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The Top 7 Senior Care Staff Scheduling Mistakes (& How to Fix Them)

August 7, 2017 | Mike Pumphrey

senior care Managing a schedule for a senior care organization is no easy feat. Creating the schedule, filling shifts, managing call-offs, monitoring staffing targets, managing overtime, and fixing time and attendance issues—these tasks are all important from both a labor management standpoint and when it comes to providing the highest quality care. But often, common staff scheduling mistakes make the entire process inefficient and ineffective.

Stop making scheduling harder than it needs to be. Here are the seven most common senior care staff scheduling mistakes you’re making, and how to solve them:

1. Using pen & paper or a spreadsheet. If there’s only one mistake on this list you can correct—it should be this one. If you’re still manually managing schedules using one of these outdated methods, you’re missing out on the type of real-time visibility your employees want and your organization requires, to ensure you’re always staffing to accommodate resident needs.

Staff scheduling software not only makes the creation and daily management of your schedule more efficient, but provides the quick and easy insights your organization needs to ensure you always have the right people, at the right place, at the right time.  

(If this is you, we should talk. 😊)

2. Built-in overtime. There are many occasions where overtime is required to meet your staffing targets and resident needs. But it should never be built into the master schedule or template you use to create a new staff schedule.

Long-term care providers are already facing tight margins. No organization should put dollars towards overtime unless it is both necessary and intentionally scheduled. By having that overtime built in, you’re only increasing the chance of spending money on something you may not even need.

Additionally, only giving certain employees those extra hours each week could be viewed as showing favoritism, which would not be good for morale or overall staff satisfaction.

When your template is free of overtime, every staff member can be given a fair and equal opportunity to claim those open hours. And many of them may be able to do so without going in to overtime, allowing you to save money while still providing the proper level of care.

3. Not posting schedules far enough in advance. Often it isn’t until an employee sees their schedule that they remember they need a certain day off, or have to come in late one day, etc. But accommodating these requests becomes harder to achieve when staff members don’t have adequate time to make their scheduler aware. And more often than not, that employee will just end up calling off, leaving the community to scramble to find a replacement.

Senior care organizations should make it a policy to post staff schedules at least two weeks in advance. Giving employees ample time to notify schedulers of changes can greatly increase the chances of being able to find a replacement in a timely manner. In addition, giving staff more time to know when they are expected to be at work can improve their sense of maintaining a positive work/life balance, increasing employee engagement.

4. Spending hours trying to fill a call-off. There are a million and one reasons employees call-off at the last minute or don’t show up for a shift. And even though call-offs are widely common in the long-term care industry, many organizations still rely on having a scheduler find last minute replacements by calling down an employee contact list or searching the floor for someone willing to work a double—a process which can take hours and often results with incurring unnecessary overtime.

These methods also don’t provide fair and equal opportunities for employees to claim a shift, which can lead to low staff satisfaction.

Look for a scheduling software that simplifies the call-off process and gives schedulers the ability to notify all eligible employees through their preferred method of contact when a shift becomes available. Whatever solution you elect should make it quick and easy for employees to reply back from wherever they are. It should also help you identify the best choice candidate by identifying staff members who would not incur overtime as a result of taking that shift.

5. No scheduler back-up plan. Schedulers can’t be available to manage call-offs 24/7, 365 days a year. Have back-up or alternative schedulers designated at each shift. These back-ups may only be utilized when a scheduler is on vacation or out sick. Or you may have someone who regularly acts as the scheduler during specific shift times, such as late at night or early in the morning.

Keep in mind, this isn’t about hiring multiple schedulers per communityit’s about cross training a few key individuals to ensure you have someone who can handle call-offs and no-shows in the event your actual scheduler cannot. 

6. Lack of real-time staffing data. It’s 10 o’clock. Do you know how you’re staffing? Without real-time staffing data, it’s impossible to get a fully accurate, up-to-the minute picture of your labor budget.

Consistently hitting your staffing targets is the best way to ensure you’re equipped to meet resident needs. And as those resident needs change, you need that real-time view to ensure they can be properly accommodated.

This is another area where having the right technology can help. Look for an employee scheduling software that provides census based staffing and the ability to access the real-time data you need to ensure you’ve got every shift covered. 

7. Skipping daily labor management meetings. How you’re staffed can make or break your organization’s ability to provide the highest in quality care, making daily labor management meetings the one meeting you don’t want to skip.

Something as simple as a fifteen minute, daily labor management meeting can ensure you’re staffed appropriately, and give managers, supervisors, HR, directors of nursing, etc. the chance to review HPPD, staffing budgets, overtime, open shifts, as well as time and attendance.

For a more in-depth review, communities should have an extended meeting once a week to further discuss labor management concerns, as well as to collaborate on solutions to minimize overtime and drive down unnecessary costs, all while feeling confident that every resident need can be met.

Correcting these common scheduling mistakes can help your senior care organization become more effective and efficient when it comes to labor management. But, in order to do so, you need to consider investing in a workforce management solution that is designed based on the unique workforce management challenges the long-term care and senior living industries currently face.

Cloud-based staff scheduling software such as OnShift provides a real-time view of staffing budgets and overtime goals, while also allowing schedulers to more efficiently create schedules and communicate shift changes or open shifts to all eligible employees in minutes.

In turn, employees can access their schedules, request open shifts, and receive real-time notifications when last minute shifts become available, anywhere from a PC, tablet or smartphone. This is not only convenient for employees, but gives them a feeling of control over their schedules, greatly improving their sense of work/life balance and increasing employee engagement.

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About Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey is Vice President of Product Marketing at OnShift. His expertise in staffing and labor management strategies in long-term care and senior living is foundational to his role leading OnShift’s Product Marketing team. Mike works hand-in-hand with state and national associations, senior care providers, and with OnShift’s Customer Success and Product teams to create impactful best practices aimed to help solve the daily workforce challenges in senior care. Mike shares insights, research and recommendations to improve clinical, operational, and financial outcomes through regular blog posts and conference speaking engagements.

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