5 ways to achieve top results from your short-staffed team

5 min read  |   24 July, 2020   By Laura Sands

Three colleagues are working around a desk together. One colleague is stood up and talking to her other colleagues who have a laptop and paperwork in front of them.

Having a short-staffed team is more than a nuisance. Not only can under-staffing affect the way you serve your customers, but it can also wreak havoc on your employees. Low employee morale, high levels of stress and… more absences compound the issue.

Small wonder then that one study found that as many as 22% of SMEs believed staffing problems would damage the way they run their business.

Staff shortages can be long or short term. Unless they’re handled carefully they can damage your business. Sickness or holidays may only affect your numbers temporarily but can harm customer service and staff morale.

Other businesses may find themselves short-staffed if they’re unable to replace staff who have moved on, if they’ve had to make staff redundant or because they’ve seen an unexpected increase in demand.

Although filling gaps in your team can be a challenge, there are ways to cope with an under-staffed team. Read on to learn how you can get better results from a short-staffed team.

Five ways to get results from your short-staffed team.


1. Focus on business purpose

Communicating your SMEs purpose – why your business exists – is more than talk. It really makes a difference. Purpose-driven organisations are found to have better motivated employees and better retention figures. Which is just what you want if you’re short-staffed.

Clearly communicating your SMEs purpose helps direct your employees to do their best. In terms of a short-staffed team this clarity of purpose could be the main driver in ensuring satisfied customers or top-quality products, even when times get tough.


2. Get agile

The agile methodology helps people work smarter, not harder. Which makes it just the ticket for a short-staffed team. Not only that, but it boosts employee engagement too, meaning a happier and more committed team.

Agile working is helpful beyond temporary (or longer term) under-staffing. It will also help you respond more effectively to changes in demand and adapt to market conditions.

You can learn more about agile working and its benefits when you download our free Agile Working Guide.


team of successful business people having a meeting in executive sunlit office-min (1)


3. Reward and recognise

Carrot or stick? Most of us would agree that reward and recognition can be a powerful tool when used well. And what better time to use it than when your team is short-staffed and yet still delivering great results?

From a financial bonus for staff who meet their objectives to a hand-written thank-you note and cup of coffee, there’s an enormous range of options available.

Deep pockets aren’t always necessary; a vote on employee of the week using a Kudos tool can be as motivating as a costly dinner out.

Unsure of what type of reward or recognition would motivate your employees? Ask them, you might be surprised at how easily you can put these ideas into practice.


4. Empower your staff

When you have a short-staffed team, empowering them to make their own decisions might seem illogical. After all, wouldn’t they rather get on with their work, without the weight of decision-making on their minds?

You might be surprised.

Empowering a team brings increased job satisfaction and makes employees far more motivated and determined.

Delegating responsibility and authority to employees goes hand in hand with an agile approach to working. Or if that’s a step too far, you could work with your staff to agree prioritised objectives. They can then complete their tasks as they see fit.

It can feel uncomfortable for managers and SMEs owners who are used to taking the lead. But easing off and showing your employees that you trust them to use the skills you hired them for can create unexpectedly positive results.


5. Make technology your friend

The pace of technological change shows no sign of slowing. Is there a chance you’ve missed new tech that could simplify life for your short-staffed SME?

HR software is an excellent example. By using Breathe to centralise your employee documentation, performance reviews and holiday requests, you could save time for yourself and your employees.

Use proven tech across your business and you’ll start to rack up some impressive time savings. And imagine what your employees could achieve with all that extra time.

Even if your employees use those time savings to leave the office on time, you’ll be rewarded with a more rested and healthier team. And that means they’ll be more resilient and able to deliver better results for you.

Even apparently simple tools such as document signing software can reduce the amount of time an under-staffed team spends chasing up approvals.

A short-staffed team is far from ideal. However, with the right tools and right approach, it can be an opportunity. Use the situation to develop your business’s resilience and you may find this helps establish a unique business culture that sustains future success.


Author: Laura Sands

Laura is a writer who enjoys getting into the detail of subjects and sharing that knowledge with snappy, interesting content. When not typing away, she enjoys walks in the woods and curling up with a good book and mug of something hot.

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