The challenge of employee rostering in healthcare organisations

Ensuring that you have the correct number of employees, with the right skills, during a specific time period, is essential in healthcare, as both overstaffing and understaffing are extremely costly, and could potentially lead to critical mistakes. Set out below are some of the key challenges of employee rostering and scheduling for healthcare organisations.

The complexity of rostering in healthcare organisations
The healthcare sector is unlike any other sector. For example, can you imagine trying to schedule a thousand employees in a 24/7 organisation, with unknown and often unpredictable demand drivers? Add to this, variable start and finish times, rotating patterns, overtime, numerous departments, teams and specialties – not to mention all the absentee conditions you can think of, along with requests for time off and shift swapping. Could it be more complex?

Tasked with delivering one of the most important services in our society
Ultimately, as a healthcare provider you are tasked with trying to deliver one of the most important services in our society in an efficient and cost-effective manner with limited resources, while also attempting to balance the skills, needs and desires of your employees. A stressed out, overworked and unsatisfied workforce leads to high absenteeism rates (very prominent in the sector) and low motivational rates.

Poor rostering practices and systems
In an era when computers can handle almost everything, it’s incredible that some healthcare organisations still rely on spread sheets, clipboards, notice boards, and from time to time a bit of sweet talking and arm twisting to function. Often, hospitals and other healthcare providers compartmentalise rostering. Different managers handle it for different departments or teams, sometimes using very different interpretations of the organisation’s rules and policies. By doing this there is no way to coordinate and review the scheduling needs of the entire facility. Inevitably, there are errors and often a sense of inequity between departments/teams/roles. The key to good scheduling in healthcare is data, analytics, systems, software, culture and management.

How to overcome rostering challenges
Analytics, combined with systems, enable a schedule to be optimised against defined objectives related to the cost of offering the service, the quality of the service provided and health outcomes, while also meeting defined constraints.  Within the healthcare sector there is a growing awareness that the optimisation of human resource allocation to demand, delivers a number of tangible benefits including; quality of service and employee satisfaction. However, easy as this may all sound, this is an extremely challenging and complex task. A key factor in workforce management scheduling optimisation is to regularly analyse the demand for care in order to build schedules that are designed for this demand. In order to optimise the allocation of the workforce to the demand for care, the total potential capacity of the workforce needs to be ascertained, taking into account the diverse range of employees with different roles, expertise, experience, contracts and skills.

Managers need up to date actionable information and easy to use tools to optimise staffing plans and process attendance, absence, statutory leave, time in lieu, overtime records etc. Furthermore, they need to be able to make informed real-time decisions regarding labour requirements based on current and estimated patient volumes and employee availability.

Hospitals and other healthcare providers are undoubtedly facing significant operational and management challenges. For this reason, it’s essential that they explore new ways of operating in order to ensure a more efficient and business focused approach while sustaining a high level of service quality. The who, when, where and doing what, needs to be measured effectively and this is where a comprehensive eRostering / scheduling platform is invaluable. Managers get the tools and operating parameters they need, at every level to deploy resource plans and schedules effectively, while delivering top down management controls over wages or labour overhead, overtime, shifts, absence management and other major cost drivers in the organisation.

Better rostering and scheduling that includes, employee self-service, gives healthcare organisations the opportunity to create an experience that is more efficient for the sector, satisfying for patients and attractive to employees. This means you get an opportunity to develop, motivate and retain your best employees.