For instance, not only must your organisation balance the competing demands of profitability and service delivery, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made labour more difficult to access and retain. On top of that, COVID is highly infectious in aged care centres, adding extra layers of compliance and complexity due to government demands and changing legislations. Not only must these changes be implemented in days – rather than the months or years they’d otherwise require – letting them get ahead of you can have disastrous consequences if they cause the residents in your care to suffer.
But while there are plenty of tools you can draw on in your never-ending quest for operational excellence, adopting a workforce management software for aged care isn’t always a top priority. That’s a mistake. As we’ll explore in this article, implementing such a system can play a critical role not just in minimising labour costs, but in producing the degree of employee satisfaction required to deliver world-class care in Australia’s competitive aged care environment.
Systemic challenges of aged care in Australia
Demand for aged care services in Australia is growing, and it is expected to continue growing as the baby boom generation ages. According to a November 2019 report by the Australian Government Aged Care Financing Authority, Attributes for Sustainable Aged Care: A Funding and Financing Perspective, “Projections based just on historical average staffing levels indicate that the aged care workforce will have to triple by 2050 to meet the demands of an ageing Australian population.”
Unfortunately, meeting this demand won’t be easy. As the organisation’s July 2020 report, Eighth Report on the Funding and Financing of the Aged Care Sector, found, “There is significant variation in the financial performance of aged care providers, however the overall trend, particularly in the residential care sector, is not sustainable.”
The report continues, “An increasing number of residential care providers are making a loss, and it appears that a growing number of smaller providers are facing significant financial difficulties and are seeking to leave the industry. The COVID-19 impact is likely to accelerate this trend.”
The Financing Authority attributes these challenges to several factors:
- A legacy of a highly regulated system
- Funding pressures
- Low community status (and, at times, esteem)
- Incentives that do not reward innovation
- Elements of ageism in aged care
- Challenges attracting management and leadership skills compared with better resourced and more dynamic industries
Further, the report notes that, “The coronavirus crisis has added to staff costs and to the pressure aged care workers are under. The Government has provided additional funding to assist aged care workers and providers deal with these pressures, although the funding is temporary and is in response to the immediate impact of COVID-19, rather than dealing with underlying issues.”
Internal issues facing aged care providers
All of that said, it isn’t only systemic issues that are impacting providers’ ability to deliver services without compromising care quality.
For example, consider that some aged care providers have wage ratios as high as 70 per cent, despite labour being one of their most manageable expenses. Outdated, inefficient manual systems contribute to these high wage ratios. As an example, creating rosters from scratch each week adds to the admin burden of rostering and payroll, and it introduces a high potential for errors – including both employer-side compliance issues and worker-side scheduling frustrations, such as unnecessary overtime.
When workers are forced into excessive overtime, are not given the shifts they prefer, or do not receive the amount of work they require due to manual rostering issues, morale suffers – and this, in turn, affects the quality of care they provide. As a result, better scheduling has the potential to improve not just wage ratios and centre profitability, but also workforce satisfaction and overall care standards.
How does workforce management software help aged care organisations?
Implementing a holistic workforce management software like Humanforce offers aged care organisations a number of different benefits.
Reduced administrative burden
As hinted at earlier, managing labour with an automated system can minimise administrative burden by replacing or automating several different manual admin procedures or functions.
Take the Humanforce feature that allows HR leaders and frontline managers to approve payroll by exception as an example. With manual payroll processing, timesheets must be approved – and any deviations from approved schedules must be investigated – by hand. With approval by exception, payroll managers can automatically approve timesheets that meet expected work times, focusing their manual review effort only on those that fall outside of expectations.
Rules-based rostering is another workforce management software feature that improves both operational efficiency and employee satisfaction.
Once set up, rules-based rostering and ‘smart rosters’ allow HR managers to avoid potential scheduling conflicts based on staff availability, scheduled leave, vacations, hours worked, and other internal rules. Rosters created that violate these standards automatically alert managers so that potential issues can be resolved before they result in understaffed or overstaffed shifts, as well as frustrated workers.
Mitigate compliance risks
Compliance is critical at aged care organisations, which is why Humanforce’s workforce management solution includes:
- Automated skill profile and skill ratio tracking across shifts
- Alerts when schedules don’t meet standards
- Tracking of employee qualifications, permits, leave entitlements, and type of employment to help avoid compliance penalties
Data insights to reduce overtime and increase productivity
The vast swaths of data collected by a workforce management software for aged care like Humanforce allows organisations to monitor staffing efficiency through in-built reports.
Not only can these insights allow organisations to reduce overtime expenditures and increase their overall productivity, they can also prove useful as forecasting tools for improving budget planning. This can be especially impactful for organisations with multiple care residences, as workers and resources can be allocated across different locations, based on specific needs.
How workers benefit from workforce management software
Beyond the advantages to the organisation, implementing a workforce management software for aged care offers workers several benefits.
With such a system in place, workers enjoy:
- Reduced stress, thanks to improved visibility into scheduling and fewer errors occurring
- Lower potential for interpersonal conflicts centred around rostering issues
- Lower turnover and more accurate hiring processes, thanks to streamlined systems and a clearer awareness of the organisation’s staffing needs
- Quicker and easier onboarding
- The ability to handle shift swaps and leave requests on their own (potentially via a mobile app)
Remember, aged care workers are often casual workers who may be juggling multiple jobs or competing demands. The more your organisation can do to simplify their work lives, the happier they’ll be. The retention benefits that come from happier workers can’t be understated – especially in the COVID era, which has already tightened labour markets and reduced the number of workers available.
Ultimately, when you remove work-related stress and other distractions, you free your staff up to focus on providing world-class care. Implementing a modern, tailored workforce management software for aged care doesn’t just improve profitability and productivity. The full impact trickles down to your staff and your residents, creating the kind of sustainable operation needed to thrive in the challenging years ahead.
To see how Humanforce’s workforce management software for aged care can support your unique organisation, reach out today. Our team is standing by to show you the difference partnering with a leader in Australian labour management can have at all levels of your business.