This article was published as part of the Denver Business Journal Leadership Trust, an invitation-only network of influential business leaders, experts, executives and entrepreneurs.
I’ve spent a bunch of time over the past few months trying to make sense of the labor shortage. There are a plethora of causes for this situation, but the bottom line is that it is not a short-term problem.
Since we’re experiencing a labor shortage concurrently with a housing shortage and supply chain backlog, you can either wait these trends out — likely until 2025 — or adjust to continue to grow. Let’s assume you want to grow your business despite these challenges. Here are some ideas.
1. Recall former employees
If you’ve lost some good people in the past six months to better money or perceived greener pastures, then consider reconnecting with them to see how things are going. A tremendous amount of resignations have been due to employee burnout. In many cases, quitting their job is one of the only things these employees felt they had control over. They can’t control the media madness, the political insanity or the COVID outbreaks, but they could look for a new job. It’s possible this reactive move hasn’t turned into the dream job they envisioned. Reconnect and see if you can re-hire the good ones!
2. Reallocate, level-up, cross-train
You very well may have the people you need on your team today, but the “we’ve always done it this way” mindset is clouding your vision of what is possible. Look across the organization: Where are the gaps? Where do you have extra capacity? Look at your internal talent to see where you can level up budding stars. Help team members learn new skills and build their competencies, and in return, you’ll earn their loyalty. Move people or tasks around to level your workload. And don’t forget about cross-training. You might have support desk reps who sit idle part of the day — why not train them in QA testing so they can pick up test cases in their spare time instead of playing Sudoku?
3. Tap into the boomer brain trust
Baby boomers have been retiring at alarming rates the past two years. That’s millions of smart, experienced and capable people who are interested in staying engaged at a non-full-time level in the workforce. Are there functions that don’t require onsite work or a 40-hour week to complete? Get creative about leveraging this incredible population! Finding part-time professionals is not as hard as you think.
4. Time to automate
Prior to 2020, we enjoyed a healthy economy and an adequate amount of talent to fill open roles. During the pandemic, we retrenched, made do with what we had and also tried to conquer working remotely. As a result, many little manual processes have surfaced likely on PCs within the team. Excel worksheets prevail, and now you have a bunch of renegade Google drives, manual processes and duplicated file systems. In the absence of people to get the work done, you’ll have to look at automation as a source of increasing output. On our little team, we’ve been able to triple the amount of work we deliver without having hired any additional staff. We’ve spent the last year finding tasks that were too hard, unnecessary and those that could be automated and we made the changes necessary. Try it! It’s not easy and can be painful, but the results are worth it!
5. Outsource non-essential activities
The outsourcing debate is ongoing. In my opinion, the biggest mistake that companies make is outsourcing the wrong stuff. Outsourcing is a great way to relieve your team of non-essential activities. But never outsource anything that touches your customers. Offload A/P, payroll, purchasing, internal IT — the things that don’t touch your customers. Keep customer success, support and direct sales in-house.
As a growing company, you already know how to be resourceful and innovative. Today, in the absence of enough “conventional” talent to drive forward, it’s time to get internally resourceful and innovative. Lift your eyes to the possibilities and let me know what you come up with!
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