Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur Contributors are their own.
How difficult has it been to find or keep skilled workers lately? If you’re like most of the professionals I speak to, it’s next to impossible. Even if we weren’t dealing with a global health crisis, there never seems to be enough people to get the job done. Now that you need twice as many people to handle the workload, you only worry about doing it with half the manpower you had before, right?
In working with small businesses over the years, I’ve seen that this challenge has seriously affected their operational efficiency and thus their financial position. In many cases, production declines or the error rate increases. Sometimes both happen at the same time. Either way, dissatisfied customers raise their hands and demand compensation, often in the form of refunds, credits, or replacements, which all add up and affect the bottom line. For example, here is a worrying statistic I read the other day: Over 40 percent of small businesses pay much more for workers’ wages because of labor shortages.
Employees are expected to do more on the job every day, given the higher demand for goods and services and the somewhat disjointed fulfillment model that small businesses – and really all companies – currently operate with. As the nation tries to recover from a public health crisis, a changed job market is emerging. Companies are essentially in a bidding war for the limited number of workers that will be available tomorrow. I get it. But I am not convinced that money can attract or retain a skilled and talented workforce.
Technology can be more powerful than money
People don’t want to work harder than necessary, especially when they know that there are digital tools out there that can make their jobs easier. So i think so technology has the potential to be as powerful as money, if not more. My friends, family, and my professional network aren’t afraid to tell me when they’re happy at work and when they’re not. You’re also not afraid to do anything about it. We have entered the “Age of Change”, as a colleague recently described it, and many people will now opt for less stress over more money.
When one of your co-workers tells a friend about how they spent all day counting manually inventory only to find out they missed something and the friend says, “You should work with me. I am using a device to scan inventory. I do it so quickly and have never miscounted … “ what do you think will happen? They will likely apply to this other company and quit shortly afterwards.
As a Companies Leader, you have a choice to make. You can now invest in technology that will make it easier and faster for your team to get every task done, so they can ultimately do more. Or, you can settle for the tools and processes you have now and accept the productivity and performance. All you need to know is that you may have to pay more to attract and retain employees, and you could handle more sales as other companies step up the stakes with technology and other perks. If you have a tendency to invest in technology to improve the work experience, I think you have come to the right place. Technology helps engage, retain, and attract talent in warehousing, retail, and many other sectors. But don’t go shopping just yet.
Yes, upgrading your hardware and software could bring great results for your business. However, there is much more to this decision than meets the eye. I know you may be stressed out about work-related challenges and seek solutions as soon as possible, but I promise you will make a much smarter, more informed decision if you stop and take these three steps before moving on.
Understand your current staffing needs
When looking for technologies that meet the unique needs of your company, it is important that the satisfaction of your employees is paramount. This attracts new talent authentically into your company and tempts you to stay. In many cases, happiness is derived from productivity. When employees know what to do but don’t have the tools to do it quickly, they will get discouraged and customers will complain about not having a good experience.
So stop and evaluate why they are facing each challenge as they complete tasks. Think about what you really want for yourself, your employees and everyone else involved. Then think about how technology can solve each problem.
If you equip an employee with a mobile device on their first day of work that helps them to take a complete inventory count conveniently and without a single mistake, they will leave their work invigorated. They’ll share their positive experiences with friends, family, and (if you’re lucky) on social media. Word will get around how great it is to work for your company. And suddenly you have a loyal employee and potential brand ambassador along with several eager, talented candidates responding to your job vacancies. You or your employees don’t need a computer science degree to accomplish this business feat – just a modern mobile computer.
Try to understand your future business needs
In order for your business to thrive, the first thing you need to do is determine what you really need to keep it running more smoothly. If the front-line technology currently paired with back-end systems doesn’t make inventory counting a breeze, improve connectivity between employees, or give them time back to help customers, you probably haven’t found your tech soulmate yet.
New business challenges are associated with the on-demand offering business, from delivery bottlenecks disrupting expected supply chain flow to unpredictable shifts in consumer demand. These are realities your business should be up to. Even seemingly small situations can end up causing you a lot of grief if you are not properly prepared or supported. If orders double up overnight or half of the team call in sick, who on your team can take in more? And what do they need to get everything done without falling behind and making mistakes? Even though you may not be able to predict every tricky dilemma, you can predict your technological ability.
See your company from the perspective of your customers
It’s not just employees who feel pain when things don’t go smoothly. Customers suffer too. If you are a coffee shop owner who is out of your favorite blends and has no way of warning customers before they walk in, you are faced with a lot of frustrated people. The same goes for retailers and warehouse operators. Online orders are convenient until things don’t arrive on time.
So think about what technology tools can help you anticipate and avert problems that you know will upset customers and, of course, your employees. Give your team the ability to instantly notify customers if you think you’re not getting them – or when they want it. And think about which technology your team needs to offer and implement alternative solutions on site. Do you need to add credit to the customer’s digital loyalty card or redirect an order from the manufacturer so that it is shipped directly to the customer and not through your distribution center?
Like to come to work
Even as the US unemployment rate picks up, there are still plenty of great candidates out there looking for companies to attract them. Find out how you can be the employer who helps employees both pay the bills and really enjoy getting to work. And think about how you can be the business that customers love to visit.
When you know what your employees and customers need and want, go shopping. Sit down with a technology solutions provider to discuss what it takes to be the company everyone is drawn to. Together you will be able to create the right solution – by combining the right mobile computer with the right software – to make employees’ jobs easier and to help them do their best, even in difficult times the pressure is great. Your team, in turn, will be able to make customers’ lives a little better every day.