On Jan. 24, our chamber is holding “Let’s Chat About Workforce Successes and Solutions” in Brunswick with the Maine Tourism Association. Actually, this is part of a five-part series MTA is doing around the state, and since our chamber has been working with the MTA on several different workforce programs over the past six months, they asked if we wanted to co-host the one session in our region, and we were thrilled to accept.

Before I dive into that, though, I wanted to follow up on an idea that I laid out at the end of last week’s column on businesses adapting to the current workforce landscape and goal setting. I had presented a question at the end of the column wondering if this year perhaps a better goal than beating last year’s sales numbers would be to set the goal of 90% of last year’s successes — and I wanted to expand on that.

First off, the context for that suggestion is very important in that I surmised that there are many businesses that are understaffed and perhaps are open six days a week but only have staff for four-and-a-half days per week. Yet some businesses are trying to stretch their staff — or themselves, in lieu of stretching their staffs — to cover the six days, which is an unsustainable model. We can fool ourselves and say, “Well, when we hire more people …,” but in my estimation, not even half of the businesses that think they will get to the full employment this year actually will. The rest will continue to overwork themselves and their staffs. Of course, if you’re currently fully staffed, then this doesn’t really apply to you.

For the rest of us who are understaffed, a 90% reset is the idea of, “What if our goal wasn’t to increase over last year, but do 90% of what we did last year, which is a more realistic goal for our current staffing?” Obviously, this doesn’t work for all organizations. If your organization is grant-funded and you need to produce a certain amount to keep your funding, obviously you can’t move that down to 90%. If you’re part of a national chain, then the decision to produce 90% of last year’s revenue isn’t your call.

However, there are business leaders who can make this choice. As I stated in last week’s column: “What if we said, let’s do 90% of the revenue we did last year? To compensate, we will be open a half-day or a full day less, which cuts our payroll expenses a bit, but it also will give our employees more three-day weekends. Is that trade-off worth it? Will the quality of the work produced be better and the work culture be healthier? Will this extend employee retention? Maybe yes or maybe no. But it’s a question we should all be asking.”

Now to clarify, this isn’t a year-over-year solution, but a one-year suggestion — you’re resetting the floor to something more realistic. Also, don’t think of 90% as a steadfast number and rather operate on whatever reduced number works for you. That may be 95% of last year’s revenue or 80% of last year — I don’t know your financials. But the heart of the suggestion is rather than goal setting for what could be made if you become fully staffed, reset the goal to what you can accomplish with the current staff if there were no additions and if you didn’t ask any of them to do the jobs of more than one person (this goes for you, too). Again, this may mean closing for a half-day extra or taking on one less client or project. But in that lost revenue is also the loss of the expenses that extra half-day or project incur, so it may offset a little bit.

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Is it a great solution every year? Absolutely not. But if it gets you on a more attainable course and it keeps you and your staff from pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion, then in the long run, a one-year reset might be worth it. Then next year, you are building an increase over 90%, rather than the 100%-plus year over year that you had to obsessively push to get to.

This is just one solution we can discuss on Jan. 24 at the “Let’s Chat About Workforce Successes and Solutions” discussion from 10-11 a.m. in the MTI Classroom, at 8 Venture Ave., in Brunswick (MTI stands for Maine Technology Institute for those using GPS). This event will be two things: first, a discussion where we hear from you about your successes and challenge; the second part is larger and will be the MTA and our chamber giving you updates on the multiple projects and programs we’re launching in the first quarter of this year and how you can be a part of them.

Beyond that, we want your good ideas, too. If you have a best practice, be it something as small as a new question on your applications, which has been effective, or a new job posting site that you’ve seen better returns on than others, then let us know. Maybe your business has experience with Open Book Management or uses billing software that streamlines some workflows so your employees can have more productive hours — whatever it is, let’s talk about it.

Two things to keep in mind: First, Katherine (from MTA) and I are both willing to stay past 11 a.m. to discuss this with whomever wants, but we didn’t want people to have to commit more time than they could. Secondly, please show up in person. We may stream this session or record it, but there is a cohesion that comes from group discussions like these, including valuable follow-ups in the parking lot, that you should really be in person for.

To register for the Jan. 24 workforce event, log onto the BBRC website at midcoastmaine.com or email me at [email protected]

Cory King is executive director of the Bath-Brunswick Regional Chamber of Commerce.

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