Originally published on Forbes.com by Forbes Agency Council on February 12, 2019.
These days, the economy is becoming ever more competitive. As such, the competition within the industry may make it difficult for an agency to stay fully staffed in all departments. When understaffed, making operations more efficient becomes key to keeping everything running smoothly and on deadline.
Which methods of improving efficiency are more effective than others, and which strategies can keep things running even if teams are understaffed? Below, 14 members of Forbes Agency Council share their top tips for improving efficiency when staffing is tight.
1. Get More Selective And Raise Prices
It’s a great thing to be able to afford to be more selective about which clients and projects you take on, whether that’s because you are in demand, understaffed or a little of both. If you still have more quality work coming in than you can support, you should raise your fees. Only after you’ve gotten more selective and increased pricing should you look at staffing up. – Ryan Short, MODassic Marketing
2. Use Standardized Processes
When we are down a team member, whether planned or unexpected, we find it is much easier to cover the work if everyone is following the same processes in documentation and execution. Having a defined process that everyone follows for call notes, status updates and task assignments allows anyone to step into a project and know quickly what needs to be done. This saves time and frustration. – Korena Keys, KeyMedia Solutions
3. Centralize Communication
Every single team should communicate clearly and in the same manner. Using a collaboration software with well-defined communications, file-sharing, naming and version-saving conventions is key. If one team member is out, or if someone from another team needs to step in to share the load, it must be easy to quickly get up to speed. – Jacquelyn LaMar, VI Marketing and Branding
4. Create A Culture Of Collaboration
Set your culture up to be collaborative. The more collaboration you can have the more likely staff will go above and beyond. Do this, and celebrate wins. We have found when we celebrate together and reward this type of behavior, key staff members will step up when we’re understaffed. – Justin Christianson, Conversion Fanatics
5. Keep Freelance Talent On Hand
I have a group of freelance talent on speed dial in case we need them on a project basis or the team is overloaded on a project. Take the time to interview and meet freelance talents who are open for special projects in case you ever need them. It’s like having a back-up babysitter—they are a lifesaver when you get in a bind! – Meredith Xavier, The Ligné Group
6. Cross-Train And Collaborate
We use cross-training as well as clearly outlined standard operating procedures to allow our staff to work more efficiently and collaboratively throughout the year. When we can support each other and cover for each other during vacations, holidays and high-intensity projects, everyone wins. – Paula Chiocchi, Outward Media, Inc.
7. Align Your Team To Their Strengths
Two years ago, we invested time and resources into discovering, understanding and aligning our operations around our employees’ Clifton StrengthsFinder strengths. That has paid off with incredible efficiency and allowed us to take on more work while achieving record profits. When your people are doing what they’re best at, you may be able to meet client demands without adding new employees. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative
8. Productize Your Business Model Approach
Brands are continuing to move away from Agency of Record relationships. Companies should reevaluate their business models and consider productizing their approach. Creating sellable products tailored to clients’ specific marketing needs will help bring efficiency without losing quality and craft. – Lisa Clunie, Joan
9. Reduce Redundancies
Audit project touch points. Do your projects have five when they need three? As business expands, processes need to be adjusted for efficiency and productivity. Reduction in redundant or overlapping processes can reveal if you are truly understaffed or inefficient. Don’t be afraid to move things (and people) around, make updates and try something new. – Bernard May, National Positions
10. Track Time And Prioritize
As companies grow, so do their daily lists of things to do, but a lean team needs to take an honest look at what really matters and slice out all the extras that don’t bring real functional or company value. Individuals should track how many minutes each day they spend in meetings, on email and working on their key activities, and teams should rebalance individual time toward value-add projects. – Megan Groves, InterimCMO
11. Keep Contractors Engaged And Committed
Even at times when our agency is fully staffed or overstaffed, we always try to feed work to our key contractors, including writers, designers and developers. This maintains our relationship with them during both fat and lean times, so that when we are adding more business than our full-time staff can handle, we still have resources who can step in to manage the workload. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove
12. Implement Marketing Automation
For understaffed marketing teams, marketing automation software can be a lifesaver. We recommend finding a platform that’s easy to implement and easy to use. (Some options out there have more bells and whistles than most companies need.) Add your workflows and campaigns, then set it and forget it and allocate your newfound resources to more strategic tasks that can’t be automated. – Sarah Mannone, Trekk
13. Just Say ‘Yes’
Adopt a “yes we can” mentality. This begins with action. Encourage—if not require—your employees to take risks and think outside the box. Of course, as an entrepreneur, it’s also important to remember that you must lead by example. If you’re a proactive team player, your example will empower your employees to take on new roles and responsibilities. – David Shadpour, Social Native
14. Help Your Team Find Meaning In The Work
When a team is understaffed, it’s easy for communication and vision-casting to get left behind. But studies show Millennials value meaning in their work. Communicate alignment with core values, explain the “why” behind initiatives and requests, and put your people first in word and action. This will help you keep turnover at a minimum and spark the intrinsic motivation key to sustainable productivity. – Dacia Coffey, Blender