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The Dual Threat of Understaffing and New Employees

With business picking up after the pandemic, and many companies forced to operate with more new employees and/or limited staffing, mistakes are bound to happen and that can be costly.

These mistakes can result in workplace accidents, lagging productivity leading to missed deadlines, or errors that result in returns or, in the worst-case scenario, lawsuits by angry clients.  

If your business has taken on new employees or if you’re understaffed, you have to get firm control of your operations and properly manage your risk.  

The Risks of New Employees

Workplace injuries can increase when you have new staff with less experience on the floor. In the past, when employers increased their workforce to meet the growing demand for their products and services, the number of workers’ compensation claims tended to rise disproportionately. New employees with less experience typically are more likely to sustain a workplace injury or injure other workers. 

The best advice is to double down on workplace safety if you have new staff, particularly if you operate a busy workplace.  

Inexperienced employees can also make mistakes, which can cause problems with customers. If the mistakes are large enough, like a large print mailer that went out with the wrong phone number, you could be sued by your client.  

Again, training is key to reducing the chance of mistakes. You should have safeguards in place, like supervisors double-checking products before they are delivered to clients. 

Inexperienced employees are also more likely to contribute to incidents where third parties are hurt, such as new drivers. Moreover, new hires may still be going through their training or may not be properly supervised when they work. 

The Risk of Being Short-Staffed

Because of the labor shortage, many employers have been forced to operate with fewer employees than they actually need, squeezing more work out of existing staff. But tired workers make mistakes. 

If you can’t find enough employees to fill open positions and are forced to work short of optimum staffing levels, you can face a number of risks: 

  • It can leave existing employees spread thin and stressed out 
  • Lower production, service delays, or missed deadlines 
  • Overworked staff are less likely to be high producers 
  • If your workers become disgruntled because of being overworked, they may find fault with your leadership practices, opening you up to possible employment liability claims 
  • In order to get the work done, some employees may cut corners, which can result in workplace accidents or shoddy final products 
  • Overworked staff cause more workplace accidents. Some of the worst industrial disasters have been the result in part of tired workers; Bhopal, Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez oil spill all involved decisions made late at night or extremely early in the morning by people working long hours 
  • If you miss deadlines or your quality slips due to staffing issues, you’re more likely to be sued by your clients 

The Takeaway

The dual threat of new employees and being short-staffed creates a number of risks for companies to manage. Management and supervisors need to be especially vigilant during these times to ensure that your existing staff are not overworked and that new workers are trained properly in their jobs, as well as in the dangers in your particular workplace. 

If possible, pair up new workers with experienced ones who can show them the ropes and proper work techniques, and how to avoid workplace accidents. Safety training is also key and safe work practices need to be reinforced regularly.  

Check out VMA’s Executive Toolbox – a free tool perfect for small business owners in the printing and manufacturing industries filled with strategies and tools for workplace safety. For more question and more resources to help your small business, contact Shannon Wolford, VMA’s Membership Director at shannon@visualmediaalliance.org or 415-710-0568. 


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