Transitioning to Leadership: What New Leaders Need to Know about Workforce Optimization

If an individual’s career trajectory is aimed at a leadership position, the transition to a leadership role demands a shift in priorities. As well as being an expert in their chosen profession, a leader also needs to be fluent in workforce operations. Optimizing a workforce while hitting budget targets is a delicate balance. If moving into a leadership position requires someone to hit the ground running, time is in short supply. Here are three things a leader needs to know about workforce optimization.

Identify key workforce metrics. With data analytics pushing further into every industry, many leaders are feeling the pressure to jump on the data train. But for those not well-versed in data science, statistics and advanced mathematical modeling can seem like a foreign language. If that’s the case, it is more digestible in bite-sized chunks. Focusing on specific workforce metrics such as overtime hours each pay period will uncover loads of opportunities to better utilize staff members.

Having access to advanced business intelligence tools allows leaders to zero in on specific metrics and offers insight into the current state of workforce operations, allowing goals to be set and an effective plan to be created. Leaders shouldn’t be scared off by the term “analytics.” Data science doesn’t need to be any more complex than presenting important business data in a comprehensible and actionable way.

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Staff thrives under standardization. It’s surprising how the simple idea of standardizing practices can make such a difference when it comes to staff satisfaction and engagement. Standardized practices such as streamlined schedule periods, overtime and PTO policies that are consistently applied across all departments and communicated to staff can prevent a lot of chaos. When staffing and scheduling practices vary by department and/or shift it makes reporting and analysis incredibly difficult, and can create an environment of perceived unfairness.

While autonomy is important, guidelines and expectations provide employees structure they crave. Additionally, holding employees accountable and setting those expectations across departments is vital for creating a culture of trust and reliability.

Don’t seek consensus for everything. Leaders tend to genuinely care about their employees and want their employees to be happy in their roles. This often means listening to a variety of opinions. It’s only natural then that when faced with a decision that could bring about significant change, managers want to gather opinions in hopes of reaching a consensus before a decision is made. This is a rabbit hole that many managers fall into and typically does not result in a positive outcome. Seeking consensus inevitably means that some people’s ideas were not accepted, which can cause them to be unhappy or give the false perception of favoritism.

The reality is that a manager cannot bend to make every employee happy all the time. One of the tasks of leadership is to make tough decisions. Once a decision is made, it should be clearly communicated to all staff with an emphasis on why the change is occurring and how individual accountability leads to organizational success.

Underlining these three guidelines is the necessity of leaders to utilize open communication and transparency with staff members. Being a good leader is less of a popularity contest and more about being a person who does what they say, inspires and empowers people along the right path, and holds others (and themselves) accountable.

Jackie Larson

Jackie Larson
Jackie Larson is president of Avantas, a provider of workforce management technology, services, and strategies for the healthcare industry.

Jackie Larson

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