3 Strategies to Ensure Your Staffing Policies Are Being Applied Consistently

Variances of workforce practices from one department to another result in frustration for staff and unnecessary expense to the organization, especially when aggregated at the enterprise level.

The importance of operational practices and policies and the role each employee plays in making sure they are followed is HR 101. But the fact is that deviation from guidelines happens, and it often has unexpected and costly consequences. With labor costs accounting for a significant portion of an organization’s budget, a lack of consistent workforce practices is damaging to the bottom line and employee morale.

Variances of practices from one department to another—which may seem insignificant at the time—result in frustration for staff and unnecessary expense to the organization, especially when aggregated at the enterprise level. Consistently applied staffing and scheduling practices create a framework of predictable results for productivity and efficiency, and positively impact staff morale.

Reviewing staffing and scheduling policies such as the timeline for schedule creation, PTO (paid time off) guidelines, weekend and holiday commitments, and reporting absences is the first step to evaluating current practices. It’s common when doing an assessment of an organization’s staffing policies to find some managers who feel those guidelines are not easily accessible or understood or followed by staff. Most managers report feeling frustrated with an organization’s lack of consistent policy enforcement.

Here are three strategies to deploy now to help ensure adherence to your staffing and scheduling policies:

1. Adopt an enterprise staffing mentality. An enterprise staffing mentality creates the framework for consistently applied practices by standardizing policies across the organization. This approach requires shared vision and organizational cooperation extending to all applicable service lines and aligning policies and operational practices. This means all departments adhere to the same policies and work together as one functioning entity.

The transition from a “silo” mentality to an enterprise mentality forces clear and consistent communication to combat those who may be resistant to the new process. Any information required for improving work processes should flow freely across organizational boundaries.

2. Have strong organizational alignment. Managers and employees who have a clear understanding of why following standardized staffing practices benefit the entire organization are valuable stewards for upholding policies. Having employees who buy into the organization’s vision are instrumental in driving the company toward its goals. An entire organization that has a clear vision of goals, shared responsibility, and personal accountability to achieve results is core to leading any significant initiative to a successful outcome.

3. Hold staff accountable. Accountability is an important value to uphold when managing a workforce. Setting expectations and promoting personal accountability creates a culture of responsibility. Accountability also can help motivate employee performance. Staff satisfaction is tied to both accountability and an appreciation for managers who hold those who are not accountable to the standards expected.

Workforce management is a pain point for many organizations. Constrained resources, inconsistent policies, and a lack of tools can create staffing challenges and stress, which can create a cycle of burnout and turnover that negatively impacts quality and causes costs to skyrocket.

Having a culture with clear guidelines for staffing and scheduling that are easily accessible by all staff, applied consistently, and monitored lays the groundwork for other, more sophisticated workforce planning and strategies to be applied.

Jackie Larson is a health-care industry veteran, thought leader, and president of Avantas. Developer of the HELM methodology (healthcare enterprise labor management), Avantas helps healthcare providers better manage their workforce. Its proprietary approach to managing labor consists of workforce planning services and a scheduling and productivity solution, Smart Square. Larson joined Avantas in 2008 and has been the driving force in building out the company’s client management, analytics, and consulting groups into world-class teams providing guidance and support to clients on a wide range of issues, including workforce optimization, productivity, labor pool and incentives, system integration, resource management, and business analytics. A writer and speaker on health-care staffing and workforce optimization topics, Larson has been featured at national conferences including AHIMA, AAACN, and Becker’s Hospital Review Annual Meeting. She is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE), Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), and the American Organization for Nurse Executives (AONE). For more information, visit: www.Avantas.com.