If you’re operating in a heavily seasonal business, temporary staff can help your organization meet the demands of short-term upticks in customers. For instance, florists need extra hands around Valentine’s Day, delivery services need more drivers at Christmas, and manufacturers need a raft of merchandisers during a new product launch.
Similarly, when your company gets a new contract, temporary workers may provide vital support as your regular staff figure out how to handle new assignments or a bigger workload.
Temporary workers can be an attractive alternative to hiring full-time workers, especially when it comes to costs. Assuming your processes are as efficient as possible, how can you tell if you need to trade the flexibility of temporary staff for the reliability of regular staff?
Here are five sure signs you’re understaffed:
Sign 1: Your temporary workers are accomplishing critical operational work
Seasonal workers should handle support functions or tasks that require little training when there’s a temporary need. These workers should free your permanent staff to accomplish important jobs vital to the operation.
Your full-time employees should be assigned the higher-level jobs that require company and customer knowledge, while their seasonal helpers carry out more routine tasks that require little expertise.
One way to judge whether you’re relying too heavily on temporary help is to ask yourself this question: Would our business be able to function without these workers?
If you find yourself consistently relying on temporary workers to accomplish the most essential functions of your business, it’s time to consider that you might need to convert those positions to permanent part-time or full-time employees.
Sign 2: Your permanent staff consistently has a hard time getting all their work done
Another sign you may need more permanent staff occurs when employees who previously got all their work done suddenly start falling behind or missing deadlines.
Particularly when a business is growing, it can take even the best team members some time to nail down new processes or implement new routines that help them accomplish more in the same amount of time. But if a reasonable adjustment period has passed and hard-working employees miss deadlines every day, every week or every month, it’s time to evaluate staffing levels.
Can’t figure out what the problem is? A well-crafted employee survey may help you identify the root causes of low productivity, increased overtime and other change management issues.
Sign 3: Absenteeism, sick days, mistakes and accidents are up
Chronically overworked employees get stressed, and stressed employees miss more work due to illness. Stressed employees may also start cutting corners when it comes to safety, leading to more accidents, slips or falls.
If you notice an increase in sick days, mistakes and accidents, take a close look at whether your team is trying to accomplish too much with too few people.
Begin by gathering data and try to identify when your problems started. Did Charlene’s mistakes creep in soon after her summer college intern went back to school? Did absenteeism increase three months after your temps left and permanent staff began clocking overtime every week?
Still not sold on the problems caused by overwork? Stanford University found that after a certain number of hours an employee may be so tired that additional work performed leads to mistakes and oversights that take longer to fix than the additional hours worked.
Sign 4: Morale has decreased and complaints have increased
A little grumbling about change is normal, and maybe even expected, when workloads increase. But when a generally reasonable employee complains about feeling overwhelmed by their workload, you should probably pay attention.
Overworked employees become demoralized and usually wind up resenting their boss or the company. Even worse, they’ll likely spread their less-than-enthusiastic attitude to others, which can impact productivity even more. Worst-case scenario: Your company starts losing good employees who feel overworked and underpaid.
When a company is growing rapidly, it can be hard to remember to stop and ask questions that will lead you to the answers you need.
If you see Michael struggling, try asking, “Is there anything I need to know about? Anything I can help with?”
Don’t assume you know everything the seasonal workers took care of, and how their departure impacted Michael’s workload. By asking questions, you may be able to solve a morale problem before it gets out of hand.
Sign 5: Company growth is stymied by lack of staff
It’s a fact: Seasonal employees and task-shifting will only take you so far. At some point, your business will need more permanent staff. There can be serious consequences to leaving your business understaffed for too long.
These consequences can be:
- Turning down new business because you lack the resources to service the sale
- Excessive overtime which drains profitability
- Poor work-life balance and the troubles that come with it
If you’re concerned about adding full-time staff, remember that your great temporary helpers may prefer part-time hours.
Sooner or later, your ability to take on new clients and provide them with top-notch service will be hampered if you and your existing team are trying to do too much.
Maximize your human capital and its impact to your business. Download our free e-book, How to Develop a Top-notch Workforce That Will Accelerate Your Business.