The turbulent economic market and challenges onset from the pandemic has required small businesses to adapt and become more resilient. And while some obstacles have subsided new ones have arisen, such as labor shortages and hiring challenges.
“Nearly half (49%) of small businesses that are actively hiring say it is hard to find candidates with the skills they need” says the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Additionally, the blending of remote work and hybrid work has created a cumbersome situation for organizations that rely on field workers. With businesses facing recruiting issues and many forced to operate leaner, agility and automation continue to be key factors in thriving in a difficult time.
Below are some ways businesses can automate and adapt to combat labor shortages and assist field workers.
How to Combat Labor Shortages
1. Adapt for More Agility
Agility has been critical for SMBs that have been able to handle unforeseen challenges, amid labor shortages and staffing issues. Organizations that were able to shift their business model and digitize rapidly by moving all of their services online were able to operate more successfully than those who did not.
For example, if a business shifts from manual processes such as spreadsheets, paper based processes, etc. to digital cloud solutions, when unforeseen challenges arise, adaptation to circumstances will be easier due to the benefits of digitization like real-time data, integrated applications, better communication with customers, and less human error.
For businesses to stay ahead of competition, they need to focus on innovation and new technologies that allow them to operate more efficiently when large scale issues such as supply chain disruptions and staffing issues are at play.
2. Augmented Reality Technology for Field Workers
While digitization can replace outdated processes and improve efficiency, for industry specific organizations that rely on field technicians, the pandemic has introduced an entirely new set of challenges. Additionally, labor shortages make it nearly impossible for many businesses to sufficiently staff workers such as internet repair people, mechanics, plumbers, etc.
Augmented reality can virtually bridge this gap. For example, our application Zoho Lens uses AR technology to allow field service technicians to provide interactive remote assistance to solve customers’ problems in real time. Many organizations have been affected by the added components of a remote/hybrid workforce, and businesses are no longer able to send field workers to locations. By aiding their business with technology that works across all workplace models and cushions the blows of labor shortages, SMBs can continue to survive unprecedented times.
3. De-siloing Data and Departments
SMBs have had to operate leaner than ever whether that be the result of cutting staff due to financial reasons, staffing shortages, etc. As many small business owners now find themselves doing the job of sales, marketing, finance, and support with limited resources, it’s important to keep technology systems integrated and unified. Using cloud-based software that integrates both back-office and front-office operations will save businesses time, money, and cut down busy work and human error.
For example, if a business uses an invoicing application that interacts with their CRM, when a sale is won the CRM should automatically trigger an invoice to eliminate the time of having to enter data from the CRM into an invoicing solution and diminish copying and pasting. The benefits of unified cloud-based tools are more critical than ever with SMB’s need to reduce time, energy, and money spent.
4. Seeking Out Automation Opportunities
No matter where a business stands, there is always room to increase efficiency. Taking a step back and looking at overall business operations to find process gaps will add to overall business production. Automation through artificial intelligence can be an effective solution for businesses that need to save time.
For some businesses it may be an automated workflow that triggers a specific action when a potential client fills out an online form, or it could be automating analytics so that a business owner has pre-generated reports at their disposal to see how where their sales sit for the month. To cope with labor shortages, artificial intelligence can be utilized as a businesses first line of support through an automated chat bot, or a virtual assistant to answer questions, provide data, and even show meetings on the calendar for the week.
There are countless ways to use automation to create efficiency within a business. But the key is to start small and hone in on the processes that need streamlining the most.
Unpredictability has been a theme of the last year, and unfortunately it will continue to bring new disruptions to the market.
However, this dismal news does not have to be a down fall for SMBs, but rather an opportunity to adapt and prevail to become foolproof for unforeseen obstacles. Pivoting business models, adopting technology to combat labor shortages, and embracing automation will allow businesses to operate more efficiently to survive the present and allow for seamless scalability in the near future.
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