HR Trends & Workforce Planning at The VHA

Workforce Lessons

The following is a summarized webinar hosted by Catalyst Learning and featuring with Ms. Shari Florio, Manager of the National Workforce Planning Team at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

Background – Veterans Health Administration National Workforce Planning

“We’re proud to be able to share our methodology and data with the private sector, as taxpayers, you should have visibility to this” – Shari Florio, Manager, VHA National Workforce Planning

The VHA’s annual workforce planning cycle accumulates data from the VHA’s 139 health care systems, to identify staffing shortage occupations, current and future workforce challenges, and other workforce planning needs. This data supports management within the organization with the correct analytics to better forecast employment needs.

The report helps with action planning, and best practices for recruiting and retention and provides information specific to the occupation groups that systems may be having issues in these areas. It also details why and where shortages are happening and helps with action planning to support recruitment of occupations that are most critical.

The VHA often has lower occupation turnover rates than private health systems. This 2021 table is a yearly report from Nursing Solutions Inc. which releases data every March in its National Health Care Retention Report. You can see that with roles like CNAs, Patient Care Tech, and several therapist roles, VHA is able to outperform private sector competitors in turnover rate performance.

What is the Workforce and Succession Plan?

The VHA National Workforce Planning Team releases this report every 2 years, outlining workforce facts and labor strategies for providing the best care for Veterans. The plan is a combination of input from medical centers, regional offices (called VISNs, or Veterans Integrated Service Networks), and program offices, with clinical and nonclinical employment data. This report also pulls in VHA’s strategic goals, plus other drivers like diversity, equity, and inclusion benchmarks. All of this information is synthesized into one report that leadership can use for long-term planning.

While building this 2-year report is an achievement, the second half of the battle is to properly communicate results. The National Workforce Planning Team partners with VHA’s Public Affairs organization to build internal strategic communications. This includes leadership calls, participation in VHA large-scale community of practice calls, webinars, intranet web tiles, and articles in VHA publications. Outside of the VHA, the report is shared with external stakeholders like the U.S. Congress, veteran service organizations, and union partners.

The plan includes: VA and VHA strategic direction data, environmental drivers of supply and demand in the labor market, and legislative and government oversight factors which impact workforce priorities and organizational needs. For example, the plan points out the gap predicted for clinicians in the next 10-20 years. The plan also highlights legislation and government oversight factors which will impact future labor and workforce needs. It includes thorough VHA workforce analysis, such as listing the top 19 VHA shortage occupations. It includes turnover rates, demographic information, onboarding metrics, and surveys like employee satisfaction and exit survey results. It highlights info as granular as reasons that specific position groups term employment, which can guide retention discussions.

Additionally, the plan includes workforce priorities and high-focus strategic items to support the workforce, including a current initiative to consolidate VHA HR services. The VHA is in the process of streamlining from 139 different HR offices down to 18 nationally. Other additional plan items include implementation of manpower management principles, and talent development and training programs.

In odd number calendar years, the Workforce Planning Report is released (next report anticipated publication December 2021). But in even numeric years, the team releases a smaller report called the VHA Shortage Occupations Report. In December 2020, VHA recognized the following occupations as the top occupations at risk for shortage:

‘Shortage Occupation’ does not mean a shortage is actually occurring. It could be that forward-looking data points to a position group as being at-risk for a shortage, or there may be anticipation of difficulties recruiting or retaining an occupation group.

“Learning to predict the unpredictable is something we’ll be taking into account when building our future workforce plans” – Shari Florio, Manager, VHA National Workforce Planning

The VHA Workforce and Succession Planning team produces this very detailed report with only 5 full-time employees. Here is the 2020 VHA Workforce and Succession Strategic Plan. Or click here to see the 2020 Shortage Occupation Report. The 2021 VHA National Workforce Planning Report will be available in December 2021.

About Shari Florio

Shari Florio began her career at VHA in 2009 at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, FL. She entered HR Workforce Succession Planning at VA’s VISN 8, covering FL and PR with 28,000 employees.  Ms. Florio is now Manager of the VHA National Workforce Planning Team, an organization which focuses on promoting talent from within. In her current role, Ms. Florio is responsible for managing the team that informs human capital management and decision-making to meet future Veteran needs and maintain a reliable highly qualified and efficient workforce.

About Catalyst Learning, and how we support the VHA

Catalyst Learning supports the VHA with leadership development curricula for lower paid employees. Catalyst Learning has worked with 95 U.S. VHA medical centers spanning 17 years, supporting entry-level workers employed in GS 1-7 roles with upward mobility tracks.  Catalyst Learning also supports the development of VHA’s Charge Nurse and Assistant Nursing Managers leadership and management skills.

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