3 areas your labor reports are ineffective in healthcare organizations

Ever get the feeling that your labor costs are out of control? Or maybe you think you have gaps in your staff schedule that are behind recent cost increases, but you just can’t be sure?

Hopefully, you’re not just relying on feelings or guesses, but instead, have the data to actually know. Labor costs are one of the largest expenses most industries face, and bad reporting is how they get out of hand.

Creating Effective Labor Reports

Human resources is a process that deals with people, but as your organization grows, data collection and analysis inevitably become a part of that process. Labor reports package that information for managers and executives who need usable data to make decisions.

A labor report can cover broad ground, and might include information on the total hours your staff has worked. It might include dates, shift information and hours, and be broken down into different employee groups. Essentially, it gathers all the data that reflects the most important aspects of what’s going on with staffing in your organization.

What does effective labor reporting do?

  1. It catches overtime and other costly issues. A good labor report can deal with that labor cost problem. It can point out excessive overtime and help you spot trends so you can reduce those overtime costs
  2. It helps with predictive scheduling. Predictive scheduling, also sometimes referred to as “fair scheduling,” is becoming the law in some places. It’s about giving employees their schedule ahead of time instead of hitting them with last minute changes or demanding they be on-call to meet seemingly random demands.
  3. It can track changes in a dynamic environment. With the right tools, you can track data as it’s happening. That’s real-time reporting, and that gives your healthcare organization a competitive edge. You can see troublesome spots and nip unnecessary labor costs in the bud. You can take advantage of a positive trend. And you can do it right away instead of waiting for the next report to come out.
  4. It helps you respond to staff and patient concerns. Good data and labor reporting help you respond to staff concerns. You’ll know if those concerns are legitimate, you may be able to see where they originated from, and with that information you can plot a course of action. You don’t have to rely on hearsay or speculation. You have actual data to build on.

Ineffective labor reports do the opposite of all of this. Instead of timely information, you get basic information that does little to help you or other managers make any meaningful decisions that resonate into the future.You’ll be left scrambling moment to moment, making decisions that barely keep ahead of the current data.

3 Ways To Improve Labor Reporting

Labor reporting relies on data. Data is great, unless you’re drowning in it.

The reality for many healthcare organizations is that they aren’t suffering from a shortage of available data; it’s being gathered everywhere at every turn, often on different platforms by various staff.

No, the problem with data is in managing it and turning that data into something useful in an accurate way. Struggles with what to do with data in the healthcare industry can generally be narrowed down to three problems:

  1. Overly complicated data procedures.
  2. No proper reporting.
  3. Misunderstanding of key metrics.

Let’s take a deeper look at these three.

How are you gathering your data?

Data is your raw product. How you gather it affects everything further down the chain. Poorly gathered data will always turn out bad reporting.

As with anything, start by reviewing your process. 

Far too many healthcare organizations waste time and duplicate effort only to end up with inaccurate data. They have staff re-entering or copying data from one source to another (especially spreadsheets). Standardization doesn’t exist between departments using or copying the data. A reboot of how they gather data is in order, with a heavy consideration towards standardization or automation.

How do you go about gathering data? How many layers of red tape or apps does it have to go through before you get a final product? Are you gathering useful data, or just any and all data? Is your process easy enough to avoid mistakes that’ll be compounded on later when decisions are being made? Is it time for automation to end unnecessary redundancy?

You have to be able to simplify the gathering and use of data or face inaccuracies, and you need to be sure that you are gathering data that fits the reporting needs of those who will use the end product.

How do you report the data you’ve gathered?

Data is dead unless you have a way to report it in a useful manner. It can’t sit in a spreadsheet or document that gets filed away upon completion. It needs to be in a usable form with context so it can be used for making actual decisions.

  • Which information is necessary, and which is extraneous?
  • Have you, or the appropriate departments, provided an explanation (context) of the data so it can be read by others who aren’t familiar with what they’re reading?
  • Is data presented in a meaningful way?
  • Does it answer the questions the users of the data want answered?
  • When is data presented? Is it at the right time to be useful?
  • Are there a ways to search or access the data as needs arise?
  • Is the data a fit or in the finalized state for the tools and apps others are using to process the data?

If reporting procedures are weak, data can end up being ignored or, even worse, improperly used. When data proves to be inaccurate (even just one time), people start to second-guess the product. They’ll learn not to trust the numbers provided.

The key is to have a reporting system that is self-service, easy-to-understand and a single source of truth for your organization. Any data that you report must always be.reliable, relevant, and delivered at the right time.

Are key metrics emphasized?

No one appreciates a data dump. It’s the equivalent of dropping multiple file boxes on a desk and saying “your answer is in there somewhere.”

Some data is more important than others. 

Important data needs to be promoted to avoid misunderstanding what the key metrics are. Lack of context and emphasis is usually the source of that misunderstanding. If there is an important message you want your labor reporting data to tell, you must make it clear. Quite simply, busy healthcare executives don’t have a way to compile and digest the data. Unfortunately, too many are spending about 80% of their time trying to find the labor data when they should be using that time to interpret it and make important decisions.

Vast amounts of spreadsheets or lists of numbers without any context or indication of what they should be paying attention to or what they’re even looking at makes it almost impossible to make an educated decision based on the available labor data. 

Some tools provide a dashboard, which is a kind of distillery for data. For the busy manager or executive, this is useful. Whatever tool you choose to use, it should offer the end-user an easily accessible experience, or they’ll simply avoid using it as much as possible.

Remember, if you don’t know what key metrics your organization needs to be paying attention to, you’re gathering numbers for nothing. Without data-driven educated decisions, there is no strategic plan. It’s all just guesswork.


The healthcare industry is highly dynamic, both now and the likely future.

Dynamic labor reports are a need, not an option. The only way to make that happen is to have a solid data gathering and reporting system using the tools that make that data easily accessible and understandable.

Get the data right, you get the labor reports right. Get the labor reports right, and you end up with a competitive organization.

Download our free ebook to learn how healthcare companies can better improve labor reports.

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