Look Both Ways Before Hiring

Internal, external and other solutions to staffing shortages

by Jill J. Johnson

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, the problem facing businesses now is what they should do when they just cannot find the talent they need. It is time to rethink all staffing options. The key is to make the most of their existing staff and to augment them with outside resources and technology.

Prioritize Those Who Interface with the Customer 

The foundation of business success is based upon revenue and the stability of revenue streams. Customer 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 their customer-facing staff who are the most valuable to sustaining enterprise revenue. 

Businesses need to identify staff who interact with their customers along the entire range of their customer journey. Their success in meeting customer needs, satisfaction and prospect demands determine whether the business can satisfy and keep them. If the staff have the bandwidth to provide exceptional service, they can keep the business’s customers and expand its prospect pool.

Today’s consumers are looking for faster information. Many prefer to get information via video or audio. Businesses need to adjust to how those consumers want to consume information. It’s important, then, to streamline the team’s workload by creating tools and resources to quickly get them the answers they want and need. Ensuring the team has the tools and resources they need to be more efficient and clarifying what can help them deliver a better customer experience helps remove the roadblocks to their success.

Outsource when Necessary 

The gig economy is here to stay. Leveraging external relationships with outsourced resources can help businesses flex their staffing and can be a valuable way to get the work done. While not as optimal as building one’s own team, the pressure relief one experiences when critical work is being completed can provide 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 worldwide access to gig workers with specific skills that are needed for short duration work. Most of these online sites have filters allowing businesses to clarify what service they need, information ahead of time on the potential cost, control over where the talent comes from and what languages they speak. 

Staffing agencies can bring talent to an organization for a project that is going to take a bit longer. While it will be more expensive, businesses should keep in mind they are not paying any benefits and will not get hit with an unemployment claim when they no longer need that particular talent. Agencies vet the staff they provide to an organization and will help their clients find the right talent needed for the project. 

Trusted outside vendors can provide key services and do bookkeeping, administrative work, sales support, social media, website management, et cetera. Long-term vendors have deep insight about a business’s history, team and culture. They know the business’s preferred communication methods and how it likes to work. Outside vendors are an exceptionally valuable safety valve when a business cannot find the right permanent talent.

Businesses should try to avoid managing too many different outside resources. They should focus on the most critical work the outside resources can provide and engage in short-duration tests to see if there’s chemistry and if those resources provide value. 

Consider the Potential of Technology 

Technology and automation use is exploding as companies are seeking opportunities to invest in devices and software to provide options to leverage the staff they already have 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 are able to 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, monitoring them and changing batteries as they perform their service. At best this is now “co-botics”; people will never be fully eliminated from the equation and they will work in tandem. As these options expand, businesses can take advantage of them, too, even small businesses.  

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 in the future with artificial intelligence, 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 a business’s processes and maximize staff efficiency. 

Businesses will need to evaluate how they are using the software and technology they currently deploy to see how they can maximize their value. The return on the investment should be very carefully evaluated to identify any efficiencies achieved or productivity enhancements. Businesses should get their team any training needed to be able to effectively work with advanced technologies. Businesses might need a different skillset in their workforce to work with the technology, and this may expand that workforce to pull from a broader pool of potential talent. 

Jill 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 more than $4 billion-worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results.

Did You Know: Leveraging external relationships with outsourced resources can help businesses flex their staffing and can be a valuable way to get the work done. Three options are gig workers, staffing agencies and trusted outside vendors.

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