Look both ways before hiring

Internal, External, and other solutions to staffing shortages

It’s no secret that the staffing shortages facing most businesses today are extremely challenging. It is also highly unlikely that these challenges are going to resolve in the near term. So, what do you do now when you just cannot find the talent you need? It is time to rethink all of your staffing options. The key is to make the most of the staff you have and to augment them with outside resources and technology.

Prioritize Those Who Interface with Your Customer

The foundation of business success is based upon your revenue and the stability of your revenue streams. Customer loyalty and retention depend on their satisfaction. Prospects rely on their ability to access the information they need to make informed decisions and gain a comfort level with their options. Organizations with a history of sales success often rely on operational delivery to keep them going when they are short-staffed.  Yet it is your customer-facing staff who are the most valuable to sustaining enterprise revenue.

Identify staff who interact with your customers along the entire range of their customer journey. Their success in meeting customer needs, satisfaction, and prospect demands determines if you can satisfy and keep them. If they have the bandwidth to provide exceptional service, they can keep your customers and expand your prospect pool.

Today’s consumers are looking for faster information. Many prefer to get information via video or audio. Adjust to how they want to consume information. Streamline your team’s workload by creating tools and resources to quickly get them the answers they want and need. Ensure they have the tools and resources they need to be more efficient. Clarify what can help them deliver a better customer experience. Remove the roadblocks to their success.

Outsource When Necessary 

The gig economy is here to stay. Leveraging external relationships with outsourced resources can help you flex your staffing and can be a valuable way to get the work done. While not as optimal as building your own team, the pressure relief you experience when critical work is being completed can give you the breathing room needed to determine if this role really needs a full-time hire or it can be permanently outsourced.

For small projects, online resources like Fiverr and Upwork provide you with worldwide access to Gig Workers with specific skills that are needed for short-duration work. Most of these online sites have filters allowing you to clarify what your service needs, information ahead of time on the potential cost, control over where your talent comes from, and what languages they speak.

Staffing Agencies can bring in talent to your organization for a project that is going to take a bit longer. While it will be more expensive, keep in mind, that you are not paying any benefits and you will not get hit with an unemployment claim when you no longer need them. Agencies vet the staff who work with you and will help you find the right talent you need.

Trusted Outside Vendors can provide key services for you and do bookkeeping, administrative work, sales support, social media, website management, etc. Long-term vendors have deep insight into your history, your team, and your culture. They know your preferred communication methods and how you like to work. Outside vendors are an exceptionally valuable safety valve when you cannot find the right permanent talent.

Do not try to manage too many different outside resources. Focus on the most critical work they can provide for you and engage in short-duration tests to see if you have chemistry and if they provide you with value. 

Consider the Potential of Technology 

Technology and automation use is exploding as companies are seeking opportunities to invest in devices and software to provide options to leverage the staff they already have and enhance their productivity. Autonomous devices include robots, drones, vehicles, floor cleaners, and more. These devices can sense the environment around them and operate without human involvement. Other devices such as exoskeletons are able to support a worker’s body and provide augmented biological capabilities such as safely lifting heavy objects.

While robotics as a field is advancing, they are not truly autonomous of human interaction. They still need people involved in the process to use them. This includes programming, monitoring them, and changing batteries as they perform their service. At best this is now “co-botics” and people will never be fully eliminated from the equation and they will work in tandem. As these options expand, you can take advantage of them too, even if you are a small business.

There is growing interest in how data and analytics can be used to manage staff productivity and service delivery. Most technology devices are already collecting data. When combined in the future with artificial intelligence, the possibilities for data analytics appear to be endless. When the data is combined with AI interpretation, this can provide valuable insight to help streamline your processes and maximize staff efficiency.

Evaluate how you are using the software and technology currently deployed in your business to see how you can maximize their value. The return on the investment (ROI) should be very carefully evaluated to identify any efficiencies achieved or productivity enhancements. Get your team any needed training so they can effectively work with advanced technologies. You might need a different skillset in your workforce to work with the technology and this may expand your workforce to pull from a broader pool of potential talent.

Final thoughts

It is clear that the staffing shortages are not going away. We have to find opportunities to gain increased productivity from our existing workforce and alternatives for completing the work we need done. Focusing on the needs of our customer-facing team members, making smart use of outside resources and maximizing technology use provide viable options for addressing the issue. When you expand your potential for getting the job done, you are more likely to find the resources you need.

Jill JohnsonAbout the Author:

Jill J. Johnson, MBA, President and Founder of Johnson Consulting Services, is a management consultant, accomplished speaker, award-winning author, and Business Hall of Fame inductee. She helps clients make critical business decisions and develop plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted over $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results.

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