Staff shortages and how businesses should adapt to get through it

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It’s certainly no secret that labour shortages across the UK are biting hard and the situation is seeing a negative and hugely worrying impact on the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery.

There are several factors contributing to this. Brexit has created a shortage of European labour available to work in the hospitality and leisure sector, amongst others, meaning many sectors are now in competition for labour that would be viable for contact centre work.

In addition, we are seeing wage inflation, employee choice, depersonalised employment and a gig culture all leading to quite transactional employment behaviours. In fact, we have seen a direct correlation between people leaving as jobs get harder knowing that they can earn the same in an easier role.

With the CBI predicting a bleak two years on the jobs and skills front, the stinging people shortages are seriously affecting businesses across a host of sectors. The situation has led to many businesses in the UK being crippled due to a lack of resources both on the operational and customer service sides.

With all this in mind, I want to cover the following key questions:

  • What solutions can Boards and Executive Directors consider to counter ongoing staff shortages?
  • And what methodologies have we, here at Sigma Connected, adopted to help operators combat the issue?

There are a variety of answers to these questions but mainly I want to focus on how a blend of UK and offshore support can help, and how a triage-style operational structure can go a long way to quickly solving jobs and skills issues.

Onshore and offshore blended service delivery

Businesses should consider the location of their workforces. Building operations offshore can spread the risk of staff shortages. For over 10 years we have worked tirelessly to develop a blend between UK-based onshoring and offshoring – offering firms what we believe is the best of both worlds when outsourcing contact centre solutions or back-office functions.

With an excellent, English-speaking team, we have established a highly-rated offshore operation in South Africa over the past decade and this offshoring capability has only grown as leading brands have put their trust in us to deliver contact centre solutions on their behalf – helped by the only a one or two hour time difference depending on the time of year.

Experienced and mature offshore operations such as South Africa have been driven to a point where is it no longer seen as cheaper labour at the cost of quality but instead the quality at least matches the UK with improved staff retention.

Triage deployment of resource

We have introduced a triage deployment of staff onto new campaigns, set up at speed to cover our client’s recruitment challenges. This involves remodelling the business processes, separating out the ‘easier’, light-touch activities for temporary employees to deliver in the UK whilst we recruit and train permanent resource in South Africa who can then deliver more complex customer contact activities.

This enables us to get new employees deployed onto client work much quicker than the average outsourcer, as onboarding time is greatly reduced whilst maintaining customer satisfaction levels. One recent example saw us sourcing 800 people in just eight weeks, all fully-trained.

Work from anywhere

Covid has delivered one benefit to businesses like ours. It has opened-up the opportunity for our agents to work from anywhere. This means we can broaden our target recruitment areas to a nationwide search, even focussing on areas of high unemployment. This provides another way to mitigate staff shortages in commercial areas.

With office banter and out-of-work socialising removed from the equation, we have found that having a mainly remote team requires amplified employee engagement activity to maintain staff retention levels.

We have adopted a flexible or hybrid approach to working locations. We employ our agents knowing what they want and need in terms of their workplace and workspace. If this means some prefer to work at home more often, then we will accommodate that and provide them with the tools to make it work and to ensure they are integrated into the team.

How can we help?

More than anything, outsourcing has proved to be an extra arm at a time when companies need it most – whether in the UK or offshore and that is totally down to a client’s needs and commercial choices. We flex as you flex.

It’s a model which, if executed correctly, has been successful to plug the gap in the shortage of call centre agents as we can supply teams and hundreds of people at very short notice. Now, more than ever, the boardrooms of all UK firms should be challenging themselves to do things differently if they are to protect their financials, their reputations, and their customers.

About the author

Mike Harfield is Sigma Connected’s co-founder and Chief Operating Officer.

For further information, or a wider discussion to see how we can help your business at this time, you can contact Mike via email or connect with him on LinkedIn