Strategic Workforce Planning in Healthcare to Create Talent Agility

September 9, 2022

One of the most important objectives for a healthcare facility is to deliver high-quality care. And this is not possible without a dedicated staff that's committed to this goal and feels empowered to move the facility toward success. But with industry challenges like constrained resources, shortages, high turnover, and disengagement, it's not always easy to see a clear path forward to achieving goals. As such, developing an agile workforce through proactive planning and access to talent is critical for health systems to thrive in today's landscape.

With an agile workforce, healthcare organizations can swiftly adjust staffing levels and skill mixes to account for fluctuating patient census and acuity. This allows for optimized utilization of labor in a cost-efficient manner while avoiding dangerous nurse-to-patient ratios. Just as importantly, it provides scheduling options that promote work-life balance, thereby boosting retention. Health systems that fail to prioritize talent agility risk lower margins, staff burnout, and substandard care.

Wherever you are in your workforce planning initiatives, Health Carousel can help. We offer a total talent management approach that equips healthcare leaders with strategies and evaluation metrics to create a workforce capable of stabilizing gaps in patient care coverage while controlling costs.

Defining Workforce Agility

Workforce agility refers to the ability of a healthcare provider to smoothly adapt frontline staffing levels and skill sets to account for variability in patient demand. It requires flexible management of core clinical employees and temporary or contingent talent.

An agile workforce plan can strategically layer internal and external talent pools. This creates on-demand access to part-time, per diem, float pool, traveler, and international nurse talent. Streamlined mechanisms rapidly deploy contingent labor whenever daily census, seasonal volume, or acuity fluctuations create gaps.

The depth and diversity of talent pipelines determine true workforce agility. Fixed staffing models that are overly reliant on core full-time nurses lack flexibility by definition. Modern healthcare requires a proactive, elastic approach to handling variability without sacrificing productivity, cost management, quality of care, or staff morale.

Benefits of an Agile Healthcare Workforce

An agile workforce has benefits that span improved patient care to staff engagement:

Improved Capacity to Deliver Patient Care

An agile workforce creates capacity buffers that prevent staffing emergencies. Expanding skill diversity also arms facilities with specialized clinical competencies that might be missing from core staff. This fosters efficient care delivery to more patients even during seasonal volume spikes or Covid-like surges.

Controlled Labor Costs

Controlling excessive labor spend is a top financial priority for healthcare executives. An agile workforce strategy adjusts staffing levels according to daily needs rather than overinflating them for peak demand. This optimizes labor utilization, reigns in rate premiums for last-minute staff augmentation, and supports margin integrity.

Enhanced Staff Engagement and Retention

Nothing damages nursing morale more than excessive patient loads, frequent overtime, and denied time-off requests. An agile workforce and backfill pool offer flexible scheduling and better work-life balance. Reducing burnout boosts retention, continuity of care, and patient satisfaction.

Stronger Community Reputation

Finally, temporary ED diversions, surgery cancellations, and poor outcomes due to understaffing can hurt your community's standing. An agile workforce helps avoid reputational damage and attrition of referral volumes by delivering consistent care coverage. There are also recruiting advantages to becoming an employer of choice.

Barriers to Workforce Agility

If workforce agility is the cure for healthcare talent challenges, why do shortages, disengagement, and turnover persist? Unfortunately, the traditional hospital talent model erects barriers:

  • Reliance on Fixed Staffing Models: Inflexible, fixed staffing methodologies cannot accommodate fluctuations. 
  • Unpredictable Census Fluctuations: Even the most robust forecasting cannot predict precise admission volumes, operational bottlenecks, or seasonal acuity shifts. And post-COVID patient patterns defy historical data. This uncertainty makes it harder for planners to define appropriate nurse-to-patient ratios.
  • Competition for Scarce Talent: Aging workforce demographics tighten the talent supply. Compounding hiring challenges, healthcare competes against other industries to attract a finite pool of skilled labor.
  • Lengthy Hiring Processes: Transitioning flex talent into core staff could add needed agility. But healthcare hiring cycles average 60 days or longer. By then, eager candidates have often joined other employers.

Strategies to Increase Workforce Agility

Turning the situation around requires mitigating workforce barriers through deliberate steps:

Leverage External Workforce Solutions

First, expand talent pipelines by tapping into supplemental external resourcing. Solutions like traveler, per diem, and international nurse staffing provide rapid, scalable capacity without bearing excessive core staff costs.

Health Carousel offers total workforce management encompassing all of these contingent talent channels. External options range from short-term traveler nurses to fill last-minute gaps all the way to multi-year international talent programs sustaining long-range capacity.

Implement Flexible Internal Staffing Models

Revisit staffing methodologies to interweave core and contingent roles. Unit-based resource pools, PRN internal float pools, and centers of excellence generate agility. Blended creative scheduling also further bolsters flexibility.

Health Carousel helps design an optimal workforce composition that is unique to each provider. This includes mapping external resources against internal flex pools. The result is an infrastructure with layers of talent and scheduling versatility to handle variability.

Develop Internal Resource Pools

Proactively sourcing multi-skilled talent into versatile internal float pools creates an agile reserve. Cross-trained pools managing everything from ED triage to ICU step-down offer diverse competencies.

Enable Shift Swapping Capabilities

Enhanced self-scheduling options allow staff to seamlessly cover each other’s shifts when life intercedes. This facilitates time off without scrambling for backfills or incurring overtime.

Streamline Hiring Practices

Finally, modernize talent acquisition by reducing time-to-fill. Leverage recruitment marketing automation, streamlined applicant tracking, and parallel hiring processes to efficiently expand core capacity. Health Carousel's talent acquisition resources provide advanced sourcing techniques that shorten time-to-fill for core clinical roles. With international nurse recruitment, process efficiencies also smooth immigration workflows.

This diversified game plan breaks dependence while scaling flexible talent channels for an elastic workforce able to stretch and contract – on demand.

The Health Carousel Approach

Health Carousel provides total workforce solutions, enabling the flexibility and speed required to deliver consistent care coverage. The extensive external talent ecosystem includes:

  • Float Pools: Designated regional and national pool resources to deliver contracted travel nurses for 13-week assignments able to cover last-minute callouts or longer-term vacancies.
  • Traveler Programs: High-quality specialty talent fills gaps ranging from a few weeks to over a year, available for rapid deployment.
  • International Pipelines: Overseas recruiting through vetted partners supplies skilled international nurses to sustain capacity.

In addition, our proprietary vendor-neutral, AI-powered technology platform provides real-time workforce analytics while intuitively managing the deployment of all your resources with just-in-time delivery of perfectly matched talent.

All of our workforce solutions are backed by dedicated account management and clinical support. This ensures flawless onboarding, credentialing, and scheduling flexibility. With nationwide service capabilities, the clinical talent ecosystem scales according to seasonal needs – enabling temporary or permanent hires.

Most importantly, Health Carousel begins every client relationship by consulting on the ideal workforce composition specific to that provider’s objectives for quality, cost management, and more. Open-architecture strategies integrate Health Carousel resources and a client’s current programs into a unified delivery workflow.

The result is a tailored blueprint for total talent management – the depth and diversity of labor pools that drive true workforce agility. Discover more about our workforce solutions today.

Read: Learn More about Workforce Planning in Healthcare to Optimize or Reconstruct Talent Layers

Embracing the Future of Healthcare Workforce Planning

As the healthcare industry continues to evolve, the importance of agile workforce planning cannot be overlooked. Health Carousel's innovative model - centered on talent agility - positions healthcare organizations for success in an increasingly complex healthcare landscape. Health Carousel is leading the way in enhancing patient care and optimizing healthcare facility management by focusing on technology-driven solutions, strategic workforce planning, and high-quality talent acquisition.

The future of healthcare workforce planning lies in embracing innovation, fostering talent agility, and leveraging technology to address the challenges and opportunities ahead. With Health Carousel's guidance, healthcare organizations are well-equipped to navigate this future, ensuring the delivery of exceptional patient care and achieving strategic goals in the ever-changing world of healthcare. Contact our team today to get started.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is workforce planning in talent management?

Workforce planning in talent management is a strategic process organizations use to align their workforce requirements directly with their business goals. It involves forecasting future staffing needs, assessing internal and external candidates' availability, and identifying gaps between the current workforce capabilities and what will be needed to achieve business objectives. This process enables companies to proactively recruit, develop, and retain the right talent to ensure they have the skills and staff necessary for current and future success.

What is the workforce planning process in healthcare?

The workforce planning process in healthcare involves systematically identifying and analyzing the current and future demand for healthcare workers and the supply of labor available to meet these needs. This process enables healthcare organizations to align their staffing strategies with their service delivery goals, ensuring that the right number of staff with the right skills are available at the right time to provide high-quality care.

What are the 5 key elements of workforce planning?

Many elements make up workforce planning, but 5 important ones include:

  1. Understanding strategic goals.
  2. Analyzing your existing workforce.
  3. Identifying skills gaps.
  4. Developing action plans.
  5. Implementing and evaluating strategies.

As a trusted partner in healthcare staffing, Health Carousel can help you get started with effective workforce planning.

About Health Carousel

Health Carousel is committed to partnering with world-class healthcare facilities across the country, providing rewarding assignments for Registered Nurses and Allied Health Professionals, and attracting the best internal talent at all career levels.