How to Overcome Staff Shortages

One of the many challenges facing today’s businesses is the growing number of unfulfilled job openings. Industries across the globe are projected to face staff shortages over the next ten years, resulting in lost potential revenue.

Industries in the janitorial and cleaning industry, manufacturing, skilled laborers and mechanics, healthcare, and the businesses and finance sector, have exponential amounts of potential for growth, but only with the right amount of staff.

There are a myriad of reasons for these shortages, things like, not enough training within  companies to move workers up the line, generations focused on college degrees and not trade certifications, or the opposite of that—not enough workers with advanced degrees that can manage industries or move into technology based jobs. Additionally, a global economy, that until very recently was humming along, resulted in the working sector not feeling the need to search for new jobs, opportunities, or advanced education or skills. 

The janitorial and cleaning industry is one example of a workforce facing staff shortage issues. Reasons for this are increased focus on cleanliness combined with stricter guidelines resulting in an increased workload, unclear expectations for staff, working hours (often after a building is closed), and repetitive tasks that can lead to lack of interest.

The healthcare industry is another example of an industry that faces shortages of staff due to increasing amounts of sick people, lack of appropriate supplies (leading many to be concerned for their own health), and across the industry working hours that can lead to burn out, not to mention not enough management to help support other staff members through disruptive or troubling times.

Staffing Issues in the Work Place

There are additional reasons for staff shortages that appear overtime for many businesses.

Some of the most typical reasons are:

  1. Changing Industries
  2. Prospering Economy
  3. Aging Populations
  4. Stressed or Overwhelmed Staff
1. Changing Industries

As industries change, it takes time for the workforce to adapt and change. This leads to a shift in applicable skills and reconfiguration of the skills for the current staff. Realistically, for workers, this means learning new skills.  An example of this is outlined by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,“When an industry grows or declines, the occupations within that industry typically follow suit. For example, all U.S. Postal Service mail carriers are employed in the Postal Service industry, which is projected to decline by 27.8 percent from 2014 to 2024.”In this case, the industry is not projected to grow, so the current workforce would need to adapt and apply skills in a different industry, or the postal service industry would need to adapt and change, thus training its workers new applicable skills.

However, many industries are facing the opposite of this scenario and “Between 2014 and 2024, about 9.8 million new jobs are projected because of employment growth but 35.3 million openings are projected because of replacement needs.”  Essentially, growing industries mixed with aging or retiring populations, results in industries without enough skilled workers to fill the gaps.

2. Prospering Economy

Additionally, in an upswing economy there is not a lot of incentive to self-educate or learn new skills for a career change. Especially in fields of upper management or finance, where much of the staff already has advanced degrees, there is a sense of comfort that sets in. Thus, as industries grow and change, plus deal with a retiring workforce, many businesses are left with positions to fill.

3. Aging Population 

Aging populations is a two-fold issue. First, as the oldest working generation ages out of the workforce, they take their years of expertise with them. It can be hard to train a newer employee the years of knowledge a retiree takes with them. This leaves gaps in the work force that can take time and extensive training initiatives.

Secondly, as this same group of workers ages, many of them need increased medical care and or assisted living. Living longer combined with increased needs for medical assistance has caused a gap in the healthcare industry.

4. Overwhelmed Staff

Businesses often make the mistake of cutting back on workforce in order to increase revenue, however, this can lead to staff that is constantly stressed due to trying to keep up with workload, ultimately leading to burnout. Turnover can actually be more expensive than keeping an adequate amount of staff members because it can take time to find trained and experienced employees for specific jobs, plus the time and money it takes to train and on-board new workers.

Cutting back on staffing can also lead decreased morale, leaving employees that are trying to stay on top of the workload to feel disgruntled. As a result, the turnover rate increases leaving businesses to struggle.

How to Overcome Staff Shortages

Amongst the top ten industries with a projected growth analysis over the next 10 years are: janitors and cleaners, hospitals and assisted care facilities staff, and food preparation industry workers. These industries are in constant flux, changing to meet differing standards and workloads, and as a result are in constant need of trained professionals.

These industries are challenged by this across the globe. According to a Korn Ferry study, the global economy is expected to face a talent shortage of “85.2 million people” and the result could be “8.452 trillion dollars in unrealized annual revenue.” So, how can employers start to prepare in order realize profit and keep trained workers on staff?

 Regardless of the industry, there are key things an employer can do to overcome staff shortages:

  1. Emphasize value and importance of employees
  2. Train and develop current staff
  3. Plan long term recruiting and hiring
  4. Utilize automation

1. Emphasize Value and Importance of Employees

It goes without saying that valuing employees is crucial---yet, many business models continue to miss this step. Simple things like weekly meetings that highlight employees that have gone above and beyond, or awarding staff small monetary gifts, like a gift card, on a regular basis, not only allow an employee to be recognized, but it allows other employees the opportunity to give recognition. Additionally, it creates a space where all employees see recognition happening and this can lead to increased morale and an overall company focus on consistent improvement.

2. Train and Develop Current Staff

Training and development programs also go a long way in working to overcome staff shortages. By setting up training and development programs, and offering incentives for participating, employees learn new skills. These skills are then applied on the job resulting in more educated and trained staff and improved outcomes. Employees that continually learn and grow often work harder to take on new responsibilities and can become leaders within the company.

3. Plan Long Term Recruiting and Hiring

Recruiting and hiring plans that forecast and map out the path of a role can be incredibly helpful as well. This allows key skills and personality traits to be determined ahead of hiring, resulting in a more successful hire. For example, knowing the growth structure of a role could lead an employer to hire a candidate with less immediate applicable skills, but stronger long term growth skills or mindset because the immediate on-hand skills are easy to train, but the growth mindset or long term skills of the candidate are harder to train. The result is more people working for a company longer because they have a path to follow and are guided in that direction.

4. Utilize Automation

Technology is key for most industries facing staff shortages. Robots are reliable and consistent, you can count on robots to always be on time and never miss a day ensuring your cleaning checklist is complete daily. It also helps staff limit routine and repetitive tasks. For example, off boarding floor cleaning to an autonomous vacuum floor sweeper or scrubber not only increases cleanliness but it can aid in the overall productivity and efficiency of staff members.  Besides that, autonomous technology with i-Synergy by ICE and Whiz Connect by SoftBank Robotics has the capability of collecting data and reporting back trouble areas that may go undiscussed or noted by a stressed or overwhelmed worker. Having autonomous technology on staff supports the human workforce and frees up time while still ensuring a job is complete. 

We are ever in flux—all industries face constant change as our global communities and the way we work together shift and adapt to societal demands and changes. Supporting staff is key—as outlined above, all paths lead to focusing on how we treat and guide our workers. Overcoming staff shortages means investing in the staff in as many was as possible.

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