Profiles in Excellence: Wowing Them With Workforce Planning and Metrics in Healthcare

As authors and corporate advisors, it is rare that a week goes by without someone asking us about which firms we think are breaking new ground and establishing soon-to-be-talked-about best practices. Since we both like to tell stories, we are always searching for success stories that we can highlight in our writings and talks. This is one such success story of how a visionary can make a difference in the slow-to-change healthcare industry. The New DNA of HR Two years ago, we wrote about the new DNA of HR, which we defined as a change in an HR person so radical that it transforms the HR practitioner into a leader and a “go-to guy” for senior executives. These leading practitioners are fed up with the excruciatingly slow rate of change in HR, and they are unbridled by the fear and apathy that characterize the average practitioner. Professionals living up to this new “DNA” standard are driven these fourteen characteristics:

    1. The ability to drive change in HR above the speed of change in the rest of the business


  1. An emphasis on developing provable and sustainable ROI through every action
  2. A focus on making HR a competitive advantage to the firm
  3. A consistent effort to help build an organization wide performance culture
  4. A focus on developing strategies that shift in response to changes in external conditions
  5. A relentless pursuit to provide line managers with tools and strategies to better utilize their talent
  6. The ability to see the big picture and connect the dots between symptoms and problems
  7. A willingness to redistribute who does what HR work, shifting ownership of people issues to managers
  8. A focus on improving corporate productivity, and less of a focus on compliance
  9. A belief in the pay-for-performance model
  10. An interest in recruiting coworkers with business backgrounds into HR
  11. A willingness to provide help 24/7, not just 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  12. The ability to use data to make most decisions
  13. An emphasis on total customer satisfaction measures as a key indicator of HR performance

Profiles in Excellence: Trudy Knoepke-Campbell Over the course of this article and others like it to come, we would like to profile the achievements of these mavericks so that we can all learn from their bold approach. This inaugural profile in excellence focuses on Trudy Knoepke-Campbell, director of workforce planning for HealthEast Care System, a network of neighborhood clinics, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and home healthcare providers servicing the greater Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. Background This story begins four years ago, when Ms. Knoepke-Campbell joined HealthEast Care System as their first director of workforce planning. Prior to joining HealthEast, Ms. Knoepke-Campbell had worked for several other regional healthcare providers, focusing on compensation and benefits, and had started her professional career years earlier working line management roles in the restaurant industry. Already a rising star in an organization three times the size of HealthEast and with stronger financials, Ms. Campbell was wooed away by an opportunity to make a difference and to help prove once and for all that when talented professionals leave an organization it isn’t just because of the money. “I was tired of people always stating that compensation was their reason for leaving,” she said. “This opportunity allowed me to move further up the dog, to investigate the real reasons that create turnover.”Why Workforce Planning? During the fall of 2000 and spring of 2001, workforce planning was a relatively obscure function in the average U.S.-based corporation. Unfortunately, at the same time that workforce planning was being under-funded, there was a dramatic shortage of healthcare professionals in the United States and abroad, a fact that puts service delivery at risk in 25% of the hospitals and clinics across the country. After fifteen interviews, Ms. Knoepke-Campbell accepted the workforce planning role. The starting situation was by no means glamorous. “I was the only person in the newly formed function. I had no email, no computer, no centralized information, and not a dollar of budget,” she recalled. Early requests to identify the current state of the workforce yielded no concrete answers. Data regarding talent movement between units of the HealthEast System simply didn’t exist; in fact, no one knew how many open requisitions existed across the system at the time. Many suspected that the number was approximately 300, when in reality it was well over 500. Like one in four hospitals across the country, vacancies where placing some critical care services at risk of being shut down, a situation in which patients and potential in-patient revenues would have to be diverted to other facilities. The problems at hand were not HR problems, they were business problems. Getting Started After just a few days on the job, it became very apparent that the duties that Ms. Knoepke-Campbell were hired for would have to wait until the vacancy problems were resolved. “Vacancies were impacting the business and we had to focus on that before I could begin forecasting,” she said. Ms. Knoepke-Cambell asserted that HealthEast needed to immediately assess the staffing barriers that kept the vacancy rate for nurses, radiologists, pharmacologists, and respiratory therapists at or above the industry average. Within months she:

  • Pooled together HR data from numerous sites.
  • Measured employee opinions.
  • Devised and piloted several new centralized sourcing strategies.
  • Measured recruitment process efficiencies.
  • Built a robust demographic profile of the total HealthEast workforce.

Year One Passes At the end of year one, the list of accomplishments was impressive. Ms. Knoepke-Campbell had:

  • Shaved enough budget from other areas within HR by reengineering processes to get her more than $300,000.
  • Engineered a home-grown ATS system to consolidate and automate time-consuming staffing efforts and decrease time to hire.
  • Implemented metrics to measure nearly every aspect of the internal and external workforce and its utilization, including such basic measures as vacancy rate, overtime, and temporary staff usage by position, tenure, and demographic profile.
  • Identified trends in the data that told a story and pointed to the root causes of high vacancy, overtime, and temporary staff usage.

A Maverick Raises the Bar What establishes Trudy Knoepke-Campbell as a maverick is the existence of not one but rather all fourteen of the characteristics identified earlier. Near the end of Ms. Knoepke-Campbell’s first year on the job she was approached by line management to use her data, process expertise, and analytical skills that had helped her solve several macro-level issues to help solve still another serious acute business problem. It seems that one of the critical service occupation areas that was essential to all others in the hospital environment had over 20 vacancies, and was currently staffed by only seven temporary workers. The seven temporary workers combined with the high vacancy rate in the specific profession was costing the system millions of dollars each year. Workers were being provided with apartments, car allowances, per-diems, and temporary wages well above the norm. After assessing the unit, its reputation, and the available workforce, Ms. Knoepke-Campbell devised a strategy that:

  • Filled all current vacancies, including those positions once filled by temporary staff.
  • Built up a surplus of labor that enables HealthEast to farm out talent to nearby physician groups where knowledge is exchanged on best practices daily.

The strategy cost HealthEast a mere $100,000 to implement, and generated a return on investment of nearly 700:1, a rate almost unheard of in businesses outside those in Columbia. A Go-To Girl Emerges Over the last three years, Trudy Knoepke-Campbell has added a number of additional successes to those she racked up in year one. She has for instance:

  • Reduced the vacancy rate among nurses to one of the lowest in the industry, at just under 3%. The average among U.S. hospitals was 13% in 2002, with some states reporting rates as high as 26-31%.
  • Reduced overtime and temporary staff charges by more than 48%.
  • Identified numerous barriers to new entrants to the healthcare profession in their first two years on the job.
  • Helped devise an “Express Admin Unit” that assesses patients and provides telemetry (monitoring) for patients needing such services when the ER is at maximum capacity. The model enables the facilities to avoid diverting patients to other facilities and establishes them as an inpatient which generate immediate revenue.

The result of all these successes is that now management turns to Ms. Knoepke-Campbell when a problem emerges, if she hasn’t brought it to their attention first. She isn’t seen as an HR paper-pusher and is often invited to management meetings as the only HR representative. Her budget has grown, her staff has grown (it now includes a data analyst, project manager, and marketer), and her responsibility has grown. She is now a recognized turnaround expert. Troubles Along the WayGetting HealthEast to where they are today wasn’t that easy. In addition to dealing with all of the challenges that you might expect, Ms. Knoepke-Campbell had to deal with one that most HR professionals refuse to acknowledge: the fact that many HR professionals don’t want to or know how to measure the impact of their performance because it may make them “look bad.” “This is an ongoing challenge as we prepare to tackle the talent development side of workforce planning,” she said. Becoming a maverick in HR, one who practices HR according to the new DNA like Ms. Knoepke-Campbell all comes down to three things:

  • Undying tenacity
  • Abandonment of fear
  • Ownership

We applaud the successes of Ms. Knoepke-Campbell and her staff, and challenge others to step up to the plate. If you know of a maverick like Trudy Knoepke-Campbell, we would love to hear more about them. Email us at [email protected].

About Dr John Sullivan

Dr John Sullivan is an internationally known HR thought-leader from the Silicon Valley who specializes in providing bold and high business impact; strategic Talent Management solutions to large corporations.

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