How Business Leaders Can Manage High Work Volumes and Short-Staffed Teams

It’s an unfortunate side effect for businesses that fluctuate in size: the people in your company tackling the most work are also the ones in most dire need of additional help. These two issues seem to always arrive as a pair, and they can significantly impede your ability to efficiently lead your teams and serve the needs of your customers.

Overloading your teams with work will often dampen employee spirits and increase turnover rates, while improper staffing can make it near impossible to grow your customer base.

Luckily, your business can employ a few basic strategies to help you balance between overworked employees and satisfied customers.

Employ Short-Term Assistance

Let’s face it—finding, hiring and onboarding new talent when you need it is immensely time- and energy-consuming, meaning that it isn’t always the most proactive strategy to help you reach your immediate, short-term goals. If you’re just starting to recruit candidates as your work becomes overloaded, it’s already too late, and you’ll risk burdening your current team with more work than they can handle.

The solution? If your company doesn’t have the bandwidth to use predictive hiring tools to preemptively find and train candidates as new work arrives, you might consider relying on temporary aid in the form of virtual assistants, freelancers and other small vendors.

Now more than ever, businesses of all sizes can access a growing talent pool of remote assistance around the world, and this largely can be attributed to advancements in technology. Digital connectivity powered by the internet allows businesses to find help online through a variety of websites on whatever particular tasks need to be completed.

If you’re presently waiting for your new, salaried employees to arrive, mitigating work through the freelance community provides your company with instant connections to a network of experienced professionals who are familiar with contracted periods of work. This means that you can hire help as you need it without having to wait for the formal hiring process to kick in. And if your industry fluctuates workloads during busy and slow seasons, you can build lasting relationships for seasonal assistance that continues year after year.

Prioritize Tasks

We all know how it feels to be buried by your work. Before the tasks pile up, you should have a strategy in place to help both you and your teams manage their workloads and time-sensitive work as effectively as possible. By utilizing time management best practices, you’ll have the skillset you need during stressful times to assess the current situation and develop a plan of action.

When deciding which tasks to work on first and which can be delayed, ask yourself these guiding time priority questions:

  • Will this task yield a higher value or reward than others in my list once I complete it?
  • Does this task have a pressing deadline?
  • Can this task be completed in little to no time?
  • Are any of the projects in question unable to be completely (at the moment) due to a lack of resources or personnel?
  • Do you have items on your list that can be removed from the accomplishments that need to be completed today?

Once you’ve determined your order of operations, take a few minutes to block out your team’s calendar for the week, allotting reasonable pockets of time for each assignment. By managing your team’s schedule, you’ll also be able to see how you use your time for other work functions, such as meetings or brainstorms, and whether these responsibilities could be rescheduled or canceled completely to better optimize your calendar.

Most importantly for leaders, you should consider optimizing each task by delegating roles for tasks to each member of your team. Task delegation is essential for short-staffed teams for several reasons: first, it ensures that two team members are not overlapping their responsibilities; second, it allows you to tailor each person’s workflow to their skills and abilities; and third, it gives your team members a greater sense of responsibility and dedication, which reinforces quality work despite tight deadlines.

Maintain Relationships with Customers

If you’re even remotely affiliated with business practice, then you’ve heard the adage, the customer always comes first. But how, exactly, can the customer come first when your teams are already juggling too much work?

Customer interactions, while important, can be time-consuming endeavors. Emails, phone calls and in-person visits all eat up a considerable amount of your time and can cause continuous distractions that keep you from the work at hand.

Using customer management tools is one solution that can help you tackle high inquiry volumes while you wait for those new hires.

With features like agent assignment, web callback and integrated customer relationship management tools, call center software hosted on the cloud can help you distribute calls among your sales and customer service agents. Many contact center tools are designed to help leaders maintain quality assurance—even during periods of high turnover or training—as they come equipped with knowledge centers, FAQs and smart tech like predictive dialing to help call agents focused on delivering the best service to your customers.

Similarly, if your team never manages to reach the bottom of their inboxes, consider researching one of the many email management tools available to businesses. From unifying all of your inboxes to a central platform to receiving text message alerts when you receive important emails, these services help you streamline your communication to help you never miss another customer email due to poor organization or a high volume of inbound messages.

Most email management services include freemium solutions as well, which means there’s no risk involved with you finding the tool that best suits your needs.

Lead with Positive Work Dynamics

Consider the times at work when you felt the most overwhelmed: what helped you push through these busy moments? What kept you from burning out? Having a positive attitude around the office is one of the most simple—yet effective—leadership tactics that can keep your employees satisfied when they have a large amount of work on their plates.

Even during periods of stress and contention, an effective leader knows how to keep their tone, body language and communication with others positive. The volume of work that your team receives might be largely outside of your hands, but you alone decide what your reaction to it will be.

Most importantly, when the busy times subside and your team is operating just as it should, those under your management will remember how you took care of the situation. Ultimately, a positive work environment can be the difference between keeping great employees or losing them to your competitors.

Guest Article by Sara Foster-Waulde
Sara Foster-Waulde is a business publishing specialist whose passions include researching and developing new leadership and management strategies for organizations.

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