Workforce Planning in Residential Aged Care

What is Workforce Planning?

Workforce Planning aligns the Mission of an organization with current and future workforce skills and expertise to meet resident’s needs, strategic objectives and compliance obligations. The outcome reshapes the workforce recognising the operational impact of change on the skills and expertise available and required by residents for quality care.

Workforce Planning:

  • uses business intelligence to define the skills required to deliver person-centred quality care in a financially sustainable business model using specialist staff, non-specialist staff and contractors.
  • embraces the potential of automation, robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

Why Workforce Planning?

Organisations are always in transition. In days of the internet of things (IoT), global supply chains and human centric innovation, the pace of change is faster now and getting faster.

Disruptive trends drive the need for workplace planning in all workplaces. Obvious workforce trends include work:

  • being casualised to reduce cost
  • being outsourced to access specialist skills only when required
  • moving to the location of the highest quality at the lowest cost
  • being automated and roboticised
  • design or redesign through Artificial Intelligence and Business Intelligence

Workforce planning is a challenge in industries where labour is 50%+ of total expenditure. It’s an even bigger challenge in residential aged care where the percentage is 60%+ and providers must optimise use of high cost specialist skills.

McKinsey Global Institute research found a global average of 50% of labour hours have potential to be automated. CEDA research estimates almost 40% of jobs in Australia have a moderate-to-high likelihood of disappearing in 10-to-15 years.

Telstra is reducing its Australian workforce by 8,000 recognising that much of its work was driven by waste in an overcomplicated business model. The ANZ bank recently reduced its workforce by a third through improved business process management.

Residential Care – As Is

A single residential aged care business model does not exist. Models are as individual as providers with significant differences between ASX listed, faith-based and standalone ‘not for profit’ providers. 

Many are an outcome of incremental change driving an over complicated business model and poor process management.

Some providers are too bureaucratic with too many non-care related staff with too little resident contact. Some still think saying they do it ‘for god’ or ‘for good’ justifies ungodly or poor-quality outcomes. When ‘the faithful’ are incapable, it’s time to employ ‘the capable’.

Standalone providers often lack the resources to support senior staff to work ‘on the business’ in strategy, workforce planning, business intelligence and leveraging technology etc. rather than just ‘in the business’. What a recipe for disaster in a business operating 365 days per year and 24 hours per day with increasingly frail customers.

Diversity is valuable yet the large influx of overseas-born workers filled vacancies at less cost leaving unresolved debate about qualifications, specialist staff numbers and training investment.

Other drivers of the need for Workforce Planning include increasing resident frailty, more intensive care needs, shorter resident stays, staff turnover, absenteeism, workplace health and safety, revenue constraints, a compliance mindset and increased technological capability. 

Workforce Planning Challenges

Each residential aged care provider’s challenge is to build the trust of residents, their families and other key stakeholders that their current workforce skill and staffing levels produce consistent quality outcomes 365 days per year and 24 hours per day.

The Aged Care Workforce Strategy Taskforce Report took a ‘business as usual’ view despite substantial and ongoing change in residential aged care. Who agrees that ‘more of the same’ is likely to meet resident or key stakeholder’s expectations and prevent the need for further Royal Commissions?

The Royal Commission into Aged Care Safety and Quality will shine a light on poor care, the difference between what is marketed and what is delivered and unacceptable staff behaviour. If the Royal Commission signals a failure of residential aged care to deliver quality care, increased transparency is essential if the outcome drives positive change.

Residential Care Workforce – To Be

Providers need ‘front of house’ skills and enough staff to deliver high touch quality care and effective ‘back of house’ systems using technology to support and monitor the efficient provision of quality care.

New business models must evolve to deliver higher quality outcomes based on the principles of person centred care. Learning from other industries will assist by embracing diversity of thought, experience and technology in defining future workforce composition.

In times of faster social, economic and political disruption, failure to workforce plan is planning to fail.

A Workforce Plan makes each resignation an opportunity to improve outcomes and achieve Mission by updating roles or adding skills.

Without a Workforce Plan, incrementalism thrives at the expense of quality outcomes! An opportunity lost.

“We cannot solve problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”                                                                               Albert Einstein