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What Are Labor ‘Float Pools’?

CoAdvantage – Would it help your business to have a constant 24/7 supply of workers who could work any open shift – as few or as many as you need – even on short notice? Imagine never going short-staffed again! That’s what a labor float pool does.

A float pool – also sometimes called a resource pool – is a workforce concept most associated with healthcare. Modern Healthcare refers to it as “your third workforce.” Hospitals must ensure they always have enough nurses to meet patient needs, which has become incredibly challenging in the face of a nationwide nursing shortage. One solution has been the creation of teams of nurses who take individual shifts here and there instead of working full- or part-time for the hospital.

Hospitals with successful float pools will maintain relationships with dozens or hundreds of local nurses who can “float” from role to role or shift to shift. When there’s an opening, they call, and one or more available nurses will answer and take the shift.

This concept doesn’t have to be limited to healthcare. Any employer, in any industry, can do it. In general, it requires only three things to make it work: (1) access to a group of employees who are interested in working on a one-off basis, (2) some system for keeping track of them and maintaining contact with them, and (3) some strategy for how to make the best use of these workers.

The People

The first members of your float pool will probably be drawn from an ad hoc collection of sources, including direct contacts, freelancers and contractors, temporary and staffing agencies, former employees, etc. You can also recruit directly into your float pool through normal recruiting channels.

To determine how many participants you want, count how many extra workers you need at your busiest times. Try to build a labor pool whose membership is 2-3 times that number.

The System

Maintaining the float pool can be labor-intensive, so a dedicated workforce management platform would be ideal. However, that technology can also represent a significant investment, so an alternative is just maintaining a spreadsheet of program participants. Make sure the spreadsheet includes their contact information, any credentials or skillsets you might need to sort by, and the participants’ preferred shifts and availability. Then, when you have an open need, you go through the spreadsheet and just start dialing, texting, or emailing.

The Strategy

It takes ongoing effort to keep a float pool, well, afloat. You need to maintain these relationships, or they will wither. It will help if you are posting a wide variety of openings so you can appeal to as many members of your float pool as possible. This is one reason why healthcare organizations see such success: they generally always have some open roles, and they have to staff shifts 24 hours a day. For other businesses whose staffing needs are more modest, it doesn’t mean a float pool won’t work, but it will mean you need to adjust your strategy.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.