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Could You Be Leaning on a Crutch?

​Could you be leaning on a crutch?

Arriving at the airport for a recent early morning flight to Los Angeles at 5:20 am, the ticketing and baggage check-in area was overwhelmed. Dozens of travelers attempted to check bags before a 6 am boarding call. One counter agent was doing her best, but was exasperated. At 5:30 am, from a door behind the counter, out walked the new team of service support for the morning shift. Suddenly, there were now five agents working feverishly to get caught up. This backup is not a staffing shortage issue. It is a management issue.

When I served on ships, we commented that the Corpsman is the only person who wakes up every day and is behind schedule. The “sick call” line, where sailors not feeling well stood awaiting the opening of sickbay, would form before the ship’s sole Corpsman began their day. Smaller ships only have one Corpsman; not much you can do about that scenario to lighten the load on the Corpsman’s morning. There isn’t enough demand for a second Corpsman on most smaller ships.

Leaning on a Crutch: A Management Issue

Some restaurants and hotels are performing better than others right now. Not surprisingly, the further up one goes in price point, the better the staffing and service. How does the staffing shortage affect some businesses so much worse than others? Again, it’s not a staffing shortage issue; it’s a management issue. All businesses need to adjust to the reality that their workforce has had an opportunity to reevaluate their work circumstances. Many have identified that they want to be somewhere else and do something different.

I’ve been visiting a hotel with a construction project in motion for several years. Their decision to renovate rooms at a rate of four at a time is working against them. Construction noises are continuous throughout the day, impacting the perspective and morale of employees and customers. Some suggest that supply shortages have been the cause of the extended construction schedule. Perhaps the hotel missed an opportunity to change its approach during the pandemic while occupancy was low. Were they unprepared to make the change due to a lack of resources? Were they unable to change the construction contract? Was the construction workforce unavailable? 

The most innovative companies pressed ahead through the pandemic and embraced the change. Click To Tweet

The services industries, hotels, restaurants, and stores, for example, are leaning on the crutch of staffing shortages to explain their current condition. They are misdiagnosing the problem. As a result, they will not solve the right problem and will slowly underperform and go out of business.

Even when things are going well, the best businesses are never satisfied with the status quo. There is always room for improvement, however small. Thinking back over the past 3-, 6-, 12- or 24-months, how much adaptation is taking place in your business? You should be able to point to some dramatic changes you have made. The most innovative companies pressed ahead through the pandemic and embraced the change. The pandemic was not readily predictable, but the need to embrace change was entirely predictable.

Can you identify your equivalent of the ticket/baggage agent, service staff, or construction worker within your company?

The Make Your Move podcast is a multi-season series devoted to the lessons learned of military members in their post-active duty lives. I hope you enjoy the stories of the men and women brave enough to share their transition stories so publicly. Listen to the latest episode here.

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