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Look Both Ways Before Hiring: Internal, External, and Other Solutions to Staffing Shortages

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It is no secret that the staffing shortages facing many businesses today — including those in the protective coatings industry — can be extremely challenging. It is also highly unlikely that these challenges are going to resolve in the near term.

So, what should you do as an employer if you just cannot find the talent you need? It is time to rethink all of your staffing options. The key is to make the most of the staff you have while also augmenting them with outside resources and technologies. The following are a few suggestions.

1. Prioritize those who interface with your 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 needed to make informed decisions while gaining a sufficient 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 the customer-facing staff who are most valuable when it comes to sustaining enterprise revenue.

Identify staff who interact with your customers along the entire range of their journey. Their success in meeting customer needs, satisfaction, and prospect demands will determine if you can satisfy and keep them. If they have the bandwidth to provide exceptional service, they can keep your customers and expand your prospect pool.

Today’s consumers are looking for faster information. Many prefer to get information via video or audio. Adjust to how they want to consume information. Streamline your team’s workload by creating tools and resources to get them the answers they want and need quickly. Ensure they have the tools and resources they need to be more efficient. Clarify what can help them deliver a better customer experience. Remove any roadblocks to their success.

2. Outsource when necessary.

The gig economy is here to stay. Leveraging external relationships with outsourced resources can help you flex your staffing while providing a valuable way to get work done. Though this is not as optimal as building your own team, the pressure relief you experience when critical work is completed can give enough breathing room to determine if this role really needs a full-time hire — or if it can be permanently outsourced.

For small projects and short-duration work, online resources such as Fiverr and Upwork can provide worldwide access to gig workers with specific skills. Most of these online sites have filters allowing employers to clarify what services are needed, along with advance information on potential costs and control over where the talent comes from and what languages they speak.

For projects that may take a bit longer, staffing agencies can bring in talent to your organization. While it will be more expensive, the employer is not paying any benefits and will not get hit with unemployment claims once workers are no longer needed. Agencies vet the chosen staff and will help an employer find the appropriate talent for a project.

Trusted outside vendors can provide key services such as bookkeeping, administrative work, sales support, social media, website management, and more. Long-term vendors should have deep insight about your company’s history, team, and its culture. They will know your preferred communication methods and how you like to work. Outside vendors are an exceptionally valuable safety valve when you cannot find the right permanent talent.

Do not try to manage too many different outside resources. Focus on the most critical work they can provide and engage in short-duration tests to see if you have chemistry, as well as if they provide you with value.

3. Consider the potential of technology.

Technology and automation use is exploding in 2023 as companies are seeking opportunities to invest in devices and software. These services provide employers with options to leverage the staff they already have while enhancing 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 for tasks such as programming, monitoring, and changing batteries as they perform their service. At best, this is now “co-botics,” and people will never be fully eliminated from the equation. Instead, they will work in tandem. As these options expand, employers can take advantage, even smaller 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 (AI), the possibilities for data analytics appear to be endless. When this data is combined with AI interpretation, this can provide valuable insight to help streamline your processes and maximize staff efficiency.

Evaluate how you are using the software and technology currently deployed in your business to see how you can maximize its value. The return on investment should be very carefully evaluated to identify any efficiencies achieved or productivity enhancements. Get your team the training it needs to work with advanced technologies effectively.

You might need a different skillset in your workforce to work with the technology, and this may expand your workforce to pull from a broader pool of potential talent.

Final Thoughts

It is clear that staffing shortages are not going away. In response, we have to find opportunities to gain increased productivity from our existing workforce and alternatives for completing the work we need done.

Focusing on the needs of customer-facing team members, making smart use of outside resources, and maximizing technology use can provide viable options for addressing these issues. When you expand your potential for getting the job done, you are more likely to find the resources you need.

About the Author:

Jill J. Johnson, MBA, is the president and founder of Johnson Consulting Services. As a management consultant, accomplished speaker, award-winning author, and Business Hall of Fame inductee, she helps clients make critical business decisions while developing plans for turnarounds or growth. Her consulting work has impacted over $4 billion worth of decisions. She has a proven track record of dealing with complex business issues and getting results. For more information, contact: Jill Johnson,

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