Growing with Labor Shortages

Growing with Labor Shortages

We’re finding it hard to take in more work at the moment. We are short on staff needed to produce the work with the labor shortages and unemployment so low. We find it hard to find enough people who are interested or qualified to work for us. How do we keep growing if this is a new reality?

Thoughts of the Day: Doing more work with fewer people is an essential skill set in a low unemployment economy. Look for efficiencies. Train the people you have to do more. Find other work to do that is less labor-intensive. Automate everything you can.

You and your team have to find ways to keep up with growth even with labor shortages.

Growing companies thrive and if you’ve figured out how to sell more work, that’s great. Now shift part of your focus to figuring out how to produce the extra workload. Labor shortages can tempt owners to pitch in to fill the production gaps. That’s a dangerous move. It takes away from the time you need to spend building long-term solutions. And it doesn’t really solve the problem. As an owner, prioritize where you spend your time solving the real problem of not enough workforce to meet the needs of a growing company.

Start to solve the workforce problem by looking for efficiencies.

Just because you’ve always done things the same way doesn’t mean they’re the most efficient or effective ways. Step back and look at workflow.

  • Are there steps that could be combined or done in a different order to cut down on wasted movement and effort?
  • Are there things that are done by highly skilled people that could be assigned to someone with less skill, freeing up people with more talent and training to work on something else?
  • How much wasted effort could be eliminated if you put routines in place or streamlined the steps your people take to complete existing routines?
  • Do your people really have to do everything you have them doing, or could some things be eliminated, without notice — without worse results?

Build a training program to elevate the people you have, starting at the bottom rung of the workforce and going up from there.

Giving people opportunities for promotion is a good thing. Help them earn more money, as they contribute more to the business because they can handle more work. Get your best workers involved in running training classes first thing in the morning, before everyone starts work. Record the training sessions and have someone transcribe and edit, using that as the foundation for written documentation on how specific tasks and jobs are performed. Write out a training manual, explaining how things get done, so people going through training have something to refer to. Talk to your team about the labor shortage the company is currently facing. See if they have any ideas for how to bring in more employees or increase engagement once people are hired.

Look for different types of work.

Get out and look for other work to do that is complementary to what you do now and that requires less labor to produce. Ask customers what else they need and how much they’d be willing to pay to get it from you. Find work that can be produced in batches. Search for items that can be purchased pre-assembled. Vend out whatever you can by locating reasonably priced producers that you can rely on.

Try to make your work more efficient.

Look for automation solutions. Instead of doing things manually, look for opportunities to have machines do the work. Lease new equipment to spread out costs. Train existing employees to do other jobs. Smooth out the workflow by eliminating errors, interruptions, disorganization, and nonessential activities. Build teams who can pitch in for each other. Educate people on the use of technology. Use systems to monitor productivity so you can spot problems quickly.

Looking for a good book? Try “Standardized Work with TWI: Eliminating Human Errors in Production and Service Processes” by Bartosz Misiurek.