Staffing challenges? Why not just hire more people? If only it were that easy. In what is now dubbed the “Great Resignation” the pool of qualified applicants seeking work has been shrinking in just about every field. Staffing shortages often hurt small businesses the most where each set of hands matters more than ever. Having less staff on board and less qualified applicants seeking work should mean disaster for America’s small business owners but that is not the case. We spoke with a number of small business owners across the country who have been exploring creative ways to deal with the seemingly insurmountable challenges that staffing shortages pose. Here are their inspiring stories of resiliency:
Incorporating Social Good
“When I started my blog, I worked with a largely American team. While the Great Resignation hasn’t affected me nearly as much as most brick and mortar businesses, we have had a few members of the team leave.
As a team, we have made the decision to work with young workers from other countries, predominantly third world, who need the experience as well as the work. We make it our mission to not only onboard the new team members, but also offer them upskilling and mentorship.
We have had amazing results. We’ve found that the international team has a deep desire to work and learn, something we consider incredibly valuable.”
Mollie Newton, Founder & Editor, PetMeTwice.com, Columbus, OH
“We run thousands of virtual events every month, and for the most part our staff is able to handle this volume smoothly. However, December is exceptionally busy for us with both virtual team building and virtual holiday parties. For the first three weeks of December we make staffing and other adjustments to optimize our available staffing. For example, while in December we have set start times for events, like 11am, 1pm, 3pm, and so on — the goal is to to prevent overlapping time slots, so that fewer staff members can facilitate more events. When there is a small amount of overlap we have a host and co-host system to manage it. For example, usually the lead host will facilitate an entire event, including the intro, games and activities and conclusion. In busy times, the co-host may lead the intro, which means that the event isn’t disrupted if the host would otherwise be a few minutes late coming from another event. Again, the result is we can run more and better events for our clients.”
Michael Alexis, CEO, TeamBuilding.com, Covington, WA
“When dealing with staffing shortages, we make sure that our individual team members aren’t forced to take on additional or overtime work to make up for it. It is not their fault that there is a shortage in staff, so they shouldn’t have to take on the brunt of the additional work. We want to respect their job duties and time, so instead we have to figure out how to create an efficient delegation plan. We analyze individual strengths and specialties, and we work on delegating tasks effectively to the people who will be able to handle them correctly and quickly. If there is still additional work to be done, management staff will help complete them. Occasionally, we will hire freelancers to help with specialized projects or time-consuming tasks. There are always freelancers available to hire, so we know that they are always a possible resource.”
Kyle MacDonald, Director of Operations, Force by Mojio, Campbell, CA
“As the owner of an SME ecommerce store, I’ve had to get savvy with resourcing the business as efficiently as possible. An example of how we maintain our customer service levels with 65% of the staff we had last year is by using AI tools. We use a chat bot to field all customer service enquiries both through live and email. The chat bot’s main aim is to separate those enquiries which the customer can solve themselves by visiting our FAQ’s or a product page from those more serious enquiries which require human invention. The other benefit of using a chatbot is that it offers an immediate reply, where as before our customer service agents would take up to 48 hours to reply, so in effect our service levels have actually improved with less staff.”
Marc Bromhall, Founder, Surf Gear Lab, San Clemente, CA
“In the current business environment that has been adversely affected by the pandemic, flexibility is the name of the game. In my opinion, flexibility isn’t just about giving employees the freedom to come to and leave the office at convenient times; it’s also about equipping them with a diverse set of skills. This way, even if there are fewer employees available at the office, their wide range of skills will allow them to work together productively. Let’s take the example of a retail store. If each department manager is also trained to administer employee satisfaction surveys, that means they will not only help customers with finding the products, but they’ll also be able to take the required feedback from them. This will ensure that there is enough flexibility in the workplace to compensate for a low number of employees and keep the business operations running smoothly.”
Elisa Bender, Co-founder, RevenueGeeks, California, USA
Staffing and the Future of Work
Technology and necessity have kickstarted a new conversation on the nature of work. Traditional pieces of a business as rigid as staffing itself have changed in ways never imaginable even five years ago. Modern alternatives and flexibility means that more of America’s flavorful and invigorating small business will survive which is always a good thing. As small businesses flex their every advantage in trying to stand toe-to-toe with big-name competitors, it’s clear that the businesses who adapt have the best chance of coming out on top.