As the country reopens and coronavirus restrictions lift, many retailers and restaurants are facing labor shortages, with the US Chamber of Commerce estimating that there were a record 8.1 million jobs open in the US in March 2021 and about half as many workers available for those jobs as there have been for the last 20 years. In fact, 42% of business owners had job openings that could not be filled–a record high. After a difficult year for small businesses, a labor shortage could threaten recovery, and businesses will need to get creative to overcome it.

Throwing a wrench into the works, major companies like Amazon, McDonalds and Chipotle are boosting wages and incentives to hire hourly workers, creating even more intense competition for small businesses, who are less likely to be able to offer such benefits. For many restaurants large and small coming out of the pandemic, staffing has been the number one issue to a successful reopening.

So absent a magic wand to make employees appear on your doorstep, how is it possible for a retailer, restaurant or bakery to move forward with business despite a shortage? The first step is to maximize and leverage every employee that you do have, and that means taking a hard look at what needs to be done by your employees and what you may be able to outsource.

Assess employee workloads

Track your employees’ time and observe what it is they’re working on. Review their current day to day responsibilities  and have a discussion with them about how they spend their time  and how they can be making the most of it. Through this process, you can get a solid sense of how employees are spending their time. From there, you can identify your employees’ core tasks and what is slowing them down. 

Examine which tasks need to be done in-house…

What are your employees doing that can only be done by them? Is it customer service, managing the cash wrap, arranging flowers or baking fresh products each day? These tasks are mission critical for your business and need to be done by on-site employees. But what about the tasks that are taking up their time, but could be outsourced? Think administrative tasks, delivery or cleaning. Start listing these out to see what you might be able to outsource, and how much time it would save you.

…And when they need to be done

Some tasks need to be done on-site by employees, but maybe they can be done in off hours that would attract employees who work traditional hours and are looking for a side gig or part time hours. Could you do your inventory after close and hire a team to come in to manage it? How about baking: could that be done in the early morning hours, before regular business opens elsewhere? Rethink your concept of when something needs to be done to stretch your options for hiring.

Outsource to create more capacity for your employees

Take that list of mission critical tasks that do not need to be performed by your own staff, and start making a plan to outsource. Is one person on staff always cleaning? Consider upping the frequency of your cleaning service so you can put that person to work doing things that are essential to the business. 

If you have employees working in administrative roles for part of their days, that might be another area to consider subcontracting. This could include online and phone customer service, which might be handled by someone off-site, website updates and more. Shifting those off your in-house staff allows them to focus more on the mission-critical tasks of customer service and keeping your brick-and-mortar location running smoothly.

And finally, outsourcing delivery is an impactful way to increase capacity at your business when you’re short-staffed. It’s labor intensive and can eat away at hours of your employee time – not to mention being expensive to manage and often inefficient. One issue we often hear from customers is that their employees often don’t have vehicles that can transport oversized items and they can only handle limited orders.

Roadie allows you to get up and running with delivery in a single day – no setup fees and a predictable delivery cost so you can price accurately. Because Roadie provides on-demand delivery in a 100-mile radius, you can leverage it to keep your employees in house and potentially reduce your headcount needs.

Grow Your Business & Expand Your Reach

While the next few months will no doubt be challenging for small businesses as they navigate reopening, creatively managing your employee resources can help overcome the difficulties of a smaller labor pool.