It’s probably not news to you that there is a pretty significant labour shortage right now. If you’re not struggling with it in your own business, you’ve probably noticed it at the grocery store or coffee shop. It’s not just entry level or low paying jobs that are vacant either, it’s at all levels and all industries.
Some blame Covid for the great resignation, but an aging population is also having an impact. But the reasons why are not as important as what you’re going to do about it.
While some will advise you to offer incentives like a signing bonus, or let employees choose their own work places or work hours, those tactics are all about getting a higher share of a scarce resource. And, since the labour pool is going to continue to shrink for a while yet, the competition will get fierce and the bidding increasingly higher. But is there an option?
A colleague of ours had an interesting suggestion. She contends that most businesses don’t actually need all of the staff on their org charts, and that by analyzing each job function, you can pare down to a core team that is actually more productive than filling every position you have now.
When a business first starts, there are usually a few people doing everything. There’s a list of things that need doing and the first person who finishes one task takes on the next task on the list that they’re capable of doing. Then, you have more work than can be accomplished by the few, so a new person is hired. And this is where we all make our first mistake – we write a job description. Usually, the start-up partners put all the things they don’t want to do into the new person’s job. Shortly thereafter, the new job is far too much work for one person, and they off-load to a new hire.
Traditionally, job descriptions are a list of tasks, and then the skills to do those tasks are added. And then you try to find a person who has the skills to do the tasks on that particular job description. That’s the mistake. By listing the tasks first, you begin building barriers between team members. Every time you need more people, you create a task list for that person. Sure, you may think you have the big picture in mind, but you’re working against the whole notion of a cooperative and collaborative team.
A team needs a variety of skills to perform the tasks required to do the job that the business is in. “Skills” – that’s the key word. So, you need more technical support on your team. Typically, you’d take a copy of the job description you have for your one technician, and create a second position exactly the same. And even though you don’t have 40 hours of excess work, there’s no way that you’re going to find a technician to take a part-time job, so you hire full-time. The sales person is also struggling to keep up with leads, so you make a copy of the sales position and fill that. And on and on it goes.
The alternative? First, take inventory of all of the skills you already have. Since your office manager only put his office management experience on his job application for the office manager job, you don’t know that he also has sales experience. And the sale woman you have, also has experience in tech support. Pitch the job descriptions and look at what you have and what you need. Maybe one person does sales in the morning and tech support in the afternoons. Maybe the office manager wants to learn more about accounting. The point is, people have a multitude of skills and defining what is and isn’t their job, doesn’t give a team enough flexibility to be all they can be.
While we don’t necessarily endorse our colleague’s theory, it is interesting to note that our project manager also writes music, and our web developer is a talented artist, and our writer used to manage an IT department. Just saying, it’s something to think about.