4 Signs To Tell Your Team Is Understaffed & Stretched Too Thin

Are you overworking your employees? Occasionally, having a heavier workload is unavoidable. But if your workers are constantly performing tasks out of their job scope, that could be a sign your team is stretched too thin.

How can you tell when you are understaffed? Here are four warning signs to look out for. 

#1 Frequent Bottlenecks 

Bottlenecks happen when workers have trouble completing work requests in a timely and effective manner. Workers get more tasks than they can possibly process, leading to congestions in the workflow. 

Even if employees are working at the fullest capacity, they still can’t complete tasks fast enough without causing delay. As a result, deadlines are often being pushed back. 

Bottlenecks happen when the pace of production can’t keep up with the demand. The slower pace of production could be due to inefficiencies or understaffing. 

Conduct a workflow audit to identify the problem. Map out each stage of the workflow, determine the rate of speed for each stage and see if the standards are being met.

If bottlenecks are not caused by an inefficient workflow, then it’s a sign that your team is being overworked.

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#2 Increased Customer Complaints

If your clients are voicing out dissatisfaction more than usual, that could be a signal that service levels are deteriorating. 

In an understaffed team, employees have to perform more work than expected of their usual job scope. For workers who work faster to complete more work, they can be more careless and prone to mistakes. That impacts the work delivered to your customers. It is harder to demand overworked employees to produce quality work when they are worn out.

However, an increase in customer complaints does not necessarily mean you are understaffed. The problem might lie with the quality of the customer service, or that your employee lacked the relevant knowledge or experience.

One quick way to find out is to look into the details of the complaints. If you are receiving similar feedback across the board, that might be more telling that you have a staffing issue. 

#3 Heavy Overtime

Observe if employees are working overtime too often. It might be acceptable during the peak period, for instance, accountants working overtime during tax season, but less so if it is too frequent. That might suggest that employees are overworked and have to toll longer hours to complete their tasks. 

That being said, a clear line should be drawn between overtime caused by an understaffed team, versus a culture of overtime that promotes long hours. 

If they are clocking in more hours yet completing the same volume of work, that might not mean that your team is understaffed. Just more distracted and less productive at work. 

#4 Increased Voluntary Turnover 

Voluntary turnover refers to when employees leave the organisation on their own accord. When voluntary turnover is high, it reveals deep-rooted organisational concerns that should be addressed. It could be due to a lack of growth opportunities, overwork or poor management. 

While a high voluntary turnover rate might not be indicative of understaffing, but overworking your employees will eventually cause them to leave. And the consequences can be costly. It is expensive to hire and train new employees. And more employees leaving only exacerbates the issue of understaffing. 

So if voluntary turnover rates are higher, it is best to check in on the workloads of your employees. 

How To Manage When You Are Understaffed

For a team short on manpower, the most obvious solution would be to increase headcount. But there are other ways to tackle the issue too. Instead of doubling down on sales and marketing, put a halt on growth until your team is ready to handle the volume of work. 

Focus on cross-training your employees, adjusting your workflow practices or adopting the current organisational structures. Improve productivity by automating processes or consider outsourcing to get the job done. 

Once you are settled for the short-term, start planning for the future. Forecast future staffing needs and recruit with that in mind.

Read Also: How Businesses Can Use Enhanced Work-Life Grant For Happier, More Productive Employees

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