?

Organizations can throw money at people and keep them happy for a while, but if the work environment causes people to be stressed and overworked all the time, they will quickly burnout and jump ship. It’s a Band-Aid approach.

People are an organization’s biggest asset, so it makes sense to put effort (and money) into keeping staff happy. The key is knowing how to invest that time and money to really have an impact on staff satisfaction and see the greatest ROI.

This means going back to basics. High pay rates or a shiny new breakroom is not going to keep staff happy for long if they are being overworked. Rather, staff members are satisfied when they consistently work their expected hours with proper staffing levels that allows them to keep their work and personal lives in balance. Therefore, leadership should turn their attention to their scheduling and staffing practices to make sure they have a solid base for creating an engaged workplace.

It’s amazing how the simple concept of standardizing practices across a hospital or health system can make such a difference when it comes to staff satisfaction. Standardized practices – such as schedule periods, float staff policies, overtime and PTO policies, and contingency staff scheduling procedures – that are consistently applied across all departments and are well communicated to staff can calm the chaos of when staffing and scheduling practices vary unit to unit and shift to shift. Employees respond well to clear expectations and managers who hold all staff accountable to them. Standardized practices also help facilitate the ideology that a hospital functions as one cohesive team and not fragmented entities.

Taking scheduling up a notch, automated scheduling software that is fueled by predictive analytics offers optimized staffing across a health system by forecasting patient demand weeks (and months) in advance. Analyzing historical census data and other metrics for each unit, accurate forecasts help ensure the right type of provider is in the right place at the right time. This technology offers an array of configuration abilities to suit each organization’s need – including self-scheduling – ultimately securing staffing needs months in advance of a shift.

But before any flaws in current workforce management processes can be buffed out, leadership must first establish a vision and commit to following through to achieve workforce optimization. This takes time, energy, and transparency. If an organization is asking people to change or adopt new practices, policies, and technology, people are going to ask why. “What’s in it for me?” “What’s wrong with what we are doing now?” “What will change as a result?” People need to know “the why” of a project if it has any chance at all of being successful.

With workforce management initiatives, “the why” is usually tied to improving staff satisfaction, creating better work-life balance, improving staffing to provide better care, and saving money.

Once a vision has been set, an organization needs a strong functional team to drive the implementation and communication. Making sure staffing and scheduling practices are being applied and followed at an enterprise level requires champions who are able to communicate the importance and connect it to each employee. These front-line change agents are early adopters and able to sway the majority and keep a positive momentum.

As the ever-changing and competitive healthcare climate continues to push organizations to embrace change or risk falling behind, an organization’s workforce will continue to be a significant resource that affects organizational success. People drive change, and having employees who are onboard with strategic initiatives helps move organizations toward their goals.

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