The Secret on Increasing Workforce Capacity… Eliminating Underemployment

4 years ago
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From speaking with our clients, we know that finding workers to fill vacant shifts is hard at the best of times and is now made more challenging in the current situation with Covid-19 and the flu season in the months ahead. 

The government has stated its plans to implement strategies to maintain and retain the workforce, and to develop options for an aged care workforce capacity surge that may involve:  

  • Increasing the hours of visa workers 
  • Lifting regulatory arrangements around general practice 
  • Employing graduates and students

Whilst all measures must be considered to ensure the sector’s workforce has enough capacity, we believe that the first step should be to solve the unaddressed and current underlying problem of underemployment within the existing workforce, as well as getting new workers into the industry. 

 Underemployment in aged care 

Most aged care companies have 70-80% permanent part-time or casual workers, and most do not get all the work they need. Hesta noted that there is a 26% turnover of workers in aged care per year, and 30% of these workers are leaving companies as they do not get enough work. It is this cohort that should be leveraged within aged care companies. 

Ensuring workers are getting the volume and types of shifts they want is particularly important for employers in retaining experienced staff to give the aged care sector an opportunity to meet capacity demands. 

With the existing workforce needing to triple in size by 2040 to meet forecasted demand, addressing the problem of staff turnover is a critical priority not given enough attention. 

 Leverage your best asset, your own workers 

Seven years ago, Sapphire Care had issues of high staff turner (24%), low staff engagement, high underemployment, and high agency costs ($100,000 a year for each of the nine aged care sites). 

Emprevo was founded, initially prototyped, and developed alongside Sapphire Care workers and managers. Managers that previously used to take hours to fill shifts with text or phone could fill shifts in minutes by sending vacant shifts to available workers on their smartphone.  

We discovered that by leveraging and engaging existing workers through a simple but powerful experience and giving them all the work they wanted across the company that it would solve these worker-issues.   

In short, focussing on the most efficient and productive way to fill shifts: 

  • Addresses aged care workforce underemployment 
  • Improves worker retention 
  • Ensures continuity of care for residents 
  • Saves significant costs for aged care providers 

Creating a surge workforce within your company 

Filling vacant shifts with underemployed workers is an effective first step. 

Digital tools that understand the aged care context allow companies to better utilise their underemployed workforce thus creating a capacity surge within their own organisation. In turn, they are better able to cope with ever-changing shift demands, which is especially relevant in cases of lockdown, or when staff are not able to attend work.  

This results in an enhanced ability to fill most of their vacant shifts with their own workers. In so doing, as patients and residents are being looked after by familiar staff—rather than agency staff—continuity and quality of care is significantly improved. Regular staff are also aware of their own organisation’s policies and procedures. Equally, this also dramatically reduces agency or overtime costs in the process.  

 The Benefits Are Real 

From firsthand experience, by using technology to identify and engaging with their underemployed workforce, companies report improved operational efficiencies with managers getting up to 20 hours a week of their time back.  

What was taking hours now takes minutes – according to our client data, 25% of available shifts are filled in just under a minute, and 50% of shifts are filled in less than five minutes. To ask frontline managers to revert back to wasting time trying to fill shifts with phone calls and texts becomes a harsh retrograde.   

As these shifts are being filled with internal workers, agency and overtime costs decrease by between 30-60% and quality of care and continuity of care is improved as managers and workers have more time with their residents.  

The workforce is sector’s biggest asset and largest cost. At present, with 56% of aged providers losing money, solving the problem of an under-employed and underutilised workforce is a key obstacle to overcome. 

It’s a good way to be when we position to rebuild for the next normal.  

Leigh Herbert is Business Solutions Director at Emprevo.