The problem is very straightforward. Many small – and some larger – businesses are struggling to get enough staff to do the work they need doing. Here, we are not talking about the highly skilled, highly specialised and highly paid jobs; although that is another persistent challenge. We are concerned here about the vitally important jobs that keep smaller enterprises going. Without people to this work, these businesses simply cannot carry on. Or at the very least, they can’t fulfil their potential.
Which sectors are most impacted?
A short walk through any town (or drive through the country) that has pubs, cafés, restaurants and hotels and you will quickly notice one thing – vacancy signs. There is no doubt that the hospitality sector in particular is struggling to find enough reliable people to work for them. ‘People wanted’ signs abound – kitchen staff, bar staff, waiters, cleaners, porters, receptionists…and many more.
Of course, it’s not just the hospitality sector. Many shops are also struggling and businesses in other sectors are reporting ongoing challenges in getting enough people.
What have these businesses tried?
Recruiting people can be costly and timely. And frustrating. Signs up outside their premises, adverts in the local papers, recruitment agencies, temp agencies – many businesses have tried the lot! And even when they have eventually found someone, they’ve found that that person was quickly poached by another equally desperate business.
Something’s got to change – a new pattern of work
The old adage about always doing what you always did and always getting what you always got, comes to mind. Doing the same old same old is clearly not going to work. Waiting, praying and hoping for the best, aren’t great strategies! Something’s got to change.
It is all too easy to get stuck in existing ways of looking at work: we have a vacancy, we advertise, we hire. Except that that’s not working. That has become: we have a vacancy, we advertise, we still have a vacancy.
So, what if we we break the vacancy down into multiple jobs/tasks/shifts. And no, we aren’t simply talking about recruiting for two part-timers instead of one fulltime person! Let’s stretch that thinking a little further. Let’s think about having a pool of people who you can call on – some doing regular shifts and some doing irregular, ad hoc ones. And what if these people are, hardworking, mature, reliable people who really want to work – but perhaps not in the prevailing patterns of ‘fulltime’ and ‘permanent’ or even parttime and permanent. These people are both flexible and accommodating, smart and experienced.
An example might help…
Let’s say you need someone to work in your pub or café. And let’s say you have a range of morning, afternoon and evening shifts that you need to fill. If you could find say 5 or 10 people who would be interested in working for you, how would that work? You may find that some of these people only want to work a couple of mornings a week, and some a couple of evenings. Some are happy to do occasional shifts when you have an emergency or as holiday cover. Some may commit to regular work but go away for 10 weeks of the year.
So, now you have a range of potential help. With a dollop of common sense and flexibility on both sides, surely you could fill all, or at least, most, of the shifts you need filling each week. And you’d have a ready made group of people to contact when your needs change.
Better, not perfect
It is sometimes said that the search for ‘perfection’ can hinder the discovery of ‘better’. In an ideal world, pubs, cafés, restaurants and other businesses would not choose to manage a group or pool of people; they’d prefer to have one, permanent person in place. But right now, we aren’t in an ideal world. It’s time for compromise, creativity, flexibility. And we think this new way of working has at least as many advantages as it has disadvantages, even before we get to the BIG advantage – getting the work you need doing, done!