As the UK was slowly emerging from the very worst of the recession, the idea of any sort of recovery seemed a little far away. I think many of us, including myself, thought that we’d be bumping along the bottom for a few years with GDP figures remaining flat or showing very small growth. However this has been far from the case. And with the IMF now predicting growth for the UK this year of over 3%, our economy is now the fastest growing economy in the Western world. But it’s causing a few problems.
Caught On The Hop
Because many expected slow to zero growth, our business models remained the same. We all kept the same amount of staff, same amount of capacity, not expecting anything to change. But we have all been caught on the hop by how strong the recovery actually is, and how much extra business we are all doing. I have been speaking to some and they say that this year is actually better than the pre-recession years.
Problem is, most businesses are now not equiped to cope with the upturn in business. Lots of our fabricators are now nearing full capacity or are already there, putting strain on the shop floor staff. Installation companies are now finding their lead times shooting up, including at our own place. In fact it is likely that at most places extra sales staff and installers are needed to help spread the work load.
The reason why this is a problem is that the quality of work is at risk of falling. When one person is being asked to do two or three people’s worth of work, you cannot expect them to keep up the very high standard of work most expect. It’s simply not possible. We’ll all start to find silly mistakes creeping in. To be honest we’re finding it now already. Missing items on deliveries, promised calls back not being made, product quality being iffy on occasions. These have all crept in as we have started to become busier.
Expand The Workforce
I think most businesses will have got comfortable with the smaller amount of staff since the recession. Wage bills are smaller now, which means less is getting paid out of the company account. To then start to take on more staff, to train them and pay them, well some might be a bit hesitant to do that now. It is tempting to continue to stretch the current workforce for as much as you can. But this will be a tactic that will end up being more costly in the end.
Although you might be reluctant, extra staff are going to help share the burden of an increased workload within the business. It will mean quality control continues to be monitored, if not bettered. Silly mistakes like missing items and improved communication will mean your relationships with your customers aren’t strained. In the end, investing in extra staff may well ensure your profit margin increases as your company isn’t paying for endless mistakes.
This is a message I have covered more than once on DGB recently. But it is an important one, and a message that is being given in the wider construction sector. They are also reporting on things like skills shortages and lack of staff. Although construction is having a very good time of it right now, the sector doesn’t have enough people to cope with the extra work, very much like our own situation. Eventually something has to give and businesses will have to take on more people before it starts doing damage to their own companies.