11 Ways to Manage Understaffing Issues

Author: Brett Farmiloe

11 Ways to Manage Understaffing Issues

What is one way that small business leaders can manage understaffing issues?

To help business owners with obstacles that come with a staff shortage, we asked business professionals and leaders this question for their best advice. From looking into outsourcing to focusing on reskilling and upskilling, there are several strategies that may help you overcome low staffing difficulties in the current market. 


Here are 11 initiatives to manage understaffing issues: 

  • Look Into Outsourcing
  • Pivot to Best Fit Present Workers
  • Utilize Resources
  • Consider On-Demand Staffing Services
  • Create an Agile Team
  • Seek Out Contract Workers
  • Embrace Technology and Communication
  • Evaluate Department and Personal Goals
  • Organize Hiring Processes
  • Automate What You Can
  • Focus on Reskilling and Upskilling



Look Into Outsourcing

Understaffing is a huge issue right now and will likely continue as the talent shortage is only increasing 一 between rising needs and lower output from higher education. Consider outsourcing needs that are specific and highly technical. Finding and keeping highly technical staff that don't directly serve your customers (such as digital marketers or marketing creatives) is increasingly difficult 一 especially for businesses with work environments that are less attractive to these types of creative or technical professionals. Relying on an agency or consultancy that can better provide the environment, variety, and benefits that these types of staff want can give you the benefit of their skills without incurring all of the costs and changes. 

Mike Jones, Resound


Pivot to Best Fit Present Workers

I have definitely seen this issue's prevalence. The solution is not to force your workers to "work harder," take on more hours than they want, or force more responsibilities onto them than they're being paid for. Knowing their self-worth does not mean they are not a "team player."

Some solutions worth considering are to pay them more to take on more responsibilities and hours and reviewing if a job can be done online and using a freelancing or contracting website. You can even adjust your business to better fit what you can accomplish at the moment and readjust as you can find enough staff to accomplish your business goals.

Curran Walia, Conscio Marketing


Utilize Resources 

Hire an intern. Utilize Career Ready Tempe, and they will even pay for your intern. Look at ways you can outsource affordably by working with other Tempe Chamber companies for needs such as marketing, event coordination, websites, taxes, and financial planning.

Alison Stine, Stine Wealth Management


Consider On-Demand Staffing Services  

Turnover, call-outs, and seasonality are always going to be problems business owners face in our industry. Having the option to request staff in minutes will save you when disaster strikes. It’s a get-out-of-jail-free card that you never have to let go of. There is great security in knowing that you can always call in backup. With the number of companies in the space today, keeping in contact with an on-demand staffing service makes sense. 

Zack McCarty, Qwick


Create an Agile Team

One of the things we have done to prepare for understaffing, if and when it arises, is to move to an agile workforce. This doesn’t mean asking the team to do more work. It’s a way to see how we can come together as a team to be more efficient in the work being done. Agile to us means we are proficient in multiple areas, which has led to more job satisfaction because the work doesn’t get repetitive in nature. We made the switch to agile so everyone felt they could take a vacation and the work didn’t pile up while they were out of the office. It’s been a huge shift, but a welcomed and successful one for our agency. 

Jenn Christie, Markitors


Seek Out Contract Workers

We are a world of individuals who work independently, and there are tons of contract workers ready and available to fill the gap. Seek out professionals in your field but don't forget those whose business is to consult, coach, and deliver results. We are here to help! I've filled VP of marketing roles until HR could hire someone full-time. Many roles and positions lend themselves well to contract work whether it be by the hour or on a retainer. The good news is you don't have to pay for any health care insurance!

Lorraine Bossé-Smith, Concept One LLC


Embrace Technology and Communication

Understaffing can be stressful for each employee and the organization as a whole, especially for small businesses. In these circumstances, you want to use technology to your advantage. Set up workflow charts for your team, Excel sheets, or whatever works for your business so everyone can understand exactly what their duties are, what tasks have been completed and which haven't, and don't feel the pressure of having so much to do that it becomes overwhelming. 

Also, this can be a great opportunity to have the employees you do have to step up to new challenges and roles by crossing over into different departments, which can end with the potential to move up in the business to a more authoritative role. Also, make sure every member of your team is effectively communicating with one another. It is important for your team to reach out to each other for help and praise one another for the work they're doing.

Sanem Ahearn, Colorescience


Evaluate Department and Personal Goals 

When your business is facing understaffing issues, you may be able to manage some of these issues by periodically going over departmental and individual goals, ensuring everything is in line with overall business goals. If a certain department or individual is having trouble with their goals, take time to re-evaluate their processes to see if adjustments need to be made. Sometimes a redistribution and goal check-in can temporarily alleviate the pressure of understaffing.

Sara Shah, Journ


Organize Hiring Processes 

Understaffing is usually caused by having issues hiring new staff. One way to manage understaffing is to make sure you have a hiring plan in place. Make sure that you are interviewing candidates and getting feedback from employees on who they would like to see hired. It's important to keep the entire team involved in the hiring process so that everyone feels invested in the new hire.

Antonella Galiano, Petzyo


Automate What You Can 

If your workforce is investing their precious time in tasks that can easily be automated by a service or system, it's time to reinvent your strategy. Not only will this free up a lot of your employee's time, but it may just be more profitable for you in the long run. This could be anything from getting a chatbot to answer basic customer-service-related questions to automating your marketing efforts and ad campaigns.

Riley Beam, Douglas R. Beam, P.A.


Focus on Reskilling and Upskilling

Given the current situation and effects of the pandemic, the staff shortage is likely to persist. One recommendation to address understaffing is to focus on the speed of development of existing staff. In current situations, leaders should focus on how to speed up the reskilling and upskilling of existing staff to take up those roles which are becoming challenging to hire from the open market. For that, leaders should use the time to proficiency metrics to create a speed-savvy culture and speed up employee skill acquisition.

Dr. Raman K. Attri, Performance Scientist



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