Managing Smart: Navigating Staffing Shortages

Thursday, February 17, 2022

By Ben Taylor, Assistant Director, Equal Opportunity

With the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the recent surge in cases resulting from the Omicron variant, departments saw and may continue to see an increase of employees being out sick simultaneously. These unexpected absences can create staffing shortages and result in delays in the completion of work and an increase in response time and stress.

As we experience and navigate this together, it is important to take time to process and collect our thoughts and encourage our teams to do the same. We may need to temporarily focus on baseline operations as there may be impacts to what we initially thought we would accomplish when we returned from Winter Break and began the spring term. There are, however, actions we can take to mitigate the impacts of these unforeseen and unfortunate circumstances. Some things to consider as you manage through this challenge:

  • How am I being impacted by current circumstances?
  • What support do I need from my supervisor and/or college leadership?
  • How are the individuals on my team being impacted by current circumstances?
  • What can I do to support the individuals on my team?
  • What is the “must-do” work for our department at this time?
  • What work can/should we temporarily pause?

While all of the work that we do is important, during these unique times, it may be important to consider the work that absolutely must get done and first focus our effort on that. Depending on your area, it might be ensuring that students or colleagues are served, that contracts are signed or that payroll checks are issued. Longer term projects may need to be temporarily paused to give focus time to the core work, those things that absolutely must get done. The keyword here is temporary. If any work is paused, it is temporary as we adapt to the changing circumstances and can continue to reprioritize our efforts.

If your area is stretched very thin and you and your team are having trouble accomplishing the core “must-do” work, some additional options you may consider are:

  • Consult with leadership to explore temporarily increasing part-time hours and considering overtime.
  • Are there staff members available at another campus that could help your team?
  • Is your supervisor aware of the challenge you’re facing? What suggestions might they have?

When enlisting support of part-time employees or seeking overtime for full-time employees, please remember that you should not be asking anyone to complete work tasks that are beyond their job description. Please also remember to consult with Organizational Development and Human Resources to ensure that there are no long-term budgetary or other unintended impacts of any temporary adjustments to scheduling or work tasks.

In times of stress, practice the leadership competencies of open communication, adaptability and prioritization. It is also important to give the individuals on your teams the space to have an open dialogue about their needs and how they are experiencing work and the impact this may have on them. While we hope the need for these adjustments ends soon, we must continue to care for our employees and recognize that the way this is affecting them as much as it is impacting our work.

If you need help thinking of creative ways to navigate staffing challenges, or to help create an open dialogue with your teams, reach out to HR4U@valenciacollege.edu or 407-582-HR4U (4748) for support

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