Workforce Planning: Implications for Healthcare in Canada and Elsewhere

By Soberg, Andrea; Bennington, Ashley | People & Strategy, September 2009 | Go to article overview

Workforce Planning: Implications for Healthcare in Canada and Elsewhere


Soberg, Andrea, Bennington, Ashley, People & Strategy


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Introduction

Despite the great recession, many employers continue to struggle to attract and retain skilled talent, an essential success component in an economy that increasingly is dominated by services and knowledge creation (Mercer, 2005). In particular, the healthcare sector has experienced some of the most dramatic shortages of skilled health professionals, from doctors and nurses, to diagnostic imaging technicians, pharmacists and physiotherapists (HEABC, 2007).

As a result of this skill shortage, HR professionals have an opportunity to provide data that inform business decision making. The focus of HR in the service and knowledge economy must become more strategic. This change highlights the need for quantification of HR business processes and services. HR analytics can be used to leverage the information already available in multiple HR databases, including payroll and recruitment systems, and the data gained from surveys and qualitative interviews (Boudreau and Ramstad, 2006).

Fraser Health, headquartered in British Columbia, Canada, has more than 23,000 employees, including 2,300 physicians; and another 7,000 within affiliate organizations that provide services in residential homes, assisted living units and home support through managed contracts. The organization provides virtually all healthcare services to nearly 1.5 million people living in more than 19 communities. Services include public health promotion and prevention, community and inpatient mental health, home health and home support services, 9,300 residential care and assisted living units, and all acute care services across 12 hospitals. Fraser Health's latest annual operating budget was nearly $2.2 billion (CDN$), most provided through government funding as is the case in Canada.

HR Analytics and a Predictive Model for HR Planning

For years, Fraser Health had noticed a slight but steady increase in the number of unfilled positions throughout the organization, including physicians, registered nurses, audiologists, ultrasonographers, lab technicians, diagnostic imaging technicians, pharmacists, physiotherapists and speech language pathologists. Many Fraser Health leaders held theories on why this was happening, but very little had been quantified, and few theories were verified with concrete data. An explanation was needed for the increase in vacancies, and modeling was required to determine if this trend would continue.

Several key HR metrics were selected and compiled to create a predictive model for the organization's staffing, and also to examine past data and account for the increase in vacancies throughout the organization. This model included an identification of both supply of and demand for labor. The following metrics were examined and used together to create a predictive model for Fraser Health:

* turnover--the departure of employees to other employers or regions of the world;

* leaves of absence--lost hours due to injuries, maternity, sickness, disability and stress;

* retirements--the impending loss of an aging workforce with a generous pension plan;

* productivity--hours "unworked" due to part-time or on-call/casual jobs, for a variety of reasons, including lack of child care or elder care, low employee engagement, or stressful and physical job demands;

* recruitment--the rate at which Fraser Health is able to recruit new employees, new graduates and people from outside of British Columbia; and

* position growth--the number of new positions Fraser Health was adding to the payroll to meet increasing demand for health services from a growing and aging population, including a brand-new 300-bed hospital.

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These HR metrics were combined to create the predictive model shown in Exhibits 1 (previous page) and 2. …

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