|Lynn Alters is WellStar’s director of workforce management|
Kronos scheduling solution balances employee and business needs for WellStar.
WellStar Health System is a not-for-profit community-based healthcare delivery system serving five metro counties in northwest Atlanta. WellStar’s five hospitals have a combined 1,311 beds and discharge approximately 64,000 patients annually, with another 273,000 patient visits to the emergency room. In addition, WellStar has five urgent care centers, 10 imaging centers, skilled nursing facilities, hospice care and 400 physicians and advanced practitioners at 81 physician-practice locations. And with more than 12,000 employees, the WellStar System has been named to the “Working Mother 100 Best Companies” list for four years.
As a progressive organization, WellStar had already implemented Kronos’ workforce-management solution to automate key processes, such as time and attendance. But until recently, WellStar didn’t have the same automation for its scheduling processes.
“Our scheduling processes were getting out of control,” says Lynn Alters, WellStar’s director of workforce management. “Employees used everything from sticky notes, bulletin-board messages, paper forms and binders if they needed to request a change to their schedule.”
WellStar determined that for every 10,000 full-time employees, there could be up to one million scheduling changes to process each year, most of which require manual interaction with an employee. Not only does this waste time, but such a manual scheduling approach exposes the organization to other significant business risks: unhappy employees, decreased productivity, inflated labor/overtime costs and even diminished patient care. For WellStar, it was clearly time for a change.
The answer was Kronos’ Workforce Scheduler, part of Kronos’ comprehensive workforce-management solution designed specifically to meet the needs of healthcare organizations. This solution automates the entire scheduling process and lets WellStar’s managers create the most effective schedules possible – those that align labor with anticipated demand – while adhering to company or regulatory scheduling policies.
“We really needed to strike a balance between employee engagement and meeting our business needs,” Alters says.
Now, nearly 4,000 WellStar employees have self-service access to their schedules. They can even perform more advanced functions, such as entering PTO requests, requesting shift swaps, signing up for open shifts and more.
“Remote self-service staffing and scheduling has been a significant benefit for us,” says Alters. “Our nurses love being able to log in from home with their personal calendars in front of them to create the schedules that work best for them.”
Self-service is more than just a convenience; it has delivered significant benefits to the entire organization. “One of our nursing managers now saves four hours a week alone on schedule-related activities, and another has migrated to a completely paperless scheduling process,” Alters says. “As the results come in, we expect to see improvements in key areas, such as overtime, labor utilization and even patient care.”
WellStar’s staff-scheduling approach has benefited employees also. “Self-scheduling and flexible work opportunities are all part of our long-term strategy for employee retention and engagement, and for becoming an employer of choice,” says Alters.
To this end, WellStar recently created an internal “FlexWorks” program to provide flexible work options for employees; Alters reports that Kronos technology is the perfect complement. “The new scheduling solution is the right tool for managing employee needs and business requirements by creating the best fit schedules for both,” she says.
WellStar Health System is looking to increase remote scheduling opportunities and add mobile scheduling. “We see so much potential for strengthening management of daily staffing in departments, such as the emergency department and inpatient nursing,” Alters says. “We can offer additional shifts quickly through mobile scheduling, which will be a significant benefit.”
Alters reports that they are utilizing additional Kronos solutions to make even better use of the scheduling data. With easy, one-source access to scheduling information, managers are able to use a fully integrated analytics and decision-support solution to give them access to all relevant workforce and operational data in one easy-to-use platform. For example, using scheduling data, supervisors will be able to compare patient volume to historical data on staffing and census to adjust staffing quickly to meet changes in demand.
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