How to Manage Employee ShortagesKeeping your business running even when short-staffed

With uncertainty becoming a near-permanent fixture in today’s world, businesses are having to find more ways than ever to adapt to rapidly-changing circumstances.

Even as the world reopens after the COVID-19 pandemic, many companies are finding that the business landscape looks different now.

Customer spend is beginning to increase again, but many consumers are trying out new behaviours and different brands.

The way businesses manage their employees has changed too, with work-from-home policies and hybrid working now far more common.

But it hasn’t all been good news. As people re-evaluate their priorities and change careers, some businesses have been left struggling to find employees. As such, many are having to work through staff shortages even as they look to reopen, recover, and grow.

So how can managers ensure that their business runs smoothly even when their resources are stretched?

Be open with existing employees

The first step is to ensure that your employee shortage doesn’t get any worse, and that means you need to keep your existing employees happy. Encourage feedback from them and act on what you can.

Encourage regular meetings, take the time to set goals, and celebrate employees that perform well. As well as rewarding those that do well, be sure to monitor less happy employees and understand why any that leave are doing so.

If there are reasons why employees are consistently leaving your business, catching and addressing them early gives you the best chance to stabilise your staffing levels.

Transparency about the situation your business is in is also key. Explain to your employees why times are difficult and what that might mean for the demands on their roles. Then talk them through your plan to make the best of the situation.

By making them a part of the conversation around the task at hand, you can build accountability and approach what needs doing as a team. Giving them ownership over their own jobs is likely to deliver better results than keeping them in the dark.

Plan for stability, then growth

If you don’t have the resources you’d like, prioritisation is key. Focus on serving your existing customers first and keeping critical areas of your business as well-managed as possible.

Let’s say your business is primarily a café that does a few deliveries. Most of your customers come and eat in with you, but the few deliveries you do get require someone to stay on top of that system.

You may be better off ensuring that the café continues to run smoothly and that you can deliver the same great in-house experience that your regular patrons are used to.

The delivery aspect could be scaled down or even paused while you work through the employee shortage. By focusing on maintaining what you’ve got, you’re less likely to overextend and struggle to do anything to an acceptable standard.

Upskill and reskill

If you’re missing people in certain roles within your business, the answer may be closer than you expect. Training your existing employees is often a faster and more cost-effective way to fill skill gaps than hiring new talent.

You’ll avoid the learning curve that comes with a new hire, ensuring things continue to run smoothly. And by promoting from within, you’ll show your employees that you are willing to invest in them and offer them opportunities to progress.

The morale boost from this is likely to be another positive factor in retaining employees even through difficult times.

Provide the right tools

Who wants to spend more time than needed on simple, repetitive tasks? When your employees are already stretched, finding ways to save them time can make a big difference.

With the right tools, you can make your business far more streamlined and efficient, freeing up time for your employees to work on meaningful tasks like serving customers.

Automation has the potential to do away with the sort of manual tasks employees often hate having to do.

Meanwhile, scheduling solutions like Findmyshift can save managers hours by making employee rotas quick and easy to produce, adjust, and communicate.

There are plenty of apps and sites out there that can offer similar improvements in other areas of your business too.

Whether it’s tracking employee development or introducing an easier-to-use point of sale system, upgrading the tools your employees have to work with is often a recipe for success.

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