There is no secret formula for improving efficiency and cutting costs, but using analytics tools to inform management decisions is vital.
Faced with the possibility of state budget cuts, one nurse manager knew she needed increased insight into the organization's personnel management and inefficiencies—and fast.
"Labor costs are among the highest costs… so we had to make sure we were paying very close attention to [them], and that we weren't using too much overtime," says Michelle Godin, manager of business operations in the nursing department at Saint Mary's Hospital, a not-for-profit community teaching hospital in Waterbury, CT.
The hospital had been using personnel productivity tools to track its 1,935 employees since 2012. But the installation of a new suite of analytics tools in mid-2015 has been generating savings.
These tools enabled Godin and her colleagues to gain staffing and productivity insights that have led to $650,000 in savings over a six-month period
The savings were driven by analytics, but "we did some other things to reduce waste, such as putting new punch clocks in specific locations to reduce travel time. It was an entire project, but it was all geared toward efficiency, and analytics gave us the data that said it was working," says Godin, who oversees a hospital-wide productivity project.
She recently discussed the project in a phone interview. This transcript below has been lightly edited.
HLM: How do you use analytics for personnel management?
Godin: The most straightforward way it's used is that we look at the performance of each department in terms of an established target and how well that department is performing.
Every manager, director, and vice president gets a copy of the productivity report to show whether the department is performing to target every week. We look at each department's finances, budget, satisfaction scores, and their productivity.
HLM: How was the new analytics tool an improvement over your old tool?
Godin: Our old tool was really a report; we would send the company data, and they would send us reports weekly. But with the new analytics program, the data belongs to us and is accessible any time, so I can go in there and drill down on some of the reports from analytics.
An example is that I can look at a department's overtime and figure out what's driving it. I can also run new reports and do trend analysis.
With the old system, I would have to call the company and do some work with them to get this information. Saint Mary's now has much more control over the database, and I have more control over the reports, and we can look at them daily.
HLM: How do these analytics relate to managing people? What do they help you see?
Godin: Our payroll system sends us a download daily with the names of all of our employees, the hours they're working, their schedules, and pay. So, I can get down to the individual level and see, for example, how much overtime someone has used, or how much benefit time someone has used.
I can look at a specific employee from a manager's perspective and ask wait, how many of this employees' grandmothers died last year? And I can run a report that can show us this information.
Also, when managers request new positions, HR is in the room with us saying, "OK, they want a new transporter. Well, how's transport been doing with their productivity?" We can see if the numbers show that they really are overworked and need new staff, or if they seem to manage with the staff that they have.
HLM: What were some other initiatives geared toward managing workers efficiently?
Godin: Moving punch clocks to more convenient locations near workers was a big one.
We were also able to give mobile devices to the managers. They have programs on their iPads or phones that enable them to correct problems, such as someone forgetting to clock out for lunch, immediately rather than waiting until the Monday morning time card report.
They get exception alerts when something is off, and they can also check and see who is on the schedule to come into work today.
Lena J. Weiner is an associate editor at HealthLeaders Media.