With job resignations still up 23% above pre-pandemic levels, many organizations are short-staffed. There are a few common solutions for staffing shortages: redistributing work, hiring replacement employees and outsourcing lower-level tasks. But amid the Great Resignation’s persistent talent shortage, many managers are finding that their usual go-to solutions aren’t enough.

Here are three strategies for managers struggling with understaffed teams:

  1. Rethink project calendars. Prioritize the needs of mission-critical projects and defer what you can. What you can’t defer needs to be implemented more strategically and scheduled more carefully — preferably sequentially.
  2. Implement a buddy system to cover each other. Know what’s coming, predict it to employees, ask them to share in the load and lead by example. We’re all willing to work a little harder from time to time when our colleagues need to recharge in exchange for the ability to do the same.
  3. Find quick interventions. Look for interventions that can substantively improve employees’ daily work and be mastered in less than a week. If you can, bring in external consultants or human resources to manage much of the design and rollout of the interventions to avoid further overwhelming an already overstretched workforce. Although investing in process improvement may be expensive, it’s likely much cheaper than recruiting, training, and managing a revolving door of employees who are all frustrated by broken processes.

Thanks to staffing shortages, many employees’ workloads have increased to untenable levels. For the workplaces running on a skeleton crew, now is the time to implement process improvement interventions, prioritize your core clients and products, and assign your employees to fewer concurrent projects — not more.


Harvard Business Review (2022, May 17) Margaret M. Luciano: 3 Strategies for Managing an Understaffed Team
Forbes (2021, July 2) Forbes Agency Council: 10 Ways Companies Can Manage the Workflow When Understaffed