What to do when you face staff shortage ?

Don’t rely only on big salaries and good working conditions. Even if it’s simple on paper, hiring rare people to not deliver value is a shame. Always start by asking yourself what you do and how you do it. The staff shortage is a unique time to review your ways of doing things.

All over the world, companies are complaining about staff shortages. They are unable to recruit or retain staff. Many articles deal with the problem and invite organizations to review their working conditions and salary scale. For me, this should be the last step… I see these difficulties as a unique opportunity to review the processes in the concerned organizations. So here are the steps you can take if you are having trouble recruiting or keeping your staff in place.

Identify root causes

For me, this is the key to success. If a person is coughing, pneumonia will not be treated like a fishbone stuck in the throat. The 5 whys are your best friend for finding the causes of your current problems. However, here are some contextual elements that could help you.

For the majority of Western organizations, the staff shortage is linked to 5 factors, or a combination of these 5 factors:

  • Retirement of people born in the 1950s (baby boomers)
  • Birth deficit since 1970
  • The great resignation: people who want to do something else with their lives
  • Retraining following the pandemic (especially in hospitality and tourism)
  • Lack of qualified people (barrier to entering employment)

Here are some questions to ask yourself when you will analyze your context. Is it only your neighborhood/city/region that is affected? Only one type of job in particular? What did the staff who resigned say about it? But above all, what do those in place say? Are they happy at work? Do they want to leave, and if so, why?

Each country has its own demographics, over which you have little control. Some sectors are affected by global staff shortages, such as nurses, doctors or developers. Training is long and expensive. Even if you invest in young people to train them, the results will take time. What to do in the short term?

Back to the value chain

Now that you have a good idea of the context, you can take a closer look at your organization. What services or products do you offer to your customers? What is the added value of your organization? You can then assess how hard-to-recruit staff contribute to this value. Are you using all their talent? How does understaffing affect your operations?

Not to mention accompanying everyone with an assistant to do the “simple” tasks, how can you use the hardest-to-find skills most effectively?

For example, in many countries, nurses can perform a number of procedures instead of doctors. Just like the nursing assistants or maintenance staff can take over some nurses’ tasks.

You have to find the right balance between delegation to another person and efficiency. The best way to do this is simply to try with a few people or teams and ask for their opinion. They will tell you what really saves time.

Choose one priority

Priority means who is ahead. There can only be one. The others are behind. So which of all the tasks should be completed first? You can list the ones that must finish later, but they come later, not in parallel.

If you have lost sight of it, now is the time to take another look at your value chain. Some tasks may be totally unnecessary… Or can be done later, in a less pressing time. On the other hand, some take you 15 minutes if you do them now, but will take you 2 hours later, so choose wisely.

This is how the programming world works with Kanban or Scrum . The team prioritizes a to-do list and doesn’t start anything else until they’ve finished their list. In general, the test is included with each piece of finalized code. Debugging 10 lines of code always takes less time than when there are hundreds, even if it means doing it 100 times.

Review your service levels

The next step is still related to your value chain. After deleting what is unnecessary and deprioritizing what is less urgent or less important, can you lower the quality level? The goal is to keep your competitive advantage, but to review what matters less to your customers. Can you increase lead times without driving away your customers?

For example, in restaurants with a shortage of waiters, customers have to wait longer for their dishes, or even order at the counter. In some cases, I was even invited to take my cutlery, water and glasses. Fast foods ask customers to pick up their order when they are ready… Personally, I prefer to serve myself, rather than waiting a long time and having a cold meal or nothing to drink. The value I see in the restaurant is having a meal prepared for me.

Automate what can be

The last step to being more efficient and successfully doing all the work you have in the short term is to automate. I have already spoken about it . Thus, simple, repetitive tasks that require little thought are good candidates. Robots, or a simple program can help you produce despite the lack of personnel. Google Assistant and PowerAutomate (Microsoft) are simple and effective tools. There are hundreds of automations already written. It’s a safe bet that other companies in the world have the same issues as you.

For example, in the medical sector, to limit the re-entry of information, you can equip the staff with tablets, and put barcodes in strategic places. Actions are still documented, but more easily shareable.

Automation comes last, as it requires a bit of investment, and there is also a shortage of specialists in this area. You want to make sure you’re automating high value-added tasks!