Mastering flexibility: Retaining talent and driving operational excellence

Providing healthcare workers with flexibility while continuing to meet resident-care needs and business objectives takes a nuanced approach. Experts Brandon Tappan and Julie Bizzarri offered their insights — informed by lengthy careers in the long-term care industry — during a recent McKnight’s webinar, along with some implementation strategies. Here are four:

Understand and begin to address the underlying issues

Tappan says that although the Silver Tsunami has been talked about relentlessly during his 18-year tenure in healthcare, it’s for real this time. Here’s why:

The 80+ population will continue to grow through 2040. Our greatest consumer generation, these octogenarians will consume less of everything but healthcare. The opportunity for long-term care is not just economic; it’s a chance to serve this generation with exceptional care.

The number of working caregivers will continue to decrease. Several factors are at play here: a decline in population growth, the continuing post-COVID workforce recovery, the fact that over-50 healthcare professionals are approaching retirement age, less immigration and shifting worker expectations. Together, they herald a future in which fewer professionals are available for traditional roles.

Healthcare professionals want more flexibility. In our “Solutions to Healthcare Burnout Report,” we found that 97% of healthcare workers agree that healthcare workers need more flexibility. In addition, more workers are demanding freelance opportunities. Our recent Empowered Workforce survey of 2,400 licensed, independent professionals who use the ShiftKey platform highlights the importance of flexibility for healthcare workers:

  • 78% of those who took a break from their careers said ShiftKey's schedule flexibility enabled them to return to the healthcare workforce.
  • One in three would not be able to continue working in the healthcare industry without the ability to work on their own schedule.

Re-evaluate your current workforce paradigm

Healthcare organizations are seeing the other side of this issue: Maintaining workforce levels remains the No. 1 challenge, followed by finding, hiring and retaining employees. If national staffing mandates are implemented, the following statistics will likely get worse:

  • 72% of nursing homes say they still have fewer employees than they did before the pandemic.
  • 46% of nursing homes are limiting new admissions due to workforce shortages.
  • 66% of facilities are concerned they may have to close due to ongoing workforce challenges.

We can’t afford to lose anyone today, and we certainly won’t be able to lose anyone in the future. Shifting culture and strategy is crucial for addressing workforce issues and growing your organization. Instead of considering independent professionals a last resort to secure coverage during emergencies, leverage their expertise to:

  • Support workforce flexibility as census fluctuates and team member availability changes.
  • Provide fresh insights and skills to fill gaps, especially during peak times or internal staff shortages.
  • Help your team avoid burnout and streamline operations.
  • Deliver the best care to both your internal staff and your residents.

Create a cycle of workforce optimization

Growth requires a solid workforce, what Tappan and Bazzari call the “total workforce.”

You’re probably familiar with the “staffing doom loop,” which starts at complete coverage. Next, you increase occupancy and cover resident needs with employee overtime. That leads employees to burn out and quit, at which point, you engage external workers to fill the gaps until you can hire more employees and reduce reliance on temporary workers.

Here’s how to trade that doom loop for the flywheel popularized by Jim Collins in “Good to Great”:

Get strategic instead of being reactive. Build a total workforce centered around your full- and part-time employees yet inclusive of facility-shared staff, internal staffing pools and independent professionals. Hospitals have long embraced these tactics.

Tappan acknowledged the difficulty of this transformation: “I recognize it’s easy for me to say this, and I know it’s super challenging, but you can be in control and you can stay within your budget. It does require a mindset shift — you will need to utilize professionals outside your workforce as a resource to help you attain your vision.”

When employees know they won’t be short-handed during a shift and that they will have choice, they raise their hands more, without the expectation of bonuses. Facilities using ShiftKey are seeing this firsthand.

Leverage (the right) technology

The right technology can support your organization in delivering patient-centered care. Look for technology that helps you give employees more schedule flexibility, which 41% of senior care leaders say will help retain employees and streamline operations. Technology solutions should also provide easily accessible data that lead to fresh insights, enabling you to deliver quality care to your residents while increasing employee retention and engagement.

ShiftKey and OnShift’s integrated solution, SAMI (Schedule Automation Marketplace Integration), combines employee retention, budgeting, and scheduling tools with streamlined access to the nation’s largest marketplace of independent licensed professionals. By showing your employees and independent professionals in one place, SAMI provides you a complete view of the schedule so your team can make data-driven scheduling decisions. ShiftKey and OnShift can be used separately or together, and facilities using SAMI have seen a 6% increase in census, leading to $40 million in annualized revenue.

Learn why mastering flexibility is crucial to the future of your organization

Watch the on-demand webinar to learn more about why and how mastering flexibility can help you retain talent and drive operational excellence.

Watch the Webinar

About Brandon Tappan, Chief Revenue Officer

Brandon’s deep industry knowledge and experience in the post-acute space gives him a unique perspective on growing revenue at ShiftKey. Prior to joining, he led growth and acquisition for multi-facility/multi-state operations in the post-acute space, and was President of Operations at Senior Care Centers. Brandon is a licensed nursing facility administrator and is a sought after expert on workforce strategies. He served on the Texas Health Care Association Board for five years and often advises on legislative proposals impacting care facilities.

About Julie Bizzarri, LNHA, Senior Solutions Consultant

Julie Bizzarri is a Senior Solutions Consultant at OnShift, a ShiftKey brand, and she is a leader in human capital management software for post‐acute care and senior living. She is a Licensed Nursing Home Administrator with experience working in assisted living and memory care communities, along with skilled nursing facilities.