Overcoming Your Labor Shortage

“May you live in interesting times.” We certainly do. Supply chain shortages like we’ve never seen, an international pandemic that continues to mutate, and strong consumer demand. Oh, and a labor shortage faced by most every manufacturer.

Resist the temptation to hire warm bodies. They are never what you need. What you do need is reliable people who want to learn and grow and who share your mission. As you continue to look externally for them, don’t overlook those currently in your employ.

It is again, tempting, to work those you have longer hours and harder and stop all employee development and improvement activities. Bad decisions.

It is more important than ever to understand the potential of those you have and which processes waste them the most. Acknowledge that process waste and ask your team if they could develop and implement a meaningful improvement if you gave them a few hours to think and work together on it. If they say “no” then either move on to the next wasteful process — you have many — and do the same, or identify other resources that can do something about it soon. If they say “yes,” then make the time for the team to address that nagging messy process.

You’ll have happier employees and more productive ones later this week.

Do that again, and then again.

While they work on reducing the size of that challenge, you can identify two or three employees who are capable of more and are quick learners; identify a limited number of higher value tasks that they could learn and master sufficiently with the right exposure and training. Then execute that. Provide follow on support for them as they struggle occasionally.

Output may suffer this week, but it will improve next week and the next.

Keep doing this a bit each week so you fully leverage the valuable employees you already have.

No farmer would let food rot on the vine while he was in search for new land; you shouldn’t either.

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