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The Fundamentals Of Healthcare Workforce Planning
Learn best practices and basic steps of healthcare workforce planning to help manage the dramatic shifts occurring in the industry.
Healthcare workforce planning is a process of forecasting the staff your organization will need in the future to be able to provide the highest quality of care and operate with maximum effectiveness. This strategic planning process helps hospitals not only identify workforce needs, but also key strategies, goals, and policies to effect positive change.
Most organizations have some sort of workforce plan in place, but few have an ironclad process they can rely on to pinpoint gaps and source talent. In this article, we’ll explain best practices and basic steps of healthcare workforce planning.
Why Healthcare Workforce Planning Is Important
It’s more important than ever for hospitals to plan for the future because the demand on the healthcare system has never been so high. Healthcare workforce planning should be part of comprehensive strategic planning for organizations because of these current challenges:
- Healthcare reform is expected to bring millions more patients into the system.
- The U.S. population is aging, creating a perfect storm where baby boomers need more care and healthcare professionals from this generation are retiring.
- Rapid technological advances are changing role functions.
- Regulatory constraints are increasing.
There’s no doubt healthcare workforce development is becoming a top priority for healthcare facilities. Using these plans helps organizations define their staffing needs, as well as improve their recruiting, sourcing, retention, retirement, and onboarding strategies. From a broader perspective, workforce planning is the most proactive method hospitals can use to adapt to shifting demands, which are often out of their control.
If there’s no clear plan, it could result in staffing gaps that negatively affect a hospital’s ability to provide quality care to patients and achieve its long-term goals. A well-built workforce planning model will incorporate an organization’s overarching strategy, aligning staff and goals.
Getting Started With Healthcare Workforce Planning
Healthcare organizations should do workforce planning annually, adjusting the plan (if necessary) to meet evolving needs. And remember to keep your workforce plan aligned with your strategic plan and the projects included, even in the midst of making changes.
The first step in planning your workforce needs for the next few years is to do an organizational assessment:
- Look at data on past rates of hiring, retention, termination, and resignation.
- Gather feedback from department heads and subject matter experts on current staffing levels and needs.
- Consider how new technology might change workforce roles and functions.
- Research benchmarking data to compare and predict your organization’s needs against similar facilities.
Completing this assessment puts healthcare providers in the best position to make accurate projections and smart talent investments that deliver the right skills at the right time for the right cost. You might also consider starting with a SWOT analysis for your organization to define the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your current environment.
After the assessment is complete, a healthcare organization typically assigns a workforce planner to lead the next steps. This role is the linchpin to achieving maximum workforce efficiency in healthcare organizations.
This person owns the creation of the actual workforce plan and starts by addressing the staffing gaps, both short- and long-term, that were inevitably revealed in the assessment. For each position identified, ask:
- Is this a critical role?
- Can it be filled internally or does it require external expertise?
- Can this be a temporary position or contract hire?
Healthcare workforce planners must determine the urgent hiring needs, the skills and specializations required to fill each position, and the total number of people needed to fulfill the organization’s staffing demand. To estimate workforce demand, planners must consider the existing workforce, turnover rate, current hiring model, and average time-to-fill metrics. Workforce planners also factor in the organization’s financial resources and budget for recruitment and hiring as they create the plan.
After outlining the prioritized needs and establishing the scope, the planner identifies owners and stakeholders. Anyone who will be responsible for communicating, implementing, executing, or continuing the workforce planning process is specifically named. This often involves senior and executive staff, physicians, HR staff, community relations, and outreach staff.
The gaps, priorities, demand, owners, and resources form the foundation of a healthcare workforce plan. Creating the plan is clearly an intensive, exacting process, but it’s critically important to helping hospitals provide the highest quality of care and execute their larger strategy.
Learn how to create a unified strategy that incorporates processes like workforce planning with a balanced scorecard.
Talent Acquisition & Retention
Once the workforce plan is developed, organizations must determine how to acquire and retain qualified staff. A big part of strategic workforce planning in healthcare is the ability to fill talent pipelines.
To achieve this, workforce planners should identify policies and best practices for attracting, assessing, hiring, training, and retaining top talent. This includes offering recommendations on ways to improve these processes. Keep in mind that this part of your workforce plan should also outline your strategy for hiring completely new roles for your organization. For example, if you’re implementing new technology, you may not have a blueprint or job description to help you hire the right skill set for the job or evaluate the performance once the person is hired. Have a plan for this!
Even the most successful acquisition and retention strategies should be part of the annual workforce planning review. It will be important to innovate and try new approaches to remain competitive with other healthcare providers.
Reviewing A Healthcare Workforce Plan
As we previously mentioned, it’s recommended you review your healthcare workforce plan on an annual basis. Your workforce planner should create a review and monitoring process for leadership and stakeholders to measure the plan’s progress, success, and potential flaws.
Be clear about what you expect to achieve through the ongoing planning and review cycles. Your organization’s objective is to develop and retain a talented workforce with the skills to support your healthcare facility.
With dramatic shifts occurring in the healthcare industry, leaders need to identify and mitigate the staffing challenges to their respective organizations. Healthcare workforce planning will help initiate the right discussions to understand and solve those challenges.
Need help managing the workforce planning process? Try ClearPoint’s strategy software.