Guest post contributed by Jessica Larson of SolopreneurJournal.com
With the pandemic ongoing, staffing challenges continue to plague businesses. Remote work has forced companies to adapt to an entirely new work environment. Meetings and workflow must continue, while keeping employees safe remains top of mind. Promoting a location-independent workforce was key to many companies’ lasting success. However, there are many industries where flexible, remote work isn’t possible, especially essential industries, such as health care and food services.
At the same time, other businesses began to lose workers. Layoffs and closures became more frequent, and working parents left to take care of their children. The reduction of skilled professionals created a talent vacuum of sorts. This reduced the available talent across the board, leading to short-staffing issues. Employees were saddled with more work to make up for the loss, often without help in sight.
This worry and hardship led to overwhelmed workers. In some instances, business leaders couldn’t (or wouldn’t) adapt fast enough to the changing circumstances around them. Performance expectations remained the same as employees’ lives looked vastly different. Parents had to balance work and distance learning for their children’s classes, not to mention dealing with the stress of illness and caring for sick family members.
However, after nearly two years of pandemic-forged knowledge, practical solutions have emerged to help address staffing challenges. Businesses are recognizing how to bring workers back in the short term. Furthermore, these solutions are poised to inspire best practices going forward.
While passion is vital in any industry, employees need proper payment to work well. Minimum wage strikes and worker walkouts showcase this issue. Paying a proper, living wage is a great first step, but some companies need some extra fuel for their hiring fire.
Many lower-wage industries use signing bonuses to attract workers. However, for any industry with specialized needs, these bonuses are unlikely to work. Wage increases are one of the first steps a business should take. Higher wage offers can land new employees and keep existing ones. Experts say to target critical positions first, utilizing wage increases to help fill labor shortfalls in areas where the competition is high and the amount of available talent is low.
Businesses should also look at distancing themselves from the pack. Health insurance is a chief selling point in the US these days, given the pandemic. In industries where company-sponsored insurance isn’t common, it could be a deciding factor for a new employee.
If company-wide insurance isn’t possible, consider offering other perks that appeal to your workforce specifically. For instance, onsite child care can help to bring working mothers back into the workforce. For younger workers, free lunches and unlimited vacation are often attractive. Financial workshops, such as how to build credit, can help employees reentering the workforce after significant time off regain their financial footing and reduce stress.
Connect with Current Employees
Bringing employees back into the workforce is essential, but businesses also need to stay connected with their current workers. “Happy Friday” emails aren’t enough to keep people engaged and appreciated. Businesses and staff must communicate frequently and sincerely. Employers, for instance, must find out what their workers want from the company, including what can be done to make their lives easier or less stressful.
According to workers, flexible schedules and more paid leave are key issues these days. Employers should understand their workers’ schedules and responsibilities, in and out of the office. Can their positions benefit from a hybrid schedule? What about a 4-day work week? The nature of business is changing, and workers are starting to call more of the shots than ever. Let them—they will reward you.
Besides schedule adaptability, businesses need to nurture their employees. This means promoting their goals, letting the experts be experts, allowing them flexibility within their roles, and, as always, extending growth opportunities. Top employees are driven and intelligent, so competitors may try to snatch them away with juicy salaries. However, skilled people will also leave if they feel stagnated or under appreciated. Therefore, provide opportunities for continued education, certification, and cross-training. An engaged employee is a satisfied employee.
Tap into Available Resources
Some businesses were hit harder than others. These solutions may be the key for companies, but they require resources to implement. Before taking the red marker to the budget, look at outside sources for help financing and filling positions.
When it comes to financial assistance, grants are especially attractive, as the funds don’t need to be paid back. Unlike the pandemic-era Paycheck Protection Program, grants are available year-round. And, while some grants are open to anyone, there are also grants targeted to historically-underrepresented businesses with fewer resources. Take a look around at what may be available to your and your business- you may be pleasantly surprised.
Though the future remains uncertain, any business can take steps to combat staffing issues. Always remember: workers are people first, workers second. Connect with them as people, and their work will only benefit.