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The Official Baldrige Blog

Best Practices for Weathering “Staffing Storms” (Part I)

Group of medical professionals standing together in hospital.
Credit: - Yuri A/Shutterstock

In a recent article “The Perfect Storm of Staffing Shortages” in the Winter 2022 edition of Arkansas Hospitals magazine, Kay Kendall discusses the “throes of a staffing storm” facing organizations today.

In terms of health care, she writes, “Data from several recently published studies suggest that the nursing shortage is projected to intensify in the next 18 months, with one-third of nurses planning to leave their jobs by the end of 2022. While pay and benefits are cited as two of the conditions leading to this exodus, the reasons nurses cite for leaving are burnout and continually working in extremely high-stress environments. Projections indicate these aggravations will only be exacerbated as shortages stress health care staff who choose to remain.”

She then asks readers about staffing plans for their own organizations: “What’s your plan? Do you know the specific underlying causes of your . . . staffing shortages?”

Reading this inspired me to go to the application summaries of recent Baldrige Award recipients. As Baldrige is all about benchmarking, what can be shared about best practices in staffing? Do role-model organizations know if their workforce members are engaged enough to stay? And if not, why not?

[Note: The examples below are from recent Baldrige Award recipients in health care. Part II of this blog will cover non-health care recipients.]

GMBC HealthCare System 2020 Baldrige Award Recipient in Health Care doctor listening to a toddlers heart that is sitting on her mother's lap.
Credit: GBMC HealthCare System

GBMC Healthcare

The fourth goal (aim) of 2020 Baldrige Award recipient GBMC HealthCare System (GBMC) is “More Joy” for those providing care.

To support those providing care, as well as workforce members supporting the clinicians, GBMC identified and validated key engagement drivers:

  • Nursing: meaningful work, safe work environment, a good place to work
  • Physicians: high-quality, safe care; a good place to practice
  • Administrative/support staff: meaningful work, a good place to work
  • Volunteers: high-quality, safe care; a good place to practice

What are some ways that the organization focuses on those drivers?

Through Lean Daily Management rounding, safety for both patients and workforce members is addressed directly, leading to the organization being honored with the National Patient Safety and Innovation Award from the American Society of Healthcare Risk Managers. Reporting of issues through a Safety Event Reporting System is encouraged. In addition, all registered nurses entering their first nursing job participate in a year-long residency program to train them in evidence-based communication methods to strengthen the safety culture.

GBMC HealthCare graphic shows "my work is meaningful" measure approaching the top decile in the nation.
Figure 7.3-18 Employee Engagement: "My work is meaningful" from GBMC HealthCare 2020 Baldrige Award Application Summary.
Credit: GBMC HealthCare System

To support its staff, GBMC employs various tactics, including cross-training in clinical areas, succession planning for key positions, use of temporary personnel in periods of significant demand, use of volunteers in appropriate areas, and hiring only when a long-term need is validated. Career development is managed through leadership mentoring, clinical ladders, and a Professional Excellence Model. Senior leaders place specific focus on mentoring young leaders. Each year, senior leaders identify and evaluate current and future leaders using Korn Ferry Leadership™ competencies, which have been tailored to each position.

Benefits and policies are supported with a systematic, seven-step benefits process, which begins with a review of workforce needs, affordability, sustainability, and the competitive marketplace. For example, in response to feedback, GBMC redesigned its core employee health plan to include 100% coverage (no coinsurance or deductible) for care received from its GBMC network of providers.

Wellstar Paulding Hospital

Wellstar Paulding Hospital 2020 Baldrige Award Recipient in Health Care employee working in the pharmacy.
Credit: Wellstar Paulding Hospital

At 2020 Baldrige Award recipient Wellstar Paulding Hospital (WPH), senior leaders round on team members on a daily basis to ask a standard set of engagement questions. Each leader uses a data analytics tool that provides him/her with the ability to look at engagement differences by shift, status, and workforce segment.

Key workforce drivers identified through an annual survey follow:

  • Employees: Trust, Respect, Fairness, Pride, and Camaraderie
  • Physicians: Trust, Respect, Fairness, Pride, and Camaraderie
  • Volunteers: Pride, Contribution, Teamwork

What are some ways that the organization focuses on those drivers?

Each engagement driver is assigned a Trust Score and measured using the Great Places to Work survey; in total, six dimensions of engagement are measured using 63 questions as part of the survey.

WPH invests in new team members with career development and progression opportunities. In addition to unit, department, and facility recognition efforts, programs such as Thank You Cards, Shining Star, Leadership Attribute Recognition, Winners of Wellstar, Service Awards Banquet, Nursing Excellence Awards, and Healthcare Week honor performance.

Wellstar Paulding Hospital graphic showing camaraderie score
Figure F7.3-22 Camaraderie Trust Score (ETM, PTM, GPTW: Al; Groups) from Wellstar Paulding Hospital's 2020 Baldrige Award Application Summary.
Credit: Wellstar Paulding Hospital

A Wellbeing 365 program consists of four distinct components (health, finances, career, and work-life) of tailored and individualized offerings to meet the needs of all workforce segments. In addition, concierge services provide a variety of services to encourage work-life balance, such as dry cleaning, grocery shopping, oil changes, and even planning events such as birthday parties. In addition, team members can get up to 80 hours a year of back-up care for their children or adult parents. During the COVID-19 pandemic, WPH also provided an in-house marketplace that allowed team members to order groceries and other household items, helping to balance the demands of the unprecedented time.

With a shared focus on care that “enhances the lives of our neighbors” and assurance that there is “appropriate nurse staffing to safely care for our patients,” WPH keeps recruitment top of mind to meet organizational capacity needs due to yearly increases in patient numbers. Recruitment approaches include partnering with the parent health system, providing additional training/education, and reprioritizing current resources.

2023-2024 Criteria Workforce Focus

Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence Overview. The performance system consists of the six categories in the center of the figure (Organizational Profile, Leadership, Strategy, Customers, Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management, Workforce, Operations, and Results).
Credit: Baldrige Performance Excellence Program. 2023. 2023–2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework®: Proven Leadership and Management Practices for High Performance. Gaithersburg, MD: U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the Criteria for Performance Excellence® of the recently published 2023-2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework®, the workforce category asks how your organization addresses workforce capability and capacity and provides a workplace climate to support high performance. The category also asks how your organization engages, manages, and develops your workforce to utilize its full potential in alignment with your organization’s overall business needs.

Specific items in this category ask

  1. How do you build an effective and supportive workforce environment? and
  2. How do you engage your workforce for retention and high performance?

So, what is your organization’s plan to weather “staffing storms”? Do you know the specific underlying causes of your staffing shortages and how to engage your workforce members?

2023-2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework Business/Nonprofit cover artwork

2023–2024 Baldrige Excellence Framework®

The Baldrige Excellence Framework® has empowered organizations to accomplish their missions, improve results, and become more competitive. It includes the Criteria for Performance Excellence®, core values and concepts, and guidelines for evaluating your processes and results.

Purchase your copy today!

Available versions: Business/Nonprofit, Education, and Health Care

About the author

Dawn Bailey

Dawn Bailey is a writer/editor for the Baldrige Program and involved in all aspects of communications, from leading the Baldrige Executive Fellows program to managing the direction of case studies, social media efforts, and assessment teams. She has more than 25 years of experience, 18 years at the Baldrige Program. Her background is in English and journalism, with degrees from the University of Connecticut and an advanced degree from George Mason University.

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