Facing Long-Term Staff Shortages? The Problem is Your Business Model!


If your business is struggling to find skilled, experienced, reliable and committed staff for the long term, you’re not alone.


But what if the only solution is to change your now outdated business model?


Over the past 12 months, Australia has experienced a significant staff shortage across various industries. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly exacerbated this shortage, particularly in essential industries such as healthcare and aged care.

Furthermore, this period experienced a significant drop in workplace productivity which has yet to be regained.

Border closures and restrictions on international travel have also impacted industries such as hospitality, agriculture, mining and construction, which rely heavily on overseas workers. 

Additionally, the shift towards remote work has created a demand for skilled workers in fields such as IT and digital marketing. 

As a result, many businesses have struggled to find and retain staff, leading to increased competition for talent and higher wages in some sectors.

So as a business owner, the question for you is simple, “what are you going to do about it now?”. 

Your action is critical for your long-term success. But it can be demoralising when everything you try fails to address the problem.

But what is the problem? Staff shortages?

Perhaps not. Because the evidence suggests that these shortages will not resolve themselves in the short term. 

Here’s an alternate perspective on the problem that business owners will find challenging to accept. 

The problem is your outdated business model, designed assuming a predictable and reliable source of labour.

This assumption is now false, so you have two choices.

  • Continue to run your business based on historical assumptions about the old labour market and continue to suffer from staff shortages, or
  • Re-design your business model to enable it to operate profitably in the new labour market and evolve with the times.

It may be that over the coming few years, some historical normality may return to the labour market. But most small businesses don’t have a few years to find out.

Here are ten ideas that won’t apply to every business in every industry but may, when considered openly, spark the change that could enable your business to evolve and prosper during these challenging times. 

Warning: Change is challenging when the business is running. Craig Stephens

Reduce the Amount of Work – Waste

  1. Review your customer experience from the customer’s perspective.

Are there aspects of your service that customers no longer care about? You can reduce the amount of work by only delivering what customers truly value. Stop doing what customers don’t want – that’s waste. Or perhaps simplify it or automate it to reduce the labour effort.

  1. Review your internal processes to simplify your business operations.

When was the last time you assessed the efficiency and effectiveness of your own internal processes? Are staff wasting time on redundant activities? Before investing in hiring and managing staff, make sure you know what your business needs to do. Again, the risk is you could be finding staff solutions for non-value add activities.

  1. Consider outsourcing some of your business functions to third-party providers.

When you are sure about the critical processes and procedures to run the business, assess what could be cost-effectively outsourced to other providers. When done effectively, this will free up your staff to focus on those processes that require a human touch.

Increase the Availability of Labour – Supply

  1. Offer incentives to existing employees to refer new candidates to your business.

Who better to run your recruitment campaign than your own staff – assuming they enjoy working at your business? Your staff can be your best advocates, so incentivise them to promote opportunities to work with their networks of friends and family. 

  1. Partner with local technical colleges or universities to offer internships or apprenticeships.

Could you offer roles in your business to take on future workers? You’ll build great networks, a positive brand and potentially your next intake of critical staff. Remember that this may require an investment to enhance you own internal onboarding and training processes.

  1. Consider hiring temporary or freelance workers to fill short-term staffing needs.

If you have irregular demand, consider using temporary workers. While there is a short-term premium for the cost of temporary workers, as long as the work is priced accordingly, the business will remain profitable and continue to meet customer demand.

Increase the range of skills of existing staff – Flexibility

  1. Provide training and development opportunities to existing employees to help them grow into new roles.

Rather than hire new starters to fill more senior roles, look internally at existing staff who, with the proper training and support, are motivated to step up and grow into new roles. 

  1. Cross-train existing employees to take on additional responsibilities.

If you reduce the amount of work by addressing waste in the business, you may have opportunities for existing employees to take on additional valuable responsibilities. These may be aligned with your people’s work aspirations. 

Attract and retain the best talent – Quality

  1. Offer competitive pay and benefits packages to attract and retain top talent.

This has become a bit of a cliché and needs to be carefully handled because not everyone has the same motivators for work. However, you need to understand what you can offer that is attractive for retaining your best people. It is usually cheaper than the cost and effort of hiring a new starter.

  1. Regularly engage your staff to understand their motivation and aspirations.

This is the most important of all the ideas.

Imagine the reason why your people stay is you, the business owner.

That’s your greatest opportunity because you entirely control it.

If you regularly meet and engage with your staff and get to know, like and trust them personally and professionally, you will build loyalty that will serve your business well.


This is a very challenging period in Australia for small businesses. 

The most significant risk that staff shortages pose for business owners is that they attempt to wait it out.

By failing to assess the existing business model and re-designing it reduce the impact of a inherently challenging labour market, business owners may suffer the impact of staff shortages for longer than their business can handle.


Craig Stephens from Your Profit Growth supports business owners in implementing strategies to grow, optimise and protect their businesses.  

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