5 ways to deal with the impact of short-staffing

An image of Rachel Evans from The Workshop Whisperer, dressed in a pink shirt, sitting at a table.

What can you do if you’re struggling to find the people you need?

Is your business in need of an extra pair of hands (or more) on the tools? Then you’re not alone. Our State of the Nation Special Report: The Skills Shortage has highlighted that this is an issue that’s affecting a lot of Members. In fact, our research uncovered that only 44% of Members reported that they were adequately staffed.

So, what do you do if you’re part of the 56% who can’t find the people they need? We asked automotive business coach Workshop Whisperer Rachael Evans for her advice.

1. Explore ways you can do more with less

“I have a client who this time last year had a team of 10,” Rachael said. “Now he’s got a team of six and they’re outselling and outproducing what they did with 10.

“He was forced into that situation because of the skills shortage, but this is the result.”

Rachael said:

  • Workshop owners often don’t realise they’re actually overstaffed.

  • Operating with fewer staff means you’re saving on your wages bill.

  • Business owners often accept a lower level of individual productivity than they should.

Rachael’s benchmark:

Two technicians and two apprentices should be able to generate $1.2 million in revenue themselves if they work at an efficient and productive capacity.

2. Consider skilled migration

“100% of our clients who have recruited offshore in the last 18 months cannot speak highly enough of the result,” Rachael said.

“The process is lengthy, but they’ve achieved the return on investment they were after. They’ve got workers who want to work and who come highly qualified. Come to the conversation with an open mind,” she said. “Generally, they’re hard-working, grateful and they’re loyal.”

Rachael’s secret to success:

Support your sponsored workers to connect with the local community, so they can start to put down roots.

Two mechanics in a garage examining a sheet.

3. Be smarter in your recruitment

“If you’re recruiting, you’ve got to completely reimagine the opportunity that you are providing by giving someone a job,” Rachael said.

“To win someone over to your business these days, you have to offer them the best job they’ve ever had.”

That might mean doing things you’re uncomfortable with, like:

  • Offering a relocation bonus.

  • Offering your Facebook followers/customers a spotter’s fee to tag a friend in the trade who might be looking for a better opportunity.

  • Offering a four-day working week.

Rachael’s pro-tip:

I highly recommend considering a move to some version of a four-day work week and using that as a recruitment tool because it works amazingly well

4. Focus on retention strategies

It’s easier to keep the staff you have than it is to recruit new team members, so Rachael recommends paying close attention to retention.

“That starts with their leadership,” she said. “It’s the owner’s job to set the culture.”

Ask yourself:

  • What’s my assessment of my own leadership?

  • What are the values that I hold dear?

  • What values do I want the team to work by?

  • How do we start the culture that we want?

5. Make sure you’re charging customers to reflect your costs

“When you’ve got a three-week waiting list (if it’s not through inefficiency), you are technically what we’d call oversubscribed,” Rachael said.

  • Be really picky and choosy with the work that you do.

  • Only accept the work that you know makes you the profit that you want to make.

  • Stop doing those jobs where you always write off 10 hours and you don’t get to sell your labour time.

Rachael recommends:

If you’re oversubscribed, reassess and recalculate your pricing to reflect your costs and ensure you’re getting the return you deserve. Consider the economic supply and demand equation in your calculations.

You can read State of the Nation Special Report: The Skills Shortage at cap.coop/son-skills

This article was published 21/11/2023 and the content is current as at the date of publication.