Surviving Staffing Shortages with Strategic Leadership

Many mid-sized and smaller organizations are understaffed which causes them to lose good talent, decrease productivity, and lowers their ability to scale upward for mission growth. Most are not serving or advancing because of this cycle. Big businesses are suffering from this as well as post pandemic. Difficult times and challenges like understaffing can quickly change the mindset in an organization from serving to surviving.

In a couple of my leadership roles, I’ve found myself pulled between expectations and priorities from superiors, without enough staff to perform adequately. Many factors contributed to why the team was understaffed, including recent departures that remained unfilled, reorganization, and the demand for work growth before the team size could catch up.

Being understaffed complicates many situations, no matter the reason. It should be effectively managed as it could create an environment of burnout, and ultimately, resentment toward the leadership and organization. Additional stress increases when the team is tasked with endless projects that become overwhelming. The team needs to be expanded or work projects should be reassessed. At all costs, leaders and organizations should avoid operating with minimal staffing. It is not beneficial to anyone and certainly not furthering the organization’s mission.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward., It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

Common solutions to staffing shortages include redistribution of work, hiring replacement staff, and outsourcing lower-level tasks. Here are some added sustainable strategies for managing understaffing:



Outline everyone’s focus and how to execute successfully by clearly defining and cross-training standard operating procedures (SOPs)



Identify, clarify, and prioritize the most important projects. Then align them with team members’ strength(s)



Consistently review long term goals


Rethink, reprioritize, and reorganize calendars



Execute critical mission objectives first



Prioritize core clients’ needs with explanation


Schedule regular workforce planning meetings for updates and progress

There is much to be gained through disclosure, honesty, and proactive communication. Talk openly with your team about the staffing situation, strategies, and projected timelines for remediation. Discuss employees’ needs and potential barriers. Honest and transparent communication will open the door for interactive behavior which benefits all parties involved.

While remediation strategies are put in motion, identify inefficiencies, and better ways of working that can be are easily corrected or mastered to improve workflow and daily work habits. Investing in the improvement process may be more expensive, however, in the long run, continuous improvement is usually worth the cost.

A balanced lifestyle is just as important for employees and the company. Employers should set an example for employees by expressing the value of rest and revitalizing oneself for better performance. Again, everyone benefits when employees are energized and focused.

Express your affirmation and confidence in the team. Showing your team that you believe in them and have confidence that they will succeed builds their confidence and resourcefulness. Team empowerment through leadership stimulation and verbal acknowledgement brings about a stronger workforce, even in less-than-optimal conditions.

Leadership isn’t always easy and leading an organization through difficult times is part of the job. FaithSearch Partners excels at finding and securing leaders that understand these qualities and will work to build up your workforce through faith, especially when the company faces difficulties.

ZC Consulting brings more than 20 years of cumulative experience in nonprofit and faith-based consulting, coaching, leadership, and executive search. If you’re looking for leaders or to build teams who can make a difference and create sustainable momentum throughout your organization – transforming people who will have a positive and inclusive impact on your people and community – reach out to us. ZC Consulting excels in developing, empowering, and securing leaders for nonprofit, higher education, ministries, and faith-driven organizations.

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