Why Mobile Needs to be Part of Your Workforce Management Strategy
Today, 96% of Americans own a cellphone, and 81% have a smartphone. Those most likely to use a smartphone are college graduates, those with $75,000+ in annual income, and people age 18-49.[i] With a growing majority of Americans using smartphones, it’s no surprise that many health systems are exploring how mobile technology fits into their workforce management strategy.
Our customers are using their mobile technology to increase manager productivity, staff satisfaction, and operational efficiencies. Here’s a deeper dive into how your health system can create an effective approach for leveraging mobile technology as part of your organization’s workforce management strategy as well as some of the underlying location-enablement technology that supports a robust mobile plan.
What Does a Mobile App for Workforce Management Do?
Think of the mobile app as the opportunity to give your team – from managers to front-line staff – access to a powerful time/attendance and staffing/scheduling system on their phone, always at their fingertips. The mobile access syncs with how the core workforce management system already works, so there is no need to re-think, re-learn, or re-work.
The mobile app provides ease and efficiency, which in turn engages staff. With quick and easy access to their own schedule and time card, employees are empowered to be accountable for the timeliness and accuracy of their own information. Managers need only intervene for exceptions and approvals, decreasing the amount of time they spend managing schedules and time cards.
The end result is that employees achieve a better work/life balance with more control over their schedule and pay, and managers have more time to spend with staff and patients.
Happy Employees + Efficient Managers = Better Patient Experience
Who Should Be Included in the Mobile Strategy?
Almost every employee in your health system is impacted by your workforce management system, and that means nearly everyone can benefit from using mobile technology that makes workforce management faster, easier, and more streamlined. Because nurses are often more tech savvy and have complex, dynamic schedules, they are an obvious group to focus on when developing a mobile strategy.
However, teams that are traditionally less embracing of technology, such as environmental services or dietary staff, can also benefit from mobile technology. When the app is intuitive and easy-to-use, these groups are often open to trying it. Once they overcome any initial caution about the technology and begin to use it frequently, they realize the same empowerment and engagement benefits as the clinical staff. That’s why your mobile strategy should include all employees, from clinicians to support staff.
Maximizing the Mobile App Benefits for Managers and Employees
You want your mobile strategy to provide your organization with the opportunity to maximize all of the benefits, and the first step is clearly understanding all of the potential benefits mobile technology can deliver. Here’s a closer look at the benefits for managers and employees:
Increase Manager Efficiencies
With a mobile app on the phone in their hand, managers are no longer tied to their desk while managing time cards and schedules. A full-featured mobile app empowers them to accomplish the following from wherever they are:
- Manage time cards – Payroll Monday is a lot easier when managers can view, update, and approve time cards quickly and easily throughout the pay period. Instead of doing all time card edits and reviews on or right before Payroll Monday, managers can take advantage of short blocks of time to stay up-to-date with time card management. Not only does this improve their efficiency, but it also improves the quality of the data they’re using to make staffing decisions. For example, when an employee’s missed clocking is noticed and fixed early in the pay period, it’s easy to see actual hours worked to enable better staffing decisions later in the pay period.
- Minimize overtime – Better data leads to better decisions. With a mobile strategy that empowers both employees and managers to be accountable for timely, accurate time card and scheduling data, unit managers and staffing coordinators have accurate, transparent access to real-time overtime information.
- Eliminate preventable overtime – Providing managers with the ability to monitor call-ins, incidental time and overtime right at the fingertips, as well as providing insights into the best action to take, enables them to take immediate action to eliminate the overtime before it happens.
- Fill open shifts – Mobile technology can streamline the process of filling open shifts for managers. When managers spot open shifts that need to be filled, they can use targeted push notifications to inform qualified staff that the shift is available. There’s no need to spend hours on the phone, begging staff to pick up the open shift. Instead, the prequalified staff who were notified about the staffing gap via a push notification can quickly pick up the shift and eliminate the staffing gap. Checks and balances ensure that the manager retains control of the process without any extra manual intervention.
Engage and Empower Employees
Two of the most important things for almost any employee are their schedule and their paycheck. Employees have a vested interest in the accuracy of both their time card and their schedule. A strong mobile tool and strategy should provide employees with the ability to manage and monitor their time card and impact their schedule to achieve a better work/life balance. Here is key functionality that is part of API Healthcare’s mobile workforce app:
- Review, edit, and sign off on their time card – Employees can review their time card, report and/or edit inaccurate clockings, and sign off on their time card at the end of the pay period. This puts accountability at the employee level, where it belongs. The manager doesn’t have to manage the details; instead, they need only manage exceptions. An extra benefit of this employee accountability is often increased badging compliance and accuracy.
- View and manage their schedule – Employees appreciate the ability to view and manage their schedule on their phone. The mobile app should make it easy for the employee to see their shift at a glance, with options to drill down into the details, such as who else is working or what their role is for that shift.
- Support self-scheduling – The mobile app makes it easy to execute self-scheduling processes based on existing policies. In addition to self-scheduling, the app functionality should include the ability to facilitate trades, request PTO, and receive push notifications about available shifts the employee is qualified to work with the ability to pick up desired open shifts right from their phone.
Time Clocks Not a Feasible Option? Mobile Technology Can Fill the Gaps
As mobile technology becomes more widely used, we’re seeing our customers use the mobile app to supplement and sometimes even replace badge reader functionality. When badge readers aren’t available, such as remote training facilities or off-site COVID-19 testing sites, the mobile app can provide a touch-free option for employees to badge in and out. In areas where badge readers are available, the mobile option can reduce the amount of traffic at the badge reader during shift changes.
The mobile app is also a great option for ensuring float pool staff know where to go at the beginning of their shift and what their role will be in that unit. This saves the float pool staff time and is a strong employee satisfier for them.
Understanding Location-Enablement Technology
With location-enablement, some of the mobile functionality is location-based. For example, employees might only be able to badge in and out when they’re within range of the location-enablement device. This functionality can be accomplished with different types of technology, including geofencing and beacons.
According to CIO.com, geofencing is a location-based service where an app uses GPS, RFID, Wi-Fi or cellular data to trigger an action when a mobile device or RFID tag enters or exits a geofence, which is a virtual boundary set up around a geographical location.[ii]
Beacons are small, low-energy devices that use Bluetooth signals to detect a user’s proximity and send push notifications to those in range.[iii]
The mobile app from API Healthcare uses beacons, and here’s why.
- Improved privacy – Since beacons only send signals but don’t receive them, they don’t have the privacy concerns that geofencing has.
- Use less data – Because they use Bluetooth technology, the beacons use very little data.
- Increased accuracy – It’s more difficult to game the system with beacons because the beacons can pinpoint the distance the user is from the beacon with greater accuracy. Staff can’t badge in from another floor or the parking garage.
- More flexibility – With the beacons, changing the defined area is as simple as picking up and moving the beacon.
- Minimal impact on phone battery life – Because the beacons use Bluetooth technology, they don’t drag down the phone battery.
More Resources to Help You Take the Next Steps
The use of mobile technology as part of an effective workforce management strategy is a trend that many hospitals and health systems are embracing because of the benefits it can provide to both managers and front-line staff. If you’re ready to learn more about how your health system can capture more value from your workforce management system with a strong mobile strategy, we have more resources for you.
Check out a customer case study and the ebook "12 Things to Know About API Healthcare's Mobile Workforce App." You can also request some time to talk with our subject matter experts about a mobile strategy specific to your organization.
About Mike Vipond
Mike joined the API Healthcare team in 2019 as leader of the product organization. He is responsible for setting the strategic direction of API’s suite of workforce management solutions and delivering new innovations that help customers take their workforce outcomes to the next level. With over a decade of experience at Cerner and GE, he brings an analytical approach to building world-class products and a passion for helping healthcare organizations leverage data and technology to drive continuous improvement. He received his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management and undergraduate degree from Georgetown University, and currently resides in Plymouth, Michigan with his wife and two kids.