For healthcare leaders, leveraging supplemental staffing to fill gaps is by no means a novel concept. But as competition for IT and security talent continues to intensify — and the gaps continue to widen — CIOs are changing their approach.
“A lot of organizations are offloading some of the maintenance work, which frees up the staff to do more exciting work,” said Chuck Podesta, CIO at Renown Health. Outsourcing the repeatable, more mundane tasks can help increase employee satisfaction, he added.
During a recent panel discussion, Podesta and co-panelists Susan Carman (CIO, Mohawk Valley Health System) and Matt Woodside (VP of Professional Services, Galen Healthcare Solutions) shared their expertise on when and how to utilize supplemental staffing effectively, and what pitfalls to avoid.
According to Carman, the risk of losing top personnel to other organizations is nothing new. Now, however, it’s not just surrounding health systems with deeper pockets that pose a recruiting threat; it’s every business that offers a remote option. “It’s become a global marketplace, which has allowed our staff members to have a lot more opportunities,” she noted. “Even if they want to stay put, they can get a higher-level position. And so, we’re not just competing with central New York; we’re competing with the whole country.”
Podesta agreed, adding that when team members are being offered 40-50 percent higher salaries, it’s “a huge challenge” for CIOs and other leaders. That’s where supplemental staffing can make an impact — if leveraged in the right ways, at the right time.
There are, of course, myriad situations that may require outside staffing. One example, according to Carman, is an unexpected departure — which Mohawk Valley recently experienced when a key staffer resigned. Her team has also utilized consultants to quickly train providers who have recently been brought on board, and to assist with largescale projects such as ERP or EHR implementations.
Podesta has done the same, and said he plans to use external services for an upcoming ERP rollout. “Those are projects you definitely want to supplement with consultants,” he said. “It’s very specific knowledge you need, and so your chance of success is higher than if you try to do it yourself.”
That knowledge, however, comes with a price tag, according to the panelists, which makes it all the more important to leverage consulting services as effectively as possible. Below are some of the best practices they recommended:
- Establish an end date. “Consultants work well when a project has a start and end date,” said Podesta. Once a timeline has been established, “they can hit the ground running.” Woodside agreed, adding that the clearer a scope can be defined, the more successful a project is ultimately going to be. “We put a lot of focus on making sure the CIO’s needs are being met. A big part of that is to set expectations right out of the gate.”
- Pick and choose. A growing number of organizations are utilizing managed services for Tier 1 and even Tier 2 maintenance work, which can free up staffs to do project work, and as a result, increase satisfaction, noted Woodside. “We’re seeing more requests for repeatable tasks that need to be done.”
- Delegate legacy work. Similarly, Carman has leveraged consultants to work on legacy products while having her own staff focus on new systems. “If your people are part of the build, especially with an ERP or EMR, they’re going to understand it a lot better going forward,” she added. “I like to take the burden of the old system away from them.” The other benefit? All of the knowledge gained “doesn’t walk out the door at the end of the project.”
- Driving the bus. It’s also important to ensure consultants aren’t driving the bus, according to Podesta, “because they’ll take you wherever they want to take you,” he said. “And don’t let them sit in the back because it’s too close to the exit, and they’ll jump when things get bad, or they’re start pointing fingers and blame you.” Continuing the metaphor, the ideal spot is the middle of the bus, noted Woodside. “That’s where we like to be because it demonstrates value. We want to be there to support existing systems,” which entails training providers so they can participate in the design, implementation, and delivery processes.
- Trusted advisors. According to Carman, “the best relationships with consultancies are when they’re viewed as the trusted advisor,” she said. “I don’t think they should run the project. I think they should stand up with those who are running the project, whispering in their ears, and giving them expert advice. That’s when it really works.”
The extra mile
The final component that needs to be addressed is one most leaders would rather not talk about: dealing with irreconcilable differences. “The divorce is more important than the marriage,” stated Podesta. “If it’s not working out, whether it’s a culture issue or something else, you need to be able to get that person out.”
One option, Carman noted, is to build some incentives and risk into the contract. For example, if the end goal is to reduce hospital length of stay, the agreement could dictate how much the consultant would earn if goals were met versus falling short. Other stipulations can ensure that, “if you’re implementing an EMR and the person doesn’t live up to your expectations, you’re able to release them.” By doing this, and leveraging master service agreements, organizations can keep costs down, and avoid having to request more funds from the CFO.
Of course, there’s no way to guarantee a positive experience for all parties. But if companies like Galen are willing to go the extra mile to meet the needs of provider organizations, it can make a difference, Woodside said. “We’ve always tried to make it easy to do business with us,” whether that means including the right language in contracts, outlining the terms, or simply listening. “We spend extra time thinking about what the divorce might look like to ensure that the marriage goes well. We tend to be less of a staffing agency and more of a consultant that works to build internal knowledge and provide real value.”
To view the archive of this webinar — Strategies for Leveraging Supplemental Staffing as a Solution to In-House Talent Gaps (Sponsored by Galen Healthcare Solutions) — please click here.