Staffing Shortages and What It Means

791

On Saturday, the Association sent an email announcing that due to staffing shortages, there would be no main clubhouse restaurant service on Tuesday June 28. It is likely that we will see further closures on Tuesdays until the staffing situation improves (stay tuned).

Restaurant staffing is a nationwide problem, with almost 80% of recently surveyed restaurants reporting staffing shortages.

When restaurants were forced to layoff staffs during COVID, many employees found jobs in more stable industries and aren’t coming back even as restaurant demand is skyrocketing. Restaurant staff are one of the few jobs whose wage increases have outpaced inflation during the last year, but it still isn’t enough.

Harbinger Of More Disruptions

Our restaurant staffing shortages are the tip of the iceberg.

COVID introduced us to supply chain disruptions, and the hope was that by now those would have eased. But it is actually getting worse, not better. The Ukraine war is a bigger disruption than you might think. For example it affected Chinese exports to Europe (rail through Russia), and even semiconductor chips (Ukraine is, or was, the world’s biggest processor of the gas Neon, which is used by semiconductor manufacturing). Without Chinese inputs into European manufacturing, we can’t get specialized equipment, and without semiconductor chips, we can’t make pretty much anything.

China itself is going through severe upheavals putatively due to COVID. Regardless of the reason, their draconian lockdowns are throwing the “manufacturing source for the world” into serious disarray.

Finally, the “Great Resignation” we saw during COVID isn’t abating. Workers are becoming scarce at every rung in the hierarchy. While a possible minor recession may help worker shortages in the short term, I fear we are entering a period which is already being dubbed  the “Great Retirement” where by far our biggest population bulge, the baby boomers, retire. This will cause a persistent worker shortage for many years to come.

Doom and Gloom or Opportunity?

These challenges can be handled. But you have to be fast and nimble, requiring quick decision making. Can the Association do this? There is no reason why it can’t.

Indeed we have a recent example that resulted in a universally praised project, the golf course remodel.

When the golf club started their major renovation project, the scope of work was to replace the irrigation system and do some bunker maintenance. But when the golf board realized in 2020, in the depths of COVID, that turf grass was selling at a 30% discount, they decided to increase the scope of work dramatically and replace all the fairways. It was a once in a generation opportunity, and thank goodness they seized it since that one decision has set the golf course on a very sustainable footing going forward.

On the flip side, the tennis club recently cannot buy furniture they want because bureaucratic delays made them miss a buying opportunity. The furniture is now out of stock (perhaps indefinitely) and much management time has been wasted. A similar thing happened when the Association tried to buy a vehicle last year. Extra steps caused the vehicle purchase to cost several thousands of dollars more.

Best Practices?

In large organizations, you frequently hear the phrase “best practices”, which in this context would mean requiring three bids on every purchase, multiple committee approvals and constant re-evaluation of long term contracts. And in normal times, that makes sense, but we aren’t in normal times!

Management flexibility is what is now required. This isn’t something that our staff can do by themselves. The Association Board will have to agree. I don’t know what the new Board starting July 1st will allow, but I hope it can give staff the flexibility it needs to properly run our Association during challenging conditions.