Overcoming Staffing Changes One Piece at a Time
on April 05, 2023
By Jim Lehan, Business Operations Director, Lehan Drugs Inc.
It's no secret. People are coming to the realization that the challenges we face with staffing are not going anywhere. If you think of staffing challenges as a temporary issue, you may be short staffed for a long time. Believe it or not, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the United States workforce has decreased from pre-pandemic levels.1 While the causes of this can be debated, what we do know is that it will likely take significant time for the workforce to increase. Now, more than ever, it is important that we look at staffing challenges in a different way.
Like many other VGM members, Lehan Drugs has had to combat staffing challenges. At first glance, it seemed that so much was out of our control when it came to staffing. And there was certainly no magic bullet that would make staffing our business easier overnight. When, as a management team, we talked through what we could control, we saw three distinct buckets:
We saw success as being able to make incremental progress in each of these categories in order to improve our staffing challenges.
Hiring and Retention
Hiring and retaining staff is one of the most challenging aspects of running a business today. As a family-owned business that has been around for over 75 years, we have seen a transition from many staff who have worked for us for decades to an environment with much higher turnover. This increased rate of turnover has been tricky to navigate, to say the least.
Additionally, what people expect to be paid has changed even though insurance companies aren’t scrambling to pay DME providers more. When it comes to hiring and retention, our main focus has been to try and find ways to make us an attractive place to work.
One way that we have adjusted our hiring process is through changing our job posting strategy. We think through what type of person has worked for us in the past and incorporated that persona into crafting job descriptions to help attract those types of people. We ask ourselves:
- Who are our best people?
- How did they find us?
- Is my best person a mom with kids who has the same career trajectory or needs flexibility?
- How can we go out and get those kinds of people seeing our job postings?
We are also always looking for ways to improve our retention strategy and overall company culture. We recently took a giant step in this area by hiring a dream manager. The concept of a dream manager came from a book, “The Dream Manager,” by Matthew Kelly. This person is a part of our human resources team but operates separately, and their entire focus is to help employees overcome obstacles and provide them with the resources they need to reach their goals and dreams.
Whether it is helping employees achieve their financial goals, going back to school for their degree, or improving their emotional health, the dream manager is there to help them make it happen.
Another place we explored to help alleviate some of our staffing issues was by looking at what processes could be automated. We do utilize a robust software system that allows for many of our processes to be automated, but beyond just the software system, we looked at integrations between software systems, processes that could be automated through the Microsoft Teams environment, and Power Automate.
To help us with figuring out what processes to automate, we hired a consultant who reviewed all our processes and made recommendations. These ranged from changes as simple as automating work on spreadsheets, reducing dual entry, to as complex as implementing API integrations so different systems can communicate.
Figuring out what you can automate can help free up time for your current staff for more important work. While the cost for something as complex as API integrations may appear expensive at first glance, over time it can make sense. It not only eliminates paying for labor hours to do the process manually, automations don’t require benefits or call in sick. We have found that even if the cost to automate is close to the same cost as the labor hours you are replacing, it can be beneficial in the long run.
When it comes to outsourcing, in our experience, be ready for some trial and error. We went into our first outsourcing project naively thinking that we could offload processes and wash our hands of the work that went along with it. Looking back, that mindset set us up for failure right from the start.
The first thing that experience taught us was to start small. Outsourcing is a bit like dating—it can take some time to find the right match. If you dive in with too much right off the bat and it doesn’t meet your expectations, it is a lot harder to undo and bring processes back in-house. It also does not mean that you completely hand off that part of your business to the outsourcing company. Even though the staff is outsourced, you still must manage your outsourced staff as though they are your own. If feasible, start with one process and see if it is a good fit. Once it’s going well, see if other pieces can be added.
Turning Challenges Into Opportunities
Staffing our companies will continue to be challenging, but by thinking creatively about how you hire, how you promote your company culture, and how you improve your processes, these challenges can turn into opportunities for improvement. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. Household Data Annual Averages. https://www.bls.gov/cps/cpsaat01.pdf.
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This article was originally featured in the VGM Playbook: Forecasting 2023. To read the full article and more like this, download your copy of the playbook today!