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Getting your small business through a staff shortage

As supermarket shelves continue to run close to empty, the last few weeks have highlighted to us one of the most important resources at the heart of the economy – people.

Getting your small business through a staff shortage
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As much as the world is now reliant on technology and robots, it is now clear how having a significant portion of the population out of action can impact the running of everyday society. While we’re all hopeful we don’t face another supply chain crisis like the current one ever again, a staff shortage is a dilemma any small business owner may find themselves facing at any time. Taking some simple steps can help ensure if your small business is faced with a staff shortage, you can continue to run somewhat smoothly without impacting your customer service levels too much.

Multiskilling employees This is perhaps the most obvious solution, but also one of the most important. Training your staff on a few additional areas outside of their usual role can make a big difference in the event of a staff member being unavailable. This is especially important for roles which are single-point sensitive. For example, if there is only one employee who knows how to use a specific system, then have them train another employee on that system. Your employees may also appreciate this and view it as an opportunity for career progression.

Set a contingency plan Once you’re comfortable with the extent to which your employees are multi skilled, it’s important to have in place a plan as to how responsibilities will be delegated in the event of understaffing. As we’ve pointed out previously, it doesn’t need to be a elaborate plan, but having some basic scenarios on paper can help keep things organised if you find yourself quickly needing to reshuffle your business. Also keep in mind that in addition to planning the ‘who does what’, include a list of tasks or activities which can be put on hold during a crisis

Offer flexibility This may not appear to be anything ground-breaking either, but how you treat your employees the rest of the year may influence how much they’re willing to go the extra mile for you during more chaotic times. By offering flexibility, whether it’s in terms of working hours, remote work, or even in within the type of tasks they perform, if you do find yourself short staffed, your employees may be more inclined to do the extra hours or support the extra workload. Remember though, it is up to you as an employer to ensure you set the right boundaries to prevent burnout in your employees.

 Temporary staff & contractors Despite all your efforts though, there may be times where your staff shortage simply cannot be covered by reshuffling your own employees, and you may need to look to external sources. Even if you don’t usually use third parties for recruiting, it is a good idea to keep a few agencies on hand in case you need to bring on an extra set of hands. Nowadays, there are online platforms that make hiring temporary staff even simpler, so setting up a membership with one of these providers may also prove valuable.

This however may not be an option if you’re a one-man team, and the only one who works in your business. If this is the case however, and you are required to isolate as per your state or territory’s health guidelines, remember there is likely to be some form of financial support available for your business to help you keep things running somewhat smoothly.

The importance of due diligence

Regardless of how you get your business through a staff shortage, it's important to ensure you don’t compromise on the quality of your business’s service. Whether it’s reshuffling your existing employees, or hiring temporary staff, the likelihood of someone making a mistake is still there, as well the possibility of a client holding you responsible for financial loss. It’s also worth taking the time to contact your broker to make sure your insurance cover will not be impacted by any of your actions. For example, not all insurance policies might cover incidents that occur due to the actions of a temporary contractor, or you may need to take out additional options to cover them.

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