Our website uses cookies that help us and third-party partners remember you and improve your experience browsing our site. You agree to the use of all cookies or you can change your settings.

Cookie settings

We use cookies on this website to enhance your browsing experience. Necessary cookies are essential for basic website functionalities and are stored on your browser. We also use third-party cookies to analyse and improve website usage. You can opt-out of these cookies, but it may affect your browsing experience.

Women reading eBook - Inefficiency, errors and absenteeism

Why employee engagement needs your attention

Our latest eBook looks at the state of engagement, and ways to increase it

Download eBook

What is Understaffing and How it can Damage Your Organisation

22 January 2020 6 min read


How can you possibly run an understaffed organisation? The answer, you can’t! Well, at least you can’t without running into some huge issues. Not having the right staffing levels causes issues both internally and externally.

You may think that having slightly fewer staff than necessary isn’t too bad. After all, you will save money on employee salaries and those that are left can just work a bit harder. But understaffing will cost you more money than it will save you.

From employees becoming stressed, work quality decreasing and an abundance of unhappy customers, very quickly you will find that your staffing issues are negatively impacting your business.

OK, so to solve this you decide to hire more people and ensure you have the right amount of staff. No overworked employees, no unhappy customers, therefore no need to worry about being short-staffed . . . not quite. Understaffing isn’t just about having the right number of employees in your business.

What is understaffing?

Understaffing means the employment of too few members of staff. However, there are two forms of understaffing. These are:

Not having enough staff in your business: This is probably the one you thought of first. Simply put, this is where you don’t have enough staff to cover all the work required to run your business smoothly.

Not having enough staff at any one given time: This second form of understaffing is when there are multiple people off all at the same time. This can come from employees being off sick, on holiday, out at a conference, or maybe just working from home.

This second form of understaffing is the one that goes under the radar. Until you have lots of staff off at once, you will probably never realize you had an issue.

under staffing

5 ways understaffing can damage your business

1. Loss of sales and customers

Understaffing can cause one of the biggest issues for any business. Loss of revenue. That’s right, with not enough staff to pick up the phone or interact with new customers, then how can you possibly give them enough care and attention they need to help them buy from you.

But hang on, why not just move all your sales staff to new business, that way new business won’t be understaffed, meaning you will always get new customers over the line. Problem solved. Sadly not.

Yes, you may be raking in the new customers, but as soon as you get them on board, with no care and attention given to them after purchase, they will quickly leave for one of your competitors. Remember it costs 5 times more to win a new customer than it does to keep one.

Even splitting up your sales team to cover both new business and existing customers won’t work. You will still lose out on new sales and still find customers leaving you.

2. Brand damage

Now you may be thinking, “How does understaffing affect my brand, customers don’t see how many employees we have?”. You are 100% right, they don’t see how many employees you have. They do feel it though.

Brand damage can come from poor customer service, which can derive from the smallest of factors. For example, customers waiting on the phone for an extended period, not being able to find someone in the store to help them or no one to assist them in live chat when on your website.

These issues cause customers to become frustrated and leave a negative review. It can take years for a business to grow a good reputation and only a few months for all that hard work to be destroyed.

3. A decrease in work quality

With more projects to manage and less time to work on each project, the quality of work will inevitably decrease. With more customers to handle, the sales team will have less time to understand individual customer requirements, the marketing department won’t have time to thoroughly check their work, as well as all other departments, rushing around to finish their projects. All with less care and more mistakes in.

It may not even be the case of the extra workload causing the poor quality of work. Employees may just find the workload so much, they don’t care about the outcome. They simply have just too so much work to do that they have lost all motivation to do a good job.

4. Stressed employees

Piling on the workload will not only decrease the quality of work, but it also puts an extreme amount of pressure on employees. Many may become overwhelmed with this extra work, struggling to get it all finished on time and due to this become stressed. Stress can lead to numerous mental health issues, which may force employees to take numerous days off to recover.

Whilst these employees are off you will be left with even fewer staff to cover your business, meaning even more work for the few employees left, causing them to become stressed and them taking more time off. A cycle that can be extremely hard to get out of.

5. High staff turnover rate

Why would anyone want to work for a business where they are being overworked and causing them to become stressed, as well as customers constantly complaining and leaving bad reviews, well the simple answer, they wouldn’t. You will very quickly find employees leaving for businesses that do care about their people and have enough staff to cover the workload.

All this requires you to hire more staff, which costs even more money in recruiting, interviews and training costs. This is after the fact it can be extremely hard to hire anyone due to the high turnover rate causing your business to have a reputation as a bad employer.

How can you prevent understaffing issues?

The first way to stop being short-staffed is to hire more employees. A problem that can be easily solved, one we can’t help you with. The other, however, we can.

Ensuring you have the right staffing levels is where we can help. Our leave tracking software allows you to set minimum staffing levels for your business, meaning employees can’t take a day off if it means going below this level.

Click here to book a free, personalised demo of edays

Katrina Bennett People Director at edays
January 22, 2020

Katrina is edays' own People Director with significant UK and international experience in delivering people strategy and value-adding HR solutions across a range of organisations and sectors (including Arriva, Boots, Rolls Royce, the utility and charity sectors). Katrina has over 20 years of experience in Human Resources and is CIPD qualified.