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Where have all our Staff Gone?


The UK is approaching the end of its summer, and many have had time off for the first time in months. Holidays or breaks may not have consisted of flights and overseas adventures as more people have stayed in the UK. These leads us to think about what comes next.


Will September see a return to the office for more people?


Will the numerous face to face events and conferences be well attended and safe?


Will the changes we have seen to learning over the past year fade away or be a continued catalyst for change.


It will be interesting to see what does happen over coming months. There are lots more questions than answers: Will covid cases continue to surge? What impact will the reducing effectiveness of vaccines have? Will boosters be required? What are the ramifications of what is happening in Afghanistan?

The last year has taught us that we cannot forward plan everything, we need to be adaptable and build in agility to our business models, we need to think about our underlying systems processes and values and ensure these help us to adapt and evolve.


The whole economy has been impacted over the last year, but certain industries are really starting to see a perfect storm where critical staff shortages are impacting the ability for them to service their customers. These shortages could be short term caused by a high concentration of Covid Cases or more systemic such as those facing the care and haulage industries. The combined impact of Covid, prolonged furlough and Brexit has for many had a massive impact.


These start to show up as empty shelves in your local supermarket, home deliveries appearing days or weeks late or not at all. In other industries they show as people performing roles, they are not skilled or trained to do or in places like care quality of frequency of support being compromised.


What can business’s do if they are facing these challenges?


Short Term of Immediate Skills Shortages


When faced with short term or immediate skills shortages being able to creatively and pragmatically adapt either you service or staffing model are key.

Having great data and understanding business and people can make this more effective.

Examples of industries doing this include:

  • Food and Beverage – Adapting your service offer

Reducing your dishes on your menu. Having a broad menu can be great for customer choice but can create the need for additional staffing. If staffing is challenged identify which dishes can be removed to allow your team to deliver. Using data and engaging with your teams will help you to do this. Ensure that you still ensure there is adequate choice for all types of customers including those with specific dietary requirements. A similar approach is being applied in the haulage industry where smaller vehicles are utilised to help cover shortages of HGV trained and qualified drivers.

  • Care – Changing Your Skills Mix

In care shortages of Nurses have led to roles to a review of who and how tasks are carried out. Training and upskilling of carers to carry out some of the duties traditionally carried out by nurses. This allows nurses to focus on those roles which only they can do. This can ensure that you have a more robust service model that can ensure a consistent level of care is delivered. Similar skill mix models are used in hospitality where front of house staff can be trained up to carry out certain tasks in the kitchen during peak times or to cover for shortages.


The range of solutions is endless and limited only by your own creativity. The best solutions are team efforts where support functions such as HR, Learning and IT come together with Operational teams to work on solutions. If struggling for solutions look to other industries or sectors who have been facing their acute staffing shortages for longer.


Many industries will embed these short-term solutions into revised ways of working into their longer-term ways of working to provide them with more agility and stability.


Whilst these shortages may be immediate or possibly temporary it is also worth considering what are the longer-term approaches which can help you navigate skills shortages. For some ideas on longer term solutions read our article – Strategic Approaches to Skill Shortages.

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