Reducing Labor Costs and Improving Employee Engagement

Written by: John Strength, Regional Vice President, West

There are many creative ways to reduce labor costs, yet oftentimes the most fundamental strategies are overlooked. By managing staffing through fair and balanced work loading, providing for necessary relief staffing and pro-actively managing recruiting, there can be significant cost savings that simultaneously enhance quality and provide a safer work environment. When used effectively, managing staffing through the use of a well-refined position control will directly decrease overtime utilization, prevent overstaffing and help reduce injuries.

A position control is a quick reference to the current state of staffing in the department. It should clearly define the number of staff that are needed versus the number of staff that are currently active in the EVS program. It should also define which positons are full-time, part-time and per diem. This will allow EVS leadership to see operational gaps in staffing and provide clarity on how many employees need to be hired thereby minimizing overtime use.

Consider that many EVS tasks are 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. In addition, staff are entitled to paid time off in the form of sick, vacation, holiday and/or personal time. Because of this, the position control acts as a valuable calculator accounting for paid time off via relief staffing. Once the paid time off has been tabulated, the staff needed to backfill are added to the position control. This staff should be a mix of part-time and per diem staffing that are available to work additional hours. This flex staffing is imperative for reducing overtime as paid time off is rarely constant through the year even when well planned.  

Sample Position Control Summary: Work assignments are populated on the left and the employee assigned to that work assignment on the right. If the position is vacant, the row remains blank. Xanitos utilizes a position control that is able to project overtime and necessary relief staffing to avoid overtime use. This staffing tool also provides schedules, sign in sheets and payroll forecasting.

Once there are enough staff to run an EVS program, the next step is to make sure the staff are spread accordingly across the pay period. Frequently, people will have variable staffing by the day which may lead to over/under utilization of staff. These inconsistencies in staffing impact quality, overtime utilization and employee engagement. Employees become disengaged by having to do double work due to unplanned short staffing; this leads to higher injury rates and higher call out rates. To combat these issues, a pay period schedule should be reviewed with all standard days on and off throughout a two-week period, accounting for PTO where necessary.

Once staffing levels are correct on a day-to-day basis the last step is maintenance of these programs. Hours should be reviewed daily to make sure they are in alignment with the position control and scheduling standards. Once hardwired and assuming consistent recruitment, overtime rates will fall under 1%, sick times and injury rates are likely to decrease and quality outcomes become more consistent and favorable. The impact of staffing management is so significant that Xanitos views overtime rates as not only a financial metric, but a performance one acting as a leading indicator of any potential performance opportunities ahead.

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