How to survive staff shortages in the healthcare system by using shift bidding
For many months, employees from the healthcare system have appealed for help over and over again and they are reaching a point of exhaustion. One of the main reasons for this sad situation is the shortage of staff, which makes life difficult for organizations when they have to fill vacant shifts. Not only is it difficult for employees of the healthcare system who feel powerless, but it is also difficult for patients who must face disruptions in services. Can we do things differently and find ways to alleviate the pressure in order to create a collaborative employer/employee environment?
Even after the introduction of a range of measures such as hiring more staff, upgrading some positions and centralizing callback lists, the situation in our establishments persists. What if shift bidding could help? The effective use of schedule planning tools, by means of an employee portal, enables employers to post and put up at auction vacant shifts, which allows employees to manifest their interest to work an extra shift. For the organization, this process means less calls, provides an effective method of communication, encourages collaboration between the employer and employees, while respecting collective agreement provisions.
The process is simple:
- By means of an employee portal, the employer posts shifts that are vacant for the coming week. An employer can set the length of time for which a notice is posted (e.g. employees have 24 hours to manifest their interest for a particular shift).
- During this time employees receive notices based on their sphere of competence and known availability and can prioritize the shifts they would like to work.
- When the posting period is over, the system crosschecks offers of interest with collective agreement conditions, such as seniority or order of priority, and assigns shifts to employees.
There are many advantages to this approach. Firstly, the personnel assigned to the callback list will see a significant reduction in the number of calls it needs to make to fill vacant shifts. Facts show that, for a majority of replacement calls made, the use of an employee portal can replace dozens if not hundreds of phone calls. Secondly, employees don’t have to wait for one or more phone calls to know if they are working additional shifts or not. Just with a few clicks, an employee can indicate her or his interest for a particular shift, establish an order of preference and communicate her or his choice to the employer. Lastly, the organization, through an efficient system, ensures full compliance will all collective agreement dispositions and eases the undue pressure on all personnel. At any given time, the organization has a clear picture of what is going on and can increase the focus on its operations.
The number of shifts up for bid, the bidding window and the offered opportunities can vary. Beyond the bidding function, the employee portal has many other unique and useful capabilities such as an absence request function, a shift exchange function, a current work schedule, and a messaging capability. The system is customizable; all you have to do is configure each function and make the functions accessible to employees.
An efficient system can facilitate the way work replacements are managed and should be able to adapt to the needs of an organization while taking into account collective agreement provisions and organizational rules.
The crisis that the healthcare system is experiencing is forcing organizations to change their methods. To support other operational functions, such as staff recruitment and work reorganization, an organization must look at ways to create a collaborative employer/employee environment. And that can be done. Not only does our solution allow organizations to save time and money, but alleviates the pressure felt by staff and the healthcare system, a system in dire need of help.
About the author: Renaud Grimard, M.A.Sc.
Renaud Grimard, who is the founding president of Timesphere, attended Polytechnique Montréal, where he pursued a bachelor’s degree followed by a master’s degree in engineering. He is constantly focused on providing the most complete, simple and technically advanced solution to managing and optimizing employee scheduling systems that the industry has to offer.