PDA Letter Article

Look Both Ways Before Hiring Internal, External and Other Solutions to Staffing Shortages

by Jill J. Johnson, Johnson Consulting Services

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 your staffing options. The key is to make the most of the staff you have and to augment them with outside resources and technology.

1. Prioritize Those Who Interface with Your Customer

The foundation of business success is based upon your revenue and the stability of your revenue streams. Customers’ loyalty and retention depends 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 journeys. Your staff’s success in meeting customer needs, satisfaction and prospect demands determine 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 consumer is 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 your staff 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.

2. 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 if can be permanently outsourced.

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

Staffing Agencies can bring in talent to your organization for longer-term projects. Agencies vet the staff who will work with you and will help you find the right talent you need. While it will be more expensive, keep in mind, you are not paying any benefits and you will not get hit with an unemployment claim when you no longer need their services.

Trusted Outside Vendors can provide key services for you like bookkeeping, administrative work, sales support, social media, and website management. Long-term vendors have deep insight about 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.

3. Consider the Potential of Technology

Technology and automation use is exploding as companies seek opportunities to invest in devices and software that provide options to leverage their existing staff 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, can physically 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 them, monitoring them and changing their batteries as they perform their service. At best, this is now “co-botics,” as people will never be fully eliminated from the equation and will work in tandem with robots. 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 with artificial intelligence in the future, 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 its value. The return on the investment should be very carefully evaluated to identify any efficiencies achieved or productivity enhancements. Get your team the training they need so they can effectively work with advanced technologies. Your workforce might need a different skillset to work with the new technology, and this may expand your workforce to pull from a broader pool of potential talent.

Final Thoughts

Staffing shortages clearly are not going away. We have to find opportunities to gain increased productivity from our existing workforce and identify 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 the use of technology 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.

About the Author

Jill JohnsonJill 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. For more information, visit Johnson Consulting Services.

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