The job satisfaction of your schedulers is vital to the health of your agency as a whole. Here’s what they need to be successful and happy in their roles.
There is an employee resource group that, until recently, has gone under-utilized in agencies around the country. This resource exists in every office, whether it has 20 employees or 2,000 employees. It performs an essential role in every agency, without which each agency would flounder. If the caregiver is the face of the agency, this resource gives the agency its voice.
Have you figured out which essential role I’m talking about yet? If you are thinking “the scheduler,” you are correct!
Schedulers play a crucial role in maintaining both client and caregiver satisfaction in your agency. They are often the first point of contact for your caregivers and the first voice a client hears when they call the agency for a schedule change. It should come as no surprise, then, that the job satisfaction of these critical employees is vital to the health of your agency as a whole.
Improving employee satisfaction often feels daunting, but there are a few key areas where small changes can have big returns. We have met with your schedulers, surveyed them, and conducted breakout sessions with schedulers across the country. Through these sessions, we have identified five challenges your schedulers face each workday:
Matching the right clients with the right caregivers
Handling complaints from clients/caregivers
Creating schedules based on care plans
Support from office administration
Do any of these challenges surprise you? Let’s take a deeper look into each challenge and identify ways you can easily satisfy the needs of your essential employees.
#1: Match the right clients with the right caregivers
This challenge is the essence of the scheduler’s role: matching clients and caregivers. It entails so much more than placing a warm body into a stranger’s home and asking them to perform a very intimate task. Your clients expect the caregiver coming into their home to have experience with the functions and responsibilities they are being asked to perform. They have every right to expect that.
This challenge, identified by your schedulers, then becomes increasingly important. How can you, as an office administrator, help your schedulers? You may already know my favorite answer: training!
More specifically, you should train your schedulers to:
Pinpoint any gaps in caregiver knowledge or experience during the matching process.
Recognize those gaps using the care plan.
You will undoubtedly have an increase in caregiver-to-client match success by providing your schedulers with training on how to read the care plan. The scheduler’s knowledge of the caregiver’s experience and training will create the added bonus of finding opportunities to upskill caregivers who may not match now but can (and will) after added training.
For example, suppose your scheduler needs a caregiver on Mondays and Wednesdays to match with a client diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In that case, your scheduler should search first for caregivers experienced with not only Alzheimer’s, but also with caring for someone using therapeutic communication, alternative bathing techniques, and memory care. If your scheduler cannot find someone who checks those boxes, your scheduler should pick the closest match and encourage training for the caregiver staff.
#2: Handling complaints from clients/caregivers
There is no question that the role of a scheduler is a stressful one. So, it is no surprise that handling complaints topped the list of challenges facing schedulers. The weight of the pandemic has only heightened the complaints from clients and caregivers as we all work to navigate a global crisis.
From handling call-outs due to illness to moving around shifts to cover a caregiver shortage, your schedulers are working hard every day to put out fires that do not seem to be waning. Here is a four-step process to teach your schedulers that will help them handle complaints quickly and efficiently:
Use active listening: Encourage your schedulers to allow the client or caregiver to finish their complete thoughts before speaking, then repeat the message back to the client or caregiver in their own words and ask questions for clarification.
Sincerely apologize: Encourage your schedulers to admit responsibility, express regret that needs were not met, and relay the plan to remedy the grievance.
Solve the problem: We must do what we can right away, even if it means the scheduler cannot fix the problem themselves. Ensure that your schedulers have the resources available to escalate serious complaints: billing concerns, issues with other staff members, or serious concerns about the overall care of a client.
Express gratitude: The final step of the process is to create a safe space for the caregiver or client to bring forth any issues. Encourage your schedulers to thank the client or caregiver for trusting them to handle their complaints appropriately and allowing them the opportunity to do so.
#3: Time management
While putting out fires is what a scheduler does best, it isn’t always second nature in what order a scheduler should extinguish the flames or which fires deserve the most attention. Your schedulers will appreciate your support and understanding as they navigate this challenge.
When we asked experienced schedulers how they effectively managed their time, this is what they had to say:
“One thing that I have created that I share with new schedulers that I would train is ‘A Day in the Life of’ document. It has a task schedule, labeled Monday through Friday, with different tasks that you’re supposed to get done that week.”
“If a scheduler can have a power hour and take a moment to step away, go into a closed–door space (without the phone ringing) and just double–check notes or write some notes in, that can really make the difference between a good day and a great day.”
“I like to tell schedulers I am training to remember even if you’re busy, continue to go slow, stay organized, be sure you have policies in place as far as confirming schedules, and keep an organized list you can come back to after emergencies arise.”
“It’s ok to speak up and say: ‘I’m drowning, and I need some help!’ People in my office are always happy to assist.”
The message here is clear, administrators! Create a document your schedulers can lean on to organize their day and allow them time to knock out any low-hanging fruit—without the phones ringing. Be sure you are available to pick up those phones to assist your schedulers when they are overwhelmed with calls. If you have not already, incorporate a daily “huddle” where you review the schedule for the week and, as a team, point out any “hot-spots” of the week the entire team should prioritize and be ready to jump in if an officemate needs help.
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#4: Creating schedules based on care plans
The great thing about this challenge is that you are already halfway there if you have incorporated match training for your schedulers. You cannot create an excellent schedule if you do not have a great match. You cannot create a great match if you haven’t made the best use of the care plan.
We recommend three main aspects of the care plan that every scheduler should prioritize when creating schedules. Be sure that, at a minimum, you are arming your schedulers with these three critical pieces of the care plan:
Medical needs (or diagnosis)
Take it a step further and be sure that your schedulers understand the meaning of each item included in those three pieces. Familiarity with the client’s diagnosis and the caregiver’s training or experience, coupled with the physical demands required to care for the client, will help the scheduler create an effective and safe environment for clients and caregivers alike. Training your schedulers on the most common diagnoses your agency supports will deepen their understanding of the care plan and make their matches more effective.
#5: Support from office administration
Some schedulers are not feeling the love.
Imagine the stress of holding up the agency without the proper support of the office staff around you. This is especially concerning if your schedulers are working remotely under the circumstances of the pandemic. 70% of remote employees can feel “left out” of their workplace.
Your agency can turn that statistic around. Be sure to check in often with your schedulers. Thank them for a job well done. Provide training and be available to them when escalated issues arise outside. Define their scope of practice and provide support whenever they are asked to step outside of their scope.
Implementing these simple (yet practical) tips will have you well on your way to relieving the challenges your employees are facing each day, creating an invaluable bond between you and your greatest assets: your schedulers.