Curing Mercy Hospital’s workforce management ails


Paper-based processes, disparate systems, no reporting capabilities…time to implement a new workforce management system.

Casey Greene
Casey Greene

Technology has changed many times since 1999.

So says Casey Greene, compensation and benefits manager at Mercy Hospital, Iowa City.

Unfortunately, the hospital’s workforce management system hasn’t changed much since then. While Mercy Hospital puts the needs of patients first, it is high time for HR to tend to its own requirements.

The existing system is primarily just a database without the ability to manage workflows or reporting or many of the other attributes associated with a modern workforce management system. Mercy has a deadline to replace the current system as it will not be supported after May 2016, but as Greene observes:

More importantly, we’ll become more efficient, have workflows, and remove paper.

Hospital employees are split across 15 locations and over time, eight disparate systems have sprung up to deal with workforce issues. Centralizing, automating and standardizing these systems and processes will greatly improve the accuracy of data and reporting.

Mercy put out a RFP a couple of years ago and Kronos quickly emerged as the front runner. Greene says:

Obviously cost is important, but the fact Kronos has experience in healthcare was very important to us.

Greene points out that there are unique ways that hospitals work that make market experience very important. Greene was also keen on Kronos, because he could see that the two companies could work well together:

We just connected with them I guess.

The fact that Kronos is a cloud-based system is a big draw for the hospital as it reduces the burden on IT. Although IT is supportive of the move, this is very much an HR-led rather than IT-led project. Kronos will carry out all configuration, maintenance and upgrades. Greene explains:

Our IT largely focuses on clinical systems and we have a major clinical upgrade on the way, so they are less involved with this and that’s a good thing.

Approval for the project was given in March this year and work started in July. The first employees will use it later this year and it will be fully up and running by January, barring a few clinical enhancements to follow later. Kronos Workforce Central will include everything from time and attendance, HR, payroll, employee scheduling, recruitment and absence management.

It’s clearly early days in the project, but Greene is looking forward to the day when paper-based processes, such as pay changes, will be automated rather than handled manually.

One area that will change is the recruitment and onboarding process. When someone applies to Mercy, the whole process will be carried out end to end through Kronos. Currently, the recruitment system is separate, which means that data has to be manually keyed in from one system to the other.

Another key area where Greene is expecting big changes in is scheduling. Greene explains that Kronos’s scheduling ability means it can better match the needs of patient and nursing levels. The system can help match nurses to appropriate patients and ensure the best patient care and the most efficient use of nursing staff.

Real time

The reporting capabilities also mean that managers can track staffing levels in real time. This makes it easier to track staffing hours and overtime, helping managers avoid staff dipping too much into overtime unnecessarily, when other staff may be available.

Mercy dash
Mercy dash

Kronos will bring benefits to the nursing staff too. If for some reason a nurse cannot make a particular shift, he or she will be able to use their mobile phone to switch shifts with another nurse.

One of the biggest benefits will be the ability to have greater visibility into staffing in real time. Generating reports can be a lengthy process, as data from payroll and scheduling must be brought together to create reports. Greene observes:

Now managers can look on dashboards and see that in real-time.

In future, managers will be able to request a pay change themselves rather than have to send a written request to HR to deal with it. It will reduce the hassle for managers and it means that the 10 HR staff will be able to concentrate on areas such as the education and development of employees rather than be tied up dealing with admin. As Greene says:

It pushes some capabilities and processes down a couple of layers in our organization.

These benefits are eagerly anticipated, but it will still take some getting used to, notes Greene:

It’s going to be a learning curve and a culture change for us to have managers involved in these processes.

The thing that Greene is personally looking forward to is using Kronos to help create the regular compensation reports he needs to produce.

A few times a year, Greene reports on how the hospital’s compensation payments are in line with the others in the market. It’s a very manual process and he says:

The end result is valuable, but going through it is not a lot of fun.

Kronos will sweep away the need for that manual effort and be able to pull the data together for the report automatically.

This ability to produce reports quickly, without the same level of manual intervention will create far more efficient workflows and an easy audit trail to follow for many managers. Greene says:

There are going to be a lot more checks and balances in the system.

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