Safety in Speed: How Effective Workforce Management Can Overcome Staffing Issues

by | Jul 31, 2023

If you’re reading this blog, the chances are workforce management has some impact on your life. But just how big of an impact can it have? A couple of weeks ago in Australia, where I’m lucky enough to live, we had a very impactful example when staffing issues caused serious disruption to the Sydney train network.

What were the staffing issues? One employee called in sick at the last minute.

Then, of course, there’s the air travel disruption we experienced here at the end of the winter holidays. One of the main causes? The impact sick leave had on air traffic control and airlines’ abilities to deliver their services.

Making sure you have the right people in the right place at the right time is one of the fundamental functions of workforce management. And when it goes wrong the impacts aren’t just serious—they’re often felt throughout an organization.

So, let’s talk about the impact of not responding to staffing issues quickly and outline some ways you can make sure your organization doesn’t fall into the same trap.

The Impact of Staffing Issues

The events in Sydney a couple of weeks ago are an extreme example of the chaos a staffing emergency can cause. But failing to respond quickly and efficiently to issues can have several other adverse impacts to your business.

Staffing emergencies can significantly disrupt your locations’ daily operations. In industries like retail, this can have a damaging effect on foot traffic, especially if the problem persists. In areas such as healthcare or emergency services, a slow response to a staffing emergency can cause significant service interruptions.

These issues can also lead to insufficient staffing levels or inexperienced personnel covering critical roles. This in turn increases the likelihood of errors, accidents, or compromised quality of work. Ultimately, a poor or slow response increases the risk that things on the ground will go wrong.

So far, I’ve talked about the impact staffing issues can have on your performance and service delivery. But what about the effect it can have on your employees?

A staffing emergency that leaves a gap on your team can have a serious impact on the absentee’s colleagues. Insufficient staffing can lead to overwork for those who are on location. The negative effect this has on team morale will only increase if it occurs often.

On the other hand, not having a clear process to fill in for absentees can lead to your employees feeling pressured to provide cover. This isn’t good for team morale either. Responding quickly and efficiently to staffing emergencies is an important contributor to happy teams and committed employees.

Staffing issues can seriously disrupt your day-to-day operations

Strategies for Responding to Staffing Emergencies

I think you’ll agree having a clear plan to respond to staffing emergencies quickly and efficiently is extremely important. So, what can you do to make sure you’re covered? While no one can predict an employee calling in sick at the last minute, there are policies you can put in place to minimize the damage.

These include:

  • Contingency planning
  • Regular training and cross-training
  • Flexible work arrangements

Let’s go into a little bit of detail on each one.

Contingency Planning

It’s difficult to respond efficiently to an emergency if you haven’t developed a contingency plan beforehand. Your staffing contingency plan should be comprehensive. This way, even if a specific occurrence isn’t covered in your plan, you should still have the tools to find a way through.

Your contingency plan should identify backup resources, temporary staffing solutions, cross-training opportunities, and clear communication channels. Remember to inform all relevant staff of the contingency plan and get their buy-in. If they aren’t aware of the plan, you can’t be sure that they’ll be willing to do their part if the need arises.

Regular Training and Cross-Training

I mentioned cross-training earlier—so let’s talk about this vital way to mitigate staffing issues. Training is a hugely important part of ensuring adequate cover for employees that may be unable to come to work.

Providing ongoing training and development opportunities for your employees has numerous benefits. Cross-training your people in multiple roles is just one of these opportunities. Not only does it help your employees feel more empowered, but it also gives you options to deal with staffing emergencies.

Cross-training helps you build a versatile workforce capable of adapting to emergencies. When a staffing emergency occurs, having other team members present who can adapt will help you seamlessly fill critical positions.

Flexible Work Arrangements

Developing flexible scheduling arrangements can help you cope with staffing emergencies. Mobile solutions are a great way to do this as they give your employees more control over their schedules. This will provide you with two benefits.

Firstly, when your employees have more control over their schedules, they may be more willing to help find their own replacements. Secondly, giving your employees more control over their own schedules may make those who could pick up the shift more willing to take over.

Flexible scheduling arrangements improve staff morale and help your employees feel more agency in their work lives. And that is immeasurably helpful if you need to swiftly respond to a staffing emergency.

Don’t Disrupt Your Operations

Ultimately, being prepared to overcome staffing issues can be the difference between everything running smoothly and grinding to a halt. Concerned about the impact a staffing emergency could have on your operations? Our experts are ready to help you out.

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