Shift Filling Technology's Role in Mitigating Staff Shortages

6 min read
Feb 14, 2022

Organizations everywhere are feeling the pressures of labor shortages, burnout and high rates of (often regrettable) employee turnover (aka “the Great Attrition”, “the Great Resignation”). Voluntary attrition has increased significantly over the last 10 years, spiking dramatically from an average of 54.6% of total employee separations throughout that period to 67% in 2021.

No industry has been hit harder than healthcare. Roughly 15% of reporting hospitals indicated critical staffing shortages, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in January of 2022. And all indications are that these figures are on the rise. This recent article from Becker’s Hospital Review reports on over a dozen hospitals having to pause or permanently discontinue services in the recent months alone due to staffing shortages. The magnitude of this issue has visibility at the highest levels of healthcare organizations; for the first time in almost two decades, CEOs of hospitals listed staffing as their top concern.

It would be very short-sighted to suggest that the solution to this massive issue is a simple one. As Andgo customer Greig Jenkinson from Island Health noted in a recent panel discussion, “You can’t hire your way out of this, and you can’t buy your way out of this.

Greig Jenkinson, Director of Workforce Scheduling, Island Health, provides some thoughts on this issue

It would also be misleading to propose that technology can address the vast array of macro and micro factors contributing to this crisis. That said, technology can certainly play a vital role in navigating these challenges. In this blog article, we examine some of the ways that intelligent shift filling automation can make a significant positive impact.

1. Absence Onboarding Efficiency

The critical first touchpoint of filling an absence is knowing that it exists. Absences are often last minute in nature, and with tedious manual processes, organizations can spend an immense amount of time and resources collecting/recording, routing, and processing the information related to an absence.

Case in point - one Andgo customer had over 3,200 employee sick calls in one day during the Omicron surge. Any inefficiencies that exist around receiving, notifying and updating the correct people and systems are absolutely devastating when dealing with this kind of volume. 

Having a streamlined, intelligently automated workflow to effectively onboard absences saves very valuable cycles needed to actually fill the shift(s) related to the absence. By standardizing communication processes, organizations can automatically categorize and prioritize inbound requests to fuel more effective processes & teams.

2. Employee Autonomy, Empowerment & Personalization

Research has proven that there is a positive correlation between giving employees autonomy over their schedules and job satisfaction. This fact is rooted in the notion that employees feel they have more control over their work and thus adopt more role ownership while establishing a trusting relationship with leaders.

Tips for giving employees autonomy over their schedules include:

  • Providing employees with the ability to personalize shift preferences related to when and how they would like to be notified of open shifts
  • Enabling employee access to dashboards with a calendar view of schedules, indicating open shifts and all of the employee data related to shift eligibility (such as hours worked, seniority, skill/ competency requirements etc.)
  • Capabilities for employees to view all the available shifts that have been posted in their unit and review the communication logs of when and how they were notified of the shift
  • In the event the employee was not notified of an available shift, they can see the specific reason and corresponding rule, providing transparency into the decision-making process

Providing capabilities to personalize shift preferences drives increased adoption and engagement at the employee level. This includes everything from what types of shifts the employee wants to work, what days they want to work on, preferred shift length(s), and if they want to be notified of shifts available on days they are already scheduled to work. Further, it gives employees the ability to personalize their preferences for how they want to be notified about shifts - via text message, automated phone call, email, or some combination.

Advance shift booking capabilities optimize the process of filling future vacant shifts and create a win-win scenario for both employees and the organization. Employees gain the luxury of applying for available shifts as soon as they become known. This gives employees the ability to manage their work-life balance as they can apply for available shifts weeks in advance. By posting and filling available vacant shifts months in advance, organizations can reduce their vacant shifts by over 60%.

Giving employees control over what shifts they are notified for may seem counterintuitive at first with respect to maximizing shift filling. However, you will be able to fill more shifts by allowing employees to proactively opt out of shifts they have no interest in working. The goals here are fewer but better offers for shifts that employees are interested in working and a reduction in the overall number of notifications per filled shift.

3. The Need for Speed

The immense, varied challenges of keeping up with the staffing demand of filling vacant shifts, particularly in a complex scheduling environment, is a daunting problem. Manual processes are very time-consuming and labor-intensive and thus are not scalable to deal with a high volume of shift vacancies, which are often on very short notice.

One real-world example of this is COVID-19 vaccination clinics. COVID vaccines do not have a long shelf life. Therefore, they need to be administered quickly (often within 72 hours). Thus, a sophisticated solution is required to enable the rapid mobilization of staffing resources required to meet the urgent demand.

Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) was able to leverage Andgo’s intelligent workflow automation to fill over 58,000 shifts by more than 4,000 employees during the vaccine effort, taking the average shift filling time from 28 minutes to 4 minutes (an 86% reduction). As Kweku Johnson, Director of HR Systems and Analytics, noted, “I can’t imagine how we would have done this manually in that time frame.

Learn more: how SHA leveraged the speed of intelligent shift filling automation to meet the urgent need of staffing vaccination clinics. 

4. Actionable Data

Intelligent shift filling automation also presents opportunities for improvement in the organization’s approach to scheduling and filling vacant shifts that are not feasible in a manual environment.

In addition to a full audit trail of shift filling metrics, an automated solution delivers diagnostic dashboards that help to understand trends and staff behaviours with respect to picking up shifts. This provides insight to recognize optimization opportunities with respect to when to send out available shifts, which shifts to offer first, etc.

Learn more from Greig Jenkinson at Island Health & Kweku Johnson of SHA on how actionable data can help inform strategic scheduling and shift filling improvements.

Additional Thoughts - Moving Forward

The challenges facing healthcare are front and center. Organizations are experiencing firsthand the impacts of inefficient scheduling processes and being perpetually short-staffed and scrambling to fill shifts. These challenges present an opportunity to innovate and evolve staffing processes to better suit the reality of what health systems everywhere are facing. 

However, what got us here, is not going to get us there. Healthcare as a whole is more than capable of change and innovation to meet these challenges; ingenuity and innovation are hallmarks of healthcare. Traditionally these innovations are pursued on the clinical side, whereas there is now also a need to apply this culture of innovation to staffing & scheduling.

How Andgo Helps

Automate the entire process of filling vacant shifts with Andgo Systems Intelligent Workflow Automation SuiteAutomatically communicate vacant immediate & future shift details to eligible employees – fill more shifts faster, with the right people. Transform complex scheduling processes into auditable, transparent workflows that eliminate manual involvement and repetitive mundane tasks.

Andgo Systems offers a full suite of tools that span the employee scheduling lifecycle, leveraging and extending the tools already found in the scheduling system of record, eliminating clicking through procedure sets call lists, and selecting notification criteria.

Andgo’s product suite includes:

  • Smart Call - go beyond simply automating shift callouts, addressing all tasks in the process, from dynamically building call lists, routing communications, and monitoring responses. Vacant shift details are communicated in a transparent manner to eligible employees via SMS text, email, and phone per the employee’s notification preferences. Employees can bid simply by responding to a text message or phone call.
  • Shift Prebooking - streamline the process of filling future vacancies. Employees gain the luxury of applying for available shifts as they are known, providing them with planning capabilities regarding what works best for them and their work-life balance. The organization benefits by filling more shifts in advance, reducing the burden on scheduling teams to fill as many immediate need shifts.
  • Quick Dial - a streamlined incoming phone system for reporting, recording, and routing unplanned employee absences to scheduling teams via the dashboard, automatically organized by priority and category.

These products are supported by centralized decision support guidelines to reference staffing levels vs. baselines just in time when processing shifts. Andgo’s schedule integration capabilities serve to further close the loop on the path of created shift to filled shift. Reduce manual entries and sync all changes with the scheduling system of record automatically.


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