Our industry is on the up and we all think it’s great. Out with the negativity and pessimism, in with the positivity and growth. We’ve had it hard for half a decade, done our bit to tighten our belts and reign in costs. Now we can start to breathe a sigh of relief and work on making the most of the better economic conditions. But there is a growing issue that I have addressed on this site before and that is the oncoming problem of lack of staff.
So much of the industry downsized during the recession to make sure they survived. That meant that jobs were lost in order to keep the business afloat. Now, as business starts to return to pre-recession levels, there is a risk that our industry is going to be caught napping if this rise in business isn’t matched with a rise in staffing levels.
This is an issue that applies to every level in our sector. From installer to systems houses. For installers the key people are going to be fitters and sales staff. The extra leads will require extra sales people – if you overload a small team, their side of the business can quickly become inefficient due to mistakes and increase in turnaround time for quotes. Fitters are vital too. A good average for a lead time I’d say is 4-6 weeks. If it starts to get any longer than that then an element of impatience starts to creep in with potential customers and the last thing any installer wants is for clients to go elsewhere just because Joe Bloggs windows down the road is on a 3 week lead time instead.
Suppliers at all levels need to keep an eye on this too. Increases in orders is fine, but as the production lines start to diversify and the skill base of the employees needs to go up to cope with that, understaffing will be one of the major reasons why mistakes are made and delivery times start to slip.
The solution is very simple: employ more staff. It is going to be tempting I know for businesses to put off hiring more staff. Lets face it, the less staff the less wages leave the business meaning they earn a better profit margin. But there is a balance to keep as well. If your business is understaffed and mistakes are being made which is costing you money, then it would be beneficial to employ those extra workers to share the load with the rest.
Understaffing is a problem I am hearing more people talk about now, which is a positive step forward. I went to see Evolution a couple of weeks ago down in Biggleswade and in the meeting that issue of taking on more people to help cope with the extra work was raised. They understood that if they didn’t hire and train more people, operations would suffer as a result. So they are taking positive steps to prevent problems occurring, as I’m sure many of us are now.
But don’t get me wrong, this is a good problem to have. Of all the debates and issues that our industry faces right now, it is refreshing to have a problem to solve thanks to a good thing, rather than something negative.
Are you taking on more staff due to extra work? Or are you trying to function on the same staffing levels as previous years? All comments welcome in the section below.