Effective workforce management is finely balanced art. On the one hand, there are the daily challenges of scheduling care worker rotas. On the other hand, you are managing people, who have needs beyond what they’re doing when.
As a provider of scheduling software for care management, we see many care managers looking for systems which support them beyond the basics of rostering and rota planning.
So, what makes for effective workforce management in the social care sector? Over the years we have talked to a broad range of care managers and brought their collective wisdom to bear on this valuable topic. Here are some of the findings.
An easy-to-use scheduling system
Managing a social care workforce requires meticulous scheduling, so your scheduling system needs to be easy to access and simple to use. Traditional computer applications, installed on one machine, can limit access to just that machine. However, modern cloud-based scheduling systems can be securely accessed from a web browser wherever you are.
At the heart of any workforce scheduling system is the roster. Modern care management systems provide an intuitive graphical overview. Many even allow administrators to drag and drop appointments to available carers, or vice versa.
Where appointments are located close together, the best scheduling systems allow these to be grouped into a run. This optimises the allocation of carers to attend each appointment in the run and allows changes to one appointment to influence timings of the other appointments in the same run.
To reduce complexity for care administrators, such a system should allow filtering of appointments to specific service users, regions or care workers of interest.
Easy rota access for each care worker
When your business is predicated on carers attending calls, it’s essential that your carers have easy access to the latest schedule and detail of their calls – via their rota.
Given that call requirements and carer availability may change occasionally, at short notice, a dynamic rota accessed online or via a connected app supports these needs far better than a printed rota. Updates to a printed rota need to be manually delivered.
Printed rotas are also at risk of loss or damage. Logging in to access an online or app-based rota, from a phone, provides a more secure and reliable solution for carers.
One connected system from roster to rota to timesheets
Having multiple systems handling different aspects of care management runs the risk of duplication or even loss between these systems. Every time information needs to be copied from one system to another, this introduces the risk of human error. Copying from a central schedule to individual rotas and then processing manually submitted timesheets presents multiple opportunities for mistakes.
Centralising your appointment information and treating rotas and timesheets as filtered views of this single source of truth removes the risks inherent in multiple disparate systems.
Visibility of care appointment status and carer whereabouts
Knowledge is power. This is doubly important in workforce management. Every care manager wants to keep informed of whether appointments have been met and where each carer is at any time.
Knowing exactly who is where at any moment makes it easier for changes to the roster to be made and applied to carers already doing their rounds. New appointments can be scheduled in, or existing appointments removed in a way which fits around carer availability and location.
Alerts and reminders
If a carer gets delayed, you need to know quickly and make updates to their following appointments on that day’s schedule. If there are equally suitable carers nearby and available, you could quickly assign them to cover for delays. Knowing of any delays quickly is key to smooth running.
Carers benefit from prompts to keep their schedule on track and alert them to any changes. Details for a call, or travel specifics, could be flagged up to ensure nothing is missed.
Managing a workforce is about more than just scheduling appointments. Training, certifications and legal documents may expire. As a care manager it helps to keep informed by an alert pop-up, SMS or automated email. Timely alerts ensure plenty of time to schedule in a renewal or update before training or documents actually expire.
Removing compliance concerns
Managing a workforce requires the handling of personal data, meaning GDPR legislation needs to be taken into account. One of the most important factors to consider is whether actions can be traced back to individuals – in a management context. Every user of a workforce management solution should have their own login and a log of who has made what changes should be preserved and accessible for GDPR auditing purposes when required.
With different users having different logins, this offers scope for a workforce management solution to limit access for each user simply to areas of their concern. This removes the risk of accidental access to sensitive data beyond the scope of that data’s approved use.
GDPR compliance is one consideration, but workforce managers need to also comply with employment considerations such as minimum wage calculations. The ability to run a report to determine hours worked (including travel and training time) for all carers can be extended, with payroll data, to show how close this is to the minimum wage threshold.
Further reporting options can also identify how close each carer is to various working hour threshold schemes, preventing overworking and preserving both quality of service and staff morale.
Tools to save carers’ time
Assisting carers in carrying out their day-to-day roles makes for more effective workforce management. Happy carers are better carers.
The carer-facing side of a workforce management solution (e.g. the carer’s app) could include benefits for each carer such as:
- Sat Nav – providing optimal directions from one call to the next. This travel information can be recorded and used for invoicing and timesheet calculations at the end of the month.
- Note taking – remove the need for paper notes (which can get lost and require manual filing). Simply offer the option to make notes against each call via an app.
- Document storage – relevant documents could be stored against appointments and service users. These could be made searchable and easily accessed in future.
- eMARs and outcomes – electronic Medical Administration Records are a way of recording specifically what medication delivery is required for a given service user. Set these via central management solution and then push the details out as part of each call, to the carer, via an app interface. Taking this approach, each carer can then confirm whether medications were correctly delivered and what the outcome was for each step. This information can even be shared back to the administrator in real time via a connected app.
Keeping carers happy
Painful systems make for unhappy care workers. Empowering your workforce and keeping them informed improves morale, helps retain staff and reduces barriers to bringing new staff on board.
Think about the areas which frustrate your carers most. Is it paperwork, unrealistic time to reach appointments or being sent to calls without all the information they need? Take their pains on board and look at how a workforce management solution can help address these.
A reduced reliance on paper
Paper really doesn’t have any place in an effective workforce management solution these days. Scheduling needs to be flexible and fluid, there’s no time for crossing out and re-writing entries. Paper gets lost and damaged, it’s not great for storage and retrieval – it can’t be indexed for a quick computer-based search either.
Beyond the inflexibility of paper, anything on paper will most likely need to be printed from a computer system (costing paper, ink, printer-maintenance and time) and manually distributed (e.g. postage cost and time). Or handwritten items (e.g. call notes or timesheets) need to be manually processed and uploaded into computer-based systems. Why not just hold everything in one system and give secure and easy access via web browsers or app interfaces?
Removing paper from the equation ensures your information is more easily searchable and auditable. It also means reports can be more easily run for your important metrics.
Easy reporting and analytics
Managing a workforce shouldn’t have you in front of spreadsheets and a computer screen all day (or night!). Most common reports should be available at the touch of a button, or even automated. Well established solutions should provide a wealth of common reports out of the box.
When the reporting and analytics you need isn’t available immediately, your workforce management system should provide data export functionality to allow you to crunch data in Excel yourself.
No payday problems
Automate timesheet calculations for improved accuracy and speed. If travel and call details are recorded via one central system, there should be no need to ask carers to complete timesheets. This removes the need to process paper timesheets and also removes the potential for inaccurate records or inadvertent human error in the process.
Streamlined invoicing processes, possible through better integration between scheduling and call monitoring, help to improve cash flow. Sending invoices out quickly and accurately, even electronically where possible, helps ensure the cash is there to pay your workforce when payday comes around.
The Ideal Workforce Management Solution for Social Care
CarePlanner is designed to tackle the majority of these challenges head-on. Over the years, our platform has evolved to provide a feature-rich and easy-to-use workforce management solution for social care agencies. It’s pleasing to hear positive feedback from our users in support of these efforts:
“If we were still using the old software, we would have had to recruit at least two more people to deal with the admin, but CarePlanner has saved us time and money.”
“CarePlanner has transformed my business. I’ve seen a 75% reduction in the time it takes to produce the weekly rota, which is phenomenal. I’ve now got more time to support staff, be face-to-face with clients and their families, and offer a truly personal service. I no longer dwell on issues that were holding me back, as I know I can trust the software to work.”
“It’s completely changed how we operate. It makes for much easier monitoring, and we can even input staff training modules onto the system, which ensures we’re fully up-to-date with compliance. When you open the dashboard, all of the stats and information – such as the number of hours of care we’re delivering – are right there. It’s an excellent reporting tool.”