10 Common Challenges for Workforce Management in the NHS

nhsLast week Kronos hosted its annual conference for the EMEA region – Kronos Live EMEA. The event is naturally one of the highlights of Kronos’ year. Spending time with customers and prospects talking about their workforce management challenges and requirements is invaluable and vital to ensuring that, as a business, we continue to meet the needs of our users.

Ahead of the main conference I also had the pleasure of hosting an intimate dinner for workforce management professionals within the healthcare sector. The discussion was led by LSE professor Dr. Tony Hockley, who recently authored the report – NHS Staffing: Not Just a Number.

It’s clear that NHS Trusts across the UK are all at different stages of technology implementation and – to some extent – their experiences and user demands are unique. However, there are also many commonalities which exist, regardless of a Trusts location, size or the type of care it offers to patients.

Here are my 10 observations – in no particular order – which the NHS faces when approaching workforce management.

  1. Nurses and administrative staff should be proud to be workforce management trailblazers. Some might feel that nurses have been ‘picked on’, as they comprise the majority of health professionals who are currently utilising workforce management or eRostering technology. I think the opposite. Nurses and admin staff are leading the way and inevitably other health professionals (medical and other services, etc.) will follow.
  2. Transparency through technology is essential. The NHS relies on the good nature and professionalism of its employees. But too often this can then be open to mismanagement or abuse. Technology can help to remove guess work and provide evidence around hours worked, shift patterns and workforce anomalies.
  3. Accuracy, accuracy, accuracy! Transparency is only of value if the data is precise and – crucially – provided in real time.
  4. Ratios of staff to patients are important, and collectively we have to get it right and respond positively to proposed government targets. But patient care will never be an exact science. Across all forms of care there are anomalies, inconsistencies and exceptions.
  5. We all want a simpler life… I am always astounded to hear stories from across the NHS about how many shift patterns exist across a Trust. Whilst it’s vital to offer employees the flexibility to fit work around other commitments, greater standardisation and simplicity of shift options means greater efficiency. In one instance a Trust consolidated an unwieldy 68 shift options to just six.
  6. Workforce management solutions are still in their infancy in the NHS. We can certainly learn from private sector industries, such as retail and manufacturing, which are now well established and in their third or fourth iterations of technology deployment. But it is wrong to try and compare like for like. The NHS is different from the private, sector and we have to recognise that.
  7. We all need help to become better managers. One consistent challenge which does exist across private and public sector is that continuous development and training is essential. Nurses shouldn’t be expected to become team managers without investment in management training and learning. The best technology in the world can’t help if managers aren’t confident, empowered and up-skilled to make managerial decisions based on the insight IT solutions provide.
  8. Build a justification case for implementation. In tough economic times, all tech decision makers are under pressure to show the value of their investments and ROI. As technology vendors, it’s our responsibility to help our customers do this.
  9. Change management is the key to success. The NHS is driven by people and behavior. No tech implementation or change to processes and practices will succeed without the buy-in of staff.
  10. Finally, it’s all about the patients. In a climate driven by cost saving, efficiency and cuts, we must never lose sight of the fact that we are all here to serve the best needs of the patient.

 

Half-wits in Head Office

Thoughts and comments on Retail Week Live from friend and colleague, Andrew Busby aka Retail Storm

Retail Reflections

 

Half-wits in Head Office

Reassuringly unpredictable; that was what Retail Week Live promised us…..and 48 hours which would change the way we think. Well, that’s a bold statement but history tells us that Retail Week usually delivers and day 1 of the 2014 conference was no different. We had the goliath of the High Street Tesco, pledging to do better, Government promising to review the business rates system….or did they? Conference star turn failing to show – but we all sympathised and understood – and Dragons Den meets Declan nicely rounded off the day!

If we weren’t clear on Tesco’s pedigree and plans for future domination before the conference, Tesco CEO Philip Clarke soon saw to that. Rather than the retail thought leadership and, whisper it, statesmanship we’d perhaps hoped for, the audience was witness to a keynote speech which was low in retail wisdom and high in Tesco…

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Like Sea Levels, Absence Levels Are Rising. Is Flexible Working The Answer?

Rising Sea LevelsMore than 35 million days are lost each year to sickness absence in the UK, a Fit for Work Europe Coalition report has found – that’s a lot of lost productivity and a huge cost to organisations, and the fact that the UK has the highest incidence of sickness absence, along with Germany, is shocking although it seems par for the course.

The CIPD /Simplyhealth Absence Survey 2013 has just been published and confirms what I already suspected would happen; that the economic downturn and the fears of job losses and financial pressures that led to the small decrease reported in last year’s survey has now reversed and absence is now back up to the levels observed in 2011 and 2010. According to the survey it currently stands at an average of 7.6 days per employee. Absence levels, as usual, are highest in the public services sector (8.7 days per employee per year) and lowest in the manufacturing and production sector (6 days per employee per year).  The survey also found that absence levels tend to increase with organisation size (in all sectors). There could be many reasons for this, it could be that employees feel less visible in a large organisation, or that, relating to the 20:60:20 rule; 20% of employees that need that extra management is just a greater number in large organisations, or these organisations find it more challenging to track and manage absence in a pro-active and positive way. What many organisations may not have caught on to is that providing flexibility is as important as capturing attendance.

One important trend highlighted in the survey is that the number of employers making changes to working patterns to try and reduce long-term absence levels has increased by 20% in the last year. Health initiatives and flexible working are becoming increasingly important if organisations are going to meet the evolving needs of their workforce and reduce the incidence of sickness absence. The survey found that 70% of survey respondents that shared their experiences in the report  said that introducing flexible working opportunities in the past year has had a positive impact on absence levels. However, I believe that if organisations don’t have ways of accommodating employee preferences, capturing employee attendance and productivity and if they do not use a workforce management solution that can support mobile or home working, flexible working can offer a challenge that many organisations will be unable to meet.

If you want to know more about managing absence take a look at the Top 10 Tips to Reduce Absence and if you are considering offering more flexible working practices or are struggling to manage them take a look at this flexible working white paper.

Real Time Information – Are you ready?

Simon MacphersonMany of you will know from 6 April 2013 employers will have to start reporting PAYE information to HMRC in real time. You may see this referred to as Real Time Information – or RTI.

This means that employers (or their accountants, bookkeepers or payroll bureau) will have to send details to HMRC each and every time they pay an employee, at the time they pay them and use payroll software to send this information electronically as part of their routine payroll process.

Although I am sure most organisations will already have electronic payroll solutions in place, I do wonder how many organisations have an efficient workforce management solution in place delivering accurate payroll hours and data to that system. I can only begin to imagine the chaos when organisations try to rectify the inevitable mistakes created by collecting hours manually, loading them into an electronic payroll data system and then loading all those errors in “real time” to a government system! It’s situations like this that makes me so proud of what we do for our customers.

Using a workforce management solution that automatically captures employee time electronically via terminals, biometrics, mobiles, laptops or tablets reduces payroll errors to zero and ensures accurate payroll, in “real-time”!

It will be very interesting to review the news after the first payrolls are processed in April and the mistakes roll in. I’d be very interested to hear from you with your experiences.

International Women’s Day 2013

It is over a hundred years since the first International Women’s Day was held to in order to drive awareness of womens’ achievements and highlight womens’ issues. The general consensus is that there is still some way to go before women acheive true equality and all the issues they face are resolved.

In the business world, for example, every year it is reported that women’s pay still lags behind men’s, and that that we need more women board members. I read recently that many people believe the banking crisis may not have happened if more women were involved in the running of the banks and banking system.

The UN theme for International Women’s Day 2013 is “A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women,” while International Women’s Day 2013 has declared the year’s theme as The Gender Agenda: Gaining Momentum – “Over time and distance, the equal rights of women have progressed. We celebrate the achievements of women while remaining vigilant and tenacious for further sustainable change. There is global momentum for championing women’s equality.”

In honour of International Women’s Day Kronos are celebrating women and women’s achievements around the world with a look at some significant contributions that women have made, that have enhanced all our lives. For example did you know that a woman invented windscreen wipers? Take a look at our video and share with all your friends and colleagues, let’s see if we can get everyone celebrating women and their achievements today. Watch the video today.

The Cloud has a silver lining for organisations around the world

Zdnet.com published a piece this week discussing the findings of the recent report – Business Cloud: The State of Play Shifts Rapidly commissioned by Capgemini. The report was based on a survey of 460 global companies and gives new insights into Cloud adoption trends.

One of the more interesting findings was that decisions on Cloud uptake are more often than not being taken by non-IT decision-makers. This would indicate decisions regarding Cloud adoption are being driven by strategic business factors – far more so than technology, in fact the survey found that UK business units made the decision 44% of the time and third parties 11%. Often we see strategic business solutions being held back by an unfortunately over-stretched IT department. It is good to see that the Cloud is now seen as a perfectly acceptable and sensible way to deploy strategic business solutions.

The reason for this shift also becomes apparent when one reads that the companies in the survey cited the economic climate as a key reason for Cloud adoption, citing moving into emerging markets and territories (53%) and deploying new applications (23%) as the two main drivers.

According to the report human capital management is one of the major functional applications that are being moved to the Cloud. And with a Cloud services uptake of 76%, on average, globally, workforce management in the Cloud is certainly something many organisations should and will be adopting.

Moving workforce management functions; forecasting demand, scheduling to that demand, managing attendance, absence, activity and accurate pay, to the Cloud allows organisations to focus on improvements in cost control, productivity and margin. Organisation can focus on the workforce management functions, while a workforce management provider, like Kronos, ensures the application is running efficiently and cost-effectively in the Cloud.

The Cloud makes it easy to enjoy the competitive advantage Workforce Management brings to an organisation, that’s the silver lining every Cloud brings.