One of the major roles for the HR departments in healthcare companies is that of creating work schedules for the rest of the employees. The task of creating work schedules for employees is not always an easy one. There are so many things you have to take into consideration. And there are so many unforeseeable things that you have to keep at the back of your mind, while creating work schedules for the employees. Yet when all is said and done, if you are in charge of HR at a healthcare company, you have to somehow come up with work schedules for the employees. And you have to ensure that the work schedules you come up with are as good as possible.
While creating work schedules for healthcare staff, you need to:
- Ensure that there is adequate manpower at all times: This is the most important thing for you to keep in mind, while creating work schedules for healthcare staff. And in this regard, it is very critical for you to ensure that you don’t ever end up with too few workers at any given point in time. Remember, if you find yourself short of manpower at any given point, that may lead to a situation where the wellbeing of the patients is compromised. So this is something you need to take with the seriousness it deserves. On the other hand, it is also important for you to ensure that you don’t end up with too much manpower – more than you need, at any given point in time. If you end up with too much manpower at any point, it would mean that you would be spending more on HR costs than you need to. So you would not be making efficient use of your human resource and that is bound to have an impact on your healthcare business’ bottom-line. You find that it is really a tough balancing act, where on the one hand, you are keen to ensure that you don’t end up with too much manpower at any point, and where on the other hand, you also want to ensure that you don’t ever end up with manpower shortfalls. So the most important thing here is to carry out surveys, to find out when you are likely to have most patients and when you are likely to have just a few patients. Then you need to ensure that you allocate more staff at the points when you are likely to have lots of patients, and then allocate fewer staff at the points in time when you are likely to have fewer patients. You can then have staff who are off-duty but ‘on call’ — that is, ready to be called in in case there is a workload spike at any given point in time.
- Make contingency plans for unforeseeable circumstances: There are many unforeseeable circumstances that are capable of messing up with your work schedules. For instance, some of the employees who were scheduled to be on-duty may fall ill suddenly, making it necessary for you to replace them on short notice. Or there may be a sudden spike in the number of patients who need to be seen, making it necessary to adjust your work schedule accordingly. The most important thing here is for you to have backup measures. Thus if, for instance, one of your employees is to call in sick, you need to have someone who can take his place on short notice. That is where the aspect of having employees who are ‘on call’ comes in: where you tell some of the employees who are scheduled to be off-duty to be ready to be called in, in case need arises. This is also where the question of having part-time staff comes in, including doctors who can be called on ‘locum’ basis.
- Consider the employees’ input in the schedules: In this regard, for instance, it would be a good idea to consider asking the employees about the shifts they would prefer to be placed in. This is also where you need to consider asking the employees when they’d prefer to be off-duty – rather than allocating them off-duty days arbitrarily. Of course, there are situations where you will be forced to place an employee on a shift different from the one he would have preferred. But you would at least have shown him consideration, and you would need to communicate to him the fact that his needs couldn’t be accommodated. He would probably then appreciate the gesture. Remember, when employees are allowed to choose their shifts, some will surprise you by opting for the ‘less desirable’ shifts on their own accord (because personal preferences vary from person to person). You should therefore not fear taking the employees’ input while creating the work schedules.
- Make the schedule available to the employees in good time: The objective is to get the employees to know when they are scheduled to be at work and when they are scheduled to be away from work in good time. They can then plan their lives accordingly, in good time. If you are still using the olden paper-based timetables, you’d need to print them out and pin them on the noticeboard in good time, for the benefit of the employees. If you have a web-based HR portal for your employees, you’d need to make the work schedule available in the portal well in advance: so that when the employees log in, they can get to view it. Remember, the work schedule is not something to be taken lightly – it is something that the employees are expected to plan their lives around.
- Consider making use of software tools: There are software tools that are designed to enhance accuracy in staff scheduling, while also making the scheduling task easier. You really need to consider making use of these tools. Some of them can be downloaded (or used online) for free. And the software you use in your office can be configured to have work scheduling capabilities – like where you input certain formulas into an Excel sheet, turning it into a work scheduling tool. If you make proper use of software, you will be able to avoid some of the common mistakes that are associated with employee scheduling. Like for instance, with the right use of software, it is highly unlikely that you would find yourself double-scheduling an employee, or scheduling an employee for the wrong job.