Blog home

The ultimate guide to understaffing: how to fix it in nursing and elsewhere with PARiM

Understaffing is a situation in which an organisation's lack of employees leads to a poorly run business. Beyond impacting the working climate from the grassroots up, understaffing indicates a more significant set of problems that your company and especially operations managers may have to face but are ill-equipped to handle.

It affects not only the relationships between people inside the company but also the fulfilment of business goals. In this article, you can see how PARiM can address many of the central issues associated with it. Often within just a few hours of use.

PARiM makes a direct impact

From day one, you can utilise our Professional plan to keep a staff bank of an unlimited number of employees. The flexibility of such a staff bank enables you to balance the need for financial efficiencies with keeping up required staff levels. Not to mention, as importantly, keep up staff satisfaction with workforce management processes that ensure regular and smooth hours and pay.

Many of the latest innovations tackling understaffing in workforce management seem attractive but are not mature enough yet. Therefore, we have carefully designed our solution to avoid common pitfalls that may make sense looking outside in but do not deliver practical value. Case in point: shift swapping (outlawed in increasing number of jurisdictions) - which we have replaced with an easier to use and to control Open Shifts with our Shift Board. Open Shifts present an easy drag and drop interface for either assigning previously created shifts or a single click option of inviting people to apply for the shifts available in the Open Shifts area:

We have also concentrated on only enabling automation where it can bring real value to your operations without over-promising AI and predictive scheduling. Both of which sound cool but do not bring immediate benefits that our Shift Patterns toolset can do in minutes.

In short, the most value you can bring to your organisation from the C-level to the cleaner is to make things more reliable, more smooth and we focus on helping you do that. An efficiently run organisation avoids steering into understaffing in the first place, and that's what PARiM is for.

Just like cars have understeering and oversteering - organisations face the risk of understaffing and overstaffing. We contend that PARiM is a well-engineered tool with the best handling for both types of situations. However, if you are still sceptical about PARiM - we can show you why understaffing happens and how it affects you and why you would have to pay for something to deal with it in a world where spreadsheets are for free.

How do companies end up understaffed in the first place?

Let's discuss the obvious.

Pay related costs can be one of your biggest if not the biggest cost centre. Particularly in staff-intensive organisations it can be the highest expense by quite a margin. So slashing staff numbers might seem an obvious fix to any number of financial woes. The goal is laudatory: a more nimble organisation is more flexible and more focused.

However, a lower payroll does not necessarily equal a better run business.

Moreover, less staff does not necessarily lead to lower payroll costs. As organisations in healthcare and other sectors have found out to their loss: a search for near-term efficiencies can lead to more inefficiencies even just in three or five years down the road — a thirst for cost-savings can lead to more expenses.

Often, after the euphoria and short-term results of job cuts wear off and those that implemented the cuts move on to other things more expensive outsourcing programs have to be applied to replace laid off staff and to fix broken processes.

Also, on a broader scale structural changes to an economy can be deceptive and reverse themselves leading to an unexpected return of lost industries and roles that lost prestige such as the return of oil workers in the United States due to shale oil or the rise of demand for nurses.

Thus, at a given moment in time slashing jobs in one function like nursing, trucking or oilfield engineers can make that job unattractive for young people to train in and when the demand for that position grows sometime later, whole sectors or entire societies face a chronic shortage that can lead to a small crisis.

Recent years have shown that a mild perceived need to cut staff earlier in a decade can lead to a chronic shortage later that lasts for much longer, perhaps decades and which a society feels much more deeply.

Multinational corporations and national level governmental organisations such as national healthcare providers may seem to stand most to gain from streamlining and cutting fat but they also stand most to lose. For them, the larger the organisation, the greater the chance some critical tasks inside an organisation can inadvertently fall victim to otherwise well-intentioned cuts. That is because corporate managers and consultants have often not trained in the field that the organisation primarily operates in and people at the top can be blind to subtleties that emerge later than the next couple of quarters.

PARiM as a decision-making tool for executives

If that's you, and you stand at the top of your organisation with the heavy burden of having to streamline your operations but not wanting to cut too deep then the above all add up to the first real benefit that PARiM brings to the table: cost analysis in a spreadsheet can not bring out the actual operational and even long-term impact that an initiative may have.

With PARiM, you can task your experienced managers to play through how it feels like to schedule, to pay and to charge for the work your people do in different scenarios that change the structure of your organisation.

Using PARiM it takes just a couple of hours to see if something works or if it does not. Because the value of specific employees, groups and departments becomes crystal clear and can be quantified based on real operational data and not on consultants well-intentioned but expensive guesswork.

See how easy it is to filter down and save a selection of people (you can save that selection to later return to it and it will update itself in real time based on your filtering criteria) whose qualifications have expired and who you may want focus on first when optimising your organisation:

What it means for you as an operations manager

All of that is fine if decision-makers haven't yet made their decisions. However, if you work in mid-level management in an organisation you may often have to deal with the consequences of already made decisions as the effects start to trickle outside of the intended boundaries for the change.

There is a real danger that you will start with a quick fix that will in itself lead to applying another fix and so on until you end up with an operationally broken firm that runs on the guts and grit of your star employees until they give up and not business smarts or automation or analytics as may appear.

Firstly, you might find yourself in a position where you have to make your employees work extra hours to cover shifts.

That will not last long. Your favourite workers and teams will run out of energy - quit or turn off.

The next "quick fix" option is to hire temporary staff to replace your overworked preferred staff to keep your business running smoothly.

Then again temporary staff itself can mean higher payroll costs. Besides, the training for new employees and the errors they make due to the lack of experience will add up to the costs of temporary staff.

Furthermore, existing employees who have to train new and temporary staff have less time to deal with their tasks and have to find a way to deal with errors they make. If these situations become routine, it can lead to increased turnover when employees are out to find a better and less stressful working environment.

So now you have sacrificed the quality of the work you do. Moreover, you have placed your best workers in danger of leaving. Double-trouble.

Quality, Brand and Reputation

However, it's not like you can afford to do nothing. The quality of the service or products that your company delivers is essential to business growth. The employees that focus on meeting deadlines are of the highest value for the company.

When an organisation becomes understaffed, then some employees are willing to take on extra hours and put in more effort, but the efficiency decreases by doing so.

Decreased ability leads to reduced working quality and the quality of the service or final product. Therefore we are not talking about minor effects but the decrease in the company's capacity.

When working in an understaffed organisation, their concentration can be easily lost when they have to deal with the temporary workforce and their errors, challenges.

Lack of employees can lead to unsatisfied or underserved clients. Your people are your reputation. The company's reputation is at stake, and it is essential to make the working conditions good enough to meet your employees' needs – so they can do their work with commitment and deliver quality outcomes.

So what should managers do?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer. Still, many of the pieces of the recipe repeat themselves. This pieces can range widely. For example, as an operations manager, you need a way to keep all of your people at your fingertips regardless of their type of contract and to sort them instantly.

However, circumstances also require complete oversight combined with the ability to zoom in to a daily view and out to do a quarterly look of your operations. No other tool can provide that in their calendars. See how easy and instant changing these advanced views is with PARiM:

For this and the presence of thousands of somewhat small but essential and unique feature , we at PARiM recommend our Professional plan as the go-to solution for any team of managers having to deal with not only understaffing but also the fallout of a restructuring gone wrong or in danger of losing steering.

The effect understaffing has on your people

This part of understaffing is the most painful one. You can not overlook it.

When making working conditions meet your employees' needs, you have to take into account both the physical and mental environment. Physically demanding jobs can exhaust employees, who have to do overtime due to understaffing visibly.

Tired employees who are trying their best to work fast and meet deadlines are more prone to accidents. Mental exhaustion might be more difficult to notice by the manager in an already time-consuming situation of understaffing.

Sometimes the stress can take its toll on the employees and also the manager, making the working environment very challenging. Dissension can arise and cause even more friction to the difficulties your employees are facing. As a result, the turnover can increase vastly, which is a costly outcome as we discussed earlier.

At PARiM we have designed a standard work process revolving around Open Shifts that removes friction and stress from people. They can apply to shifts that you have made open for applications - choosing the ones they prefer. On the other hand your supervisors and managers can also drag and drop any number of open shifts they have access to their preferred staff members.

Thus PARiM helps you to find your balance in terms of workforce planning not only for your organisation but also to specific departments. Our confirmation, reconfirmation and notification functionality are all available to make sure that everything works as you intend it does.

3 more ways we can help you with understaffing right now

We have looked at how different layers of an organisation can all feel the benefits of PARiM. However, it's in the parts of your firm that experience the effects of understaffing the most that PARiM has an instant impact. Here's just 3 ways how:

1. In a situation where an organisation is understaffed the tasks which concern time tracking and scheduling become critical; however, paradoxically they also can become much more time consuming and difficult. Thus the need for a tool like PARiM which automates just the right parts of your processes and leaves you in manual control in just the right amount in others. Our Shift Patterns tool can simplify scheduling.

2. As highlighted above, PARiM helps you to determine the optimum level of staffing, department size and people to assign to a given location. PARiM makes it easier to hire additional staff – either temporary, full-time, part-time or as-needed depending on the nature of work that needs doing as the solution can accommodate workers with any contract type and even subcontractors. You can also make sure that the extra people are the right ones for the job by filtering by qualification or sorting by proximity.

PARiM is the only tool to offer 25+ easy filters and sorting options to traverse your entire staff bank and make it manageable even in moments of crisis. You can judge any solution based on how it performs under stress, and it is at those moments that ours excels.

3. PARiM makes it simpler to deal with understaffing if the situation is temporary. One great idea is to define custom extra time-off as a benefit can ease the job for the existing staff. It takes only minutes to set up. You can also give longer lunch hours, shorter shifts, schedule preferences and the holiday schedule and so forth as needed.

Sign up for 14 day FREE trial

No credit card. No obligations. No risk.

or BOOK A DEMO today