How to manage staff shortage pain

Dec 08, 2021 editor

We are seeing a high level of discomfort within contracted and inhouse services at present where the struggle to maintain adequate staffing levels is exasperated by the pandemic and employee burn out, as well as a lack of applications within recruitment.

There are a few best practices that can reduce some of the stress and unnecessary business disruption for Contractors, when faced with staff shortages. While this can't be completely avoided, putting some best practices in place can help to ensure there is minimal disruption.

  • Plan don’t react

It is a good idea to have a bank of supply staff available on minimum contract hours or seasonal contracts to meet the requirements for reduced core staff capacity. We are all more cautious with illnesses following the pandemic and much more likely to be forced to stay off work for periods of time, even when feeling healthy. Having a core team of mobile or relief staff who are able to travel or be flexible is key at present. Agency staff are not easy to come by and may take time to complete DBS, induction training and site specific training. Having a team of bank staff familiar with your business practices is a huge win.

  • Prioritize your product and service offerings

When delivering on all services is no longer an option setting top priorities is a key strategy in being able to effectively deliver the services that are most needed. If your company is short-staffed, focusing on essential high-demand products that customers need vs. want may keep your operations afloat. It's better to excel at delivering fewer products and services than to fall short on trying to deliver everything.

  • Adjust your expectations

When short-staffed, your most valuable asset, your people, shouldn't be overworked trying to keep up with unrealistic expectations. Reevaluating priorities about product and service offerings isn't the only thing that is needed. Your expectations for perfection in areas of the business should also be temporarily adjusted. If perfection about the quality of a flagship product is the basis for your business, then focus on that, especially if the item involves safety. 

Let your employees know what's a top priority and ask them to put their best into that product or service rather than asking them to put their best into everything.

  • Look after the staff you have

Employee burnout is real, especially during the pandemic where it has and still is impacting employee mental health. Burning out your employees just exacerbates the staffing situation and increases the likelihood of losing more staff due to frustration. Be realistic and fair about expectations: It can help your company and employees ride-out a storm together.

  • Invest time in technology to save you time

Spend some time automating repetitive tasks or look at clever filtering on spreadsheets information. Spending a bit of time doing this, will give you much more time in the long run and provide much needed efficiencies in lean staffing periods.

  • Communicate with your employees and clients 

Assume makes an ‘Ass’ of ‘u’ and ‘me. Never assume your client and staff are aware of the staffing difficulties you are facing, and that they are happy to give you some slack on the service levels. One of the biggest and best practices in dealing with low staffing levels is communication. Talking with your employees about the situation—giving your and getting their views—and strategies for coping with work demands is key. Your clients should also be kept in the loop. Keeping lines of communication open and being transparent makes it easier for everyone to understand the limitations and the timeline for resolving issues. Avoid the temptation to say nothing, hoping no one will notice: This strategy almost never works. Asking employees and customers for input can help your company better understand the things that should be a priority. Think of your employees and clients as partners in success. Collaborating with them will ensure they feel you have control of the situation and breeds understanding around the limitations you are faced with.