How does your center survive unexpected staff shortages?
Staff shortages can be brought on by a number of reasons from sick leave to catastrophic events or to care for a loved one. Whatever the reason, your program can take a real hit if you’re not prepared for unexpected shortages.
Your focus has been held hostage by day-to-day tasks that are absolutely necessary for your center to operate. However, as an owner, you want to be sure you’re securing your center’s future – which means taking the time to plan for the unexpected.
Tips for surviving unexpected staff shortages
In the midst of uncertainty, you may find yourself scrambling to make hard decisions – stay open and operate, or close temporarily. If you choose to keep the program running business-as-usual, you will likely find yourself with staff who cannot make it to work.
What does it take to overcome adversity like this? Creativity, patience, open-mindedness, flexibility.
Here are some tips from us on how to handle unexpected staff shortages.
Keep existing staff happy
Get creative with compensation. How you compensate during these times can affect your organization’s, workloads, staff morale, and even the quality of services. Be sure that your existing staff’s compensation is up to par. You don’t want your staff you have to leave and create a greater shortage.
Staff – including instructors – on leave may be able to do some of their tasks – especially if those tasks are accessible online.
Cross-train existing staff
Have patience with existing staff. They are going to be required to take up the slack during shortages, but the additional tasks they take on may not be in their wheelhouse. Cross-training can help to eliminate this situation from ever happening! Instructors may need to cross-train for the front desk and front desk folks who are skilled may need to take over a class within their expertise. It’s a good idea to have double back-ups for your center’s most critical jobs. Of course, you probably are at least familiar with most of the operational jobs at your center.
Documentation of your center’s jobs is invaluable to successful training and cross-training. It’s also valuable to have existing employees help with cross-training. After all, they are the ones that know their jobs best.
Hire temporary staff
Remain open-minded to how you will keep your center operational during staff shortages. Hiring temps may not be your first choice, but it may be necessary. Centers may turn to staffing agencies to fill staff shortages which can be fast – if they can find a credentialed temp, but has drawbacks, such as the expense and work restrictions. It can cost you 50% more to find a temporary employee of any kind through an agency. Temps also are not always beholden to your employee handbook, center procedures, hours and work habits.
We’re not trying to only focus on negative aspects of hiring subs or temps. Using temps can save staff from overwork and burnout while keeping the office functioning at a high level if given what they need to perform. Hiring subs and temps is also a great vehicle for finding future employees.
Find candidate pools
Stay flexible during staff shortage times. You may not find the perfect replacement in a candidate pool, but you can find someone who is a good helper and a willing learner. Just face it that you’re going to have instances when you don’t have an administrative employee who doubles as a beginner’s ballet instructor and you need to find a sub in a resource such as a candidate pool.
Understand that you will have to remain calm and supportive while a sub learns what to do and how to do it in your center.
Candidate pools are a great resource, but one that you should wait until you’re in a panic to find a sub to engage with one. Once you know who to contact and what procedure to follow, this need – although usually quite spontaneous one – will cause you much less anxiety!
If you don’t know of candidate pools:
- Ask a substitute teacher that you know or already hire from time-to-time.
- Ask another owner what they do for substitutes.
- Look online.
Be on the lookout to add to your candidate pool among former staff members, friends they’ve recommended or friends or relatives who may want a regular part-time or occasional revenue source.
Other tips for successfully preparing for unexpected staff shortages
- Make sure cross-training takes place immediately after hiring.
- If you experience staff shortage because employees leave, make sure that you find out the reason for their departure.
- Make sure any changes you make to appeal to new hires, doesn’t have a negative impact on your existing staff.
- Inform existing staff of what they’re expected to take on while staffing shortages exist: higher volume/more hours of work and more shared responsibilities or teamwork.
Preparing in these ways can help you to never be held hostage by staff shortage situations or demands of subs and temps. Regardless of what you do, catastrophic circumstances are going to require that you put your survival mode hat on – and do the best you can.