Effective Staffing Management:  Engage – Educate – Support – and Accountability


Labor cost is the single largest expense item in every hospital and in almost every hospital department. Most facilities have some type of staffing management or productivity system based on a target per unit of service for each department.  The real key to effective staffing management is at the unit level – the manager.  Here’s 4 Tips:


  • Tip 1:  Engage:  Engaging managers in the process of establishing a productivity target for their department is critical.  Assist managers to analyze the workload in their department at least 2 – 3 times per year – not just annually.  Pay attention to how such things as contract labor, overtime, turn-over, new technologies, mandatory staffing ratios and/or minimum staffing may be impacting productivity.
  • Tip 2:  Educate:  If you are going to hold managers accountability for staffing, they must be knowledgeable about productivity and staffing.  Spend the time to educate managers about all aspects of staffing management including not just how to calculate productivity (worked hours per unit of service) – but how to control and improve staffing.   Help managers understand that sometimes — more hours may result in lower overall costs.  And most importantly, educate about work redesign (not just doing more with less) .
  • Tip 3:  Support:  YES managers need to be accountable for their staffing budget.  But managers may also need support to make changes, some of which may not be within the control of their department.  For example:  Is one department adversely impacting the productivity of another?  Are personnel policies creating turn-over?   Would a new piece of technology off-set staffing costs?
  • It’s also critical that managers can ask for help – and get it.  Managers may be unwilling to say they don’t understand the basics of productivity and ask for help – if they don’t feel safe and supported.
  • Tip 4:  Accountability:  The final piece of the puzzle is accountability.  Ultimately managers are accountable for their staffing budget and clear expectations should be included in the job description.  However, it’s more important for the Senior Leader to hold managers accountable on a daily – weekly – monthly basis, including submitting variance reports.  The other role of the Senior Leader however, is to continue to educate and support – so that managers can be successful.

Host: Carolyn St.Charles, RN, BSN, MBA, HealthTechS3, Regional Chief Clinical Officer