Philosophy of Scheduling

Philosophy of Scheduling

"By consistently achieving our target staffing levels, we can provide the best care possible for our residents."

Let's break that down:

Target staffing levels are the number of staff to be scheduled on the floor during each shift. The philosophy assumes your organization has identified levels that meet both minimum regulatory standards as well as your organization's standards for care.

Our staffing levels ranged from a ratio of one staff person to four residents during the afternoon to a ratio of 1 to 10 overnight. Regardless of the levels your organization has identified, these target levels represent what it means to be fully staffed.

Consistently achieving our target levels is your organization's ability to staff to those levels. It is important that staff be able to count on these levels being consistently met.

Providing the best care possible for residents results from the impact on staff and, therefore, culture in consistently achieving target staffing levels.

Workflow Tools

Going back and forth among the main schedule interface and Staff Levels and Hours Scheduled views provides an insight into scheduling that isn't readily available otherwise.

1) Enter/update staff schedules in the main schedule.

We schedule our staff according to their weekly patterns and availability by entering shift abbreviations into the main schedule interface.

2) Compare the target staffing levels for each department to what is currently scheduled.

With our target staffing levels having been identified and input, we are able to see how our schedule is doing relative to those levels.

3) Check the hours scheduled for each employee.

We check the Hours Scheduled view to see the sum of hours to be worked per week for each staff member.

Rules of Thumb

Hire More Staff Than You Need -- Not Really

Oftentimes, what we think of as the optimal number of staff to employ overall isn't quite optimal. When we see estimated overtime hours that were acceptable at the beginning of the month begin to creep as the schedule plays itself out, this is an indicator that we likely do not have enough staff.

Traditional approaches to scheduling, while functional, don't necessarily provide us with insight into many of the factors influencing our ability to achieve our target staffing levels. A lot of energy on the part of the person doing the scheduling is usually expended in just keeping up with changes. We tend to be reacting to unforeseen emergencies, illnesses, requests off, letting that person go, etc. The impact of such changes is generally difficult to quantify and build into the schedule.

This is where the next rule of thumb comes in. So the objective is not actually to hire more staff than you need but rather identify a true optimal number of staff to employ that considers all the hours available to be filled as well as the hours available among employed staff to fill them.

Instead of accepting overtime creep, we're working to create a situation where employees are vying for additional hours and where call-ins and other unforeseen events have a minimal negative impact on our target levels being achieved for each shift.

By implementing this rule of thumb, we're less likely to be asking more hours of our regularly scheduled staff which is a major cause of overtime creep that can eventually lead to lower morale and unfortunately less than optimal care for residents.

How Many More? Zero Overtime Plus One

There is no hard and fast number, but zero overtime plus one is a baseline rule of thumb that helps you safeguard your schedule against the less knowable factors of scheduling mentioned above.

Zero overtime meaning if zero overtime hours per pay period were the goal, how many hours of overtime do you typically see? Is that number enough to warrant hiring someone part-time or full-time?

Plus one being that additional staff person -- or more depending on the size of your facility -- who is seeking more hours and acts as an additional cushion for the schedule.

Over Schedule -- Initially

It is amazing the impact that beginning the day over scheduled can have on morale, general positivity and outlook among staff. And since anything can and will happen, especially during the more volatile shifts, by the time a shift begins you may find that you're at your target levels anyway.

Should you remain over scheduled at the beginning of a shift, this is a much better problem to have than finding yourself short. It's much easier to send someone home last minute than it is to find someone to cover. Quite often, letting staff go home or leave early is looked upon as you doing them a favor.

Insights and Benefits

The following illustrates some of insights and benefits gained by implementing the philosophy, moving between the tools and applying the rules of thumb.

Immediately Identify Over/Under Scheduling

No more manual counting. With the Staff Levels view, over scheduling and under scheduling are immediately identifiable for the entire schedule at a glance. The green boxes with their respective counts show over scheduling relative to your target staffing levels. The red boxes with their counts show under scheduling. It's as simple as that.

Improved Ability to Plan

As we create the schedule and use the tools, we'll begin to see patterns such as routine holes in the schedule on certain days of the week, commonly scheduled overtime hours, the impact of requests off, etc. Effective planning addresses such scheduling issues in advance of any problems they may cause.

We would begin by looking to cover these open shifts among regularly scheduled staff. By consulting the Hours Scheduled view, we can see who may be able to pick up more hours before going into overtime.

If we find that we're at capacity with current staff, meaning that by attempting to allocate more shifts to them we would either put them into overtime hours or find limited availability among them, this is an insight that we should be looking to hire more staff.

This process provides us with an awareness we might not have otherwise that allows us to make staffing decisions such as hiring additional personnel, for example, with time to spare.

Improved Ability to Respond

Ongoing changes to the schedule represent a majority of the issues we're attempting to resolve. Good planning along with the Staff Levels view, improve our ability to respond to these changes.

Let's say we're at our target levels for the afternoon shifts this week. Then an employee has an emergency or we have to let someone go. We update the schedule and immediately see red for all of the shifts affected telling us that we're now down one for today, the rest of the week and even a couple of weeks from now.

The objective of the philosophy is consistency, not perfection. So even if filling today is still a challenge, that's okay. Because we were better able to plan, we should have many options for filling the holes and getting back on track such as new hires in training, recent hires desiring to pick up more hours, or more part-time employees with availability before asking our regularly scheduled, full-time employees to cover.

Reduction of Tedious Chores

The mental effort once required to account for changes to the schedule before resorting to a manual count for confirmation is no more. Now we visit the Staffing Levels and Hours Scheduled views and have all of this information at a glance.

The application even allowed us to create shorter shifts, longer shifts and overlapping shifts. This gave us many more options and much more flexibility in working with the scheduling needs of staff. And since the application accounts for staffing levels and hours scheduled in the same way regardless of the number or types of shifts, no additional complexity resulted, only an enhanced ability to meet our target levels.

Improved Quality of Care and Employee Morale

All of these benefits lead to perhaps the most important of all. By following a philosophy with a primary focus of achieving target staffing levels that provide for a certain standard of care, there are perhaps no better benefits than seeing an improvement in the quality of care and employee morale.

When those who have chosen to commit themselves and their careers to this type of service have more time to spend one-on-one caring for the residents and know they are supported by the organization, they do their best work and feel most satisfied in that work.

The tools that One Click Schedule provides were developed with this philosophy as the guiding principle. We are happy to be able to share them with you and hope that they benefit you as much in your service as they did in ours.