Anticipating Staffing Shortages: Do You Have a Plan In Place?

Contingent worker

When a crisis event happens, such as a labor strike - or an unanticipated pandemic - your organization may face a sudden worker shortage. As a leader, you can ensure that your business will remain productive, even when your staff is no longer in place by taking the time to put together a Contingency Staffing Plan. On this episode of ProjectHR, Michele Vincent from MADI shares with us:

  • The kinds of temporary work disruptions that should be covered by contingency plans;
  • The benefits of building a corporate contingency staffing plan;
  • The four critical steps involved in building a plan; and
  • The difference between a regular staffing agency and one focusing on the contingent worker!

Michele Vincent

Contingency Staffing

“What should be included in a comprehensive contingency plan really is going to depend upon the industry, the business type, and even the geographical location of the business.“


If you prefer to read along while you listen, we've done all the hard work for you! We listened back to this episode and took notes below, and access is free!


In the Wake of COVID-19: The Time For Planning Is Now

  • We are living in unprecedented times, most companies were not prepared for the current situation, and this will change much for companies moving forward.
  • Hopefully, we can take what we’ve learned from this experience and be better prepared in the future. 


Get all the notes, links, tips, tricks and most important content from this episode - for free!

By signing up you agree to our terms

What Kinds of Disruptions Do Contingency Plans Cover?

  • Any potential risks that could disrupt business operations should be covered:
  • Man-made disasters;
  • Natural disasters;
  • Cyber attacks;
  • Political change and unrest;
  • Labor disputes
  • “What should be included in a comprehensive contingency plan really is going to depend upon the industry, the business type, and even the geographical location of the business.“ 

The Primary Staffing Disruptions Companies Should Be Planning For Now

  • Labor disputes:
  • The biggest & most obvious staffing disruption that companies typically prepare for;
  • Only applies to unionized companies;
  • Those contingency plans are prepared for in advance of a contract expiration date;
  • They can be very basic or very comprehensive, depending on the industry and the size of the bargaining unit;
  • This staffing disruption has a set date as to when it might potentially begin, so can be well-planned-out in advance.  
  • For these reasons, it’s more of a “standard process” for a company.
  • Walkouts or sickouts: 
  • Situations where companies are experiencing walk-outs and sick-outs because employees don’t feel safe at work;
  • Current situation during COVID-19 has been a coordinated effort between union and non-union employees;
  • A lot of uncertainty because it’s unclear how many employees will be participating;
  • Helps to have solid plans and protocols in place to restore confidence in safety when workers return.
  • COVID-19-related absenteeism: 
  • Right now, companies are experiencing workers getting sick, and workers who are afraid to come to work because they don’t want to get sick;
  • Example: meat processing plants today, with some sites having attendance of only 50%.
  • Example: utility companies housing critical operators on site, in RVs and trailers.
  • Essential businesses need to prepare for this, especially for critical roles within your organization.   

Worker Shortages In Skilled Trades

  • 2018 Deloitte and The Manufacturing Institute’s study, titled “The Skills Gap and the Future of Work”:
  • The skills gap may leave an estimated 2.4 million positions unfilled between 2018 and 2028;
  • 2.69 million jobs will open up from retirements during this time.
  • Companies should be aware of this reality, take charge for themselves and plan accordingly.
  • Younger generations are being pushed more towards college education and away from manufacturing/skilled trades.
  • We have to find a way as a country to show that there can be amazing jobs within the manufacturing sector.
  • ArcelorMittal, a multi-national steel manufacturing corporation started a program called “The Steel Worker for the Future”, focused on career opportunities for electrical and mechanical technician positions. It’s offered in partnership with local colleges, which provide students with an Associate’s degree in applied sciences. They also provide high school students with tours of facilities and VR simulators to learn about different aspects of the plant.

The Benefits of Building a Corporate Contingency Staffing Plan

  • It brings peace of mind; 
  • It has the potential to save lives, and enhance safety;
  • It helps to mitigate business risks and associated financial exposures;
  • It can significantly reduce the cost of disruptions;
  • It can build confidence among customers and employees;
  • For certain businesses, it’s required to ensure regulatory compliance;
  • Provides valuable business data;
  • Provides a  competitive advantage!

How To Build A Contingency Staffing Plan

  • Business Impact Analysis : Get really clear about the impact or potential impact that a staffing shortage would bring to your company -- not just in output, but in time, cost, the impact on employees and management. Impacts may include:
  • Losses of income;
  • Delayed sales or income;
  • Contractual penalties;
  • Customer dissatisfaction;
  • Customer loss;
  • Delay of new business plans. 
  • Build recovery strategy: Think about different solutions you can implement to solve staffing problems, and then think a little outside of the box for new ways to solve problems. Strategies that companies might consider include:
  • More staffing agencies and ramping up internal hiring: a company’s first instinctive first choice. Con: Some areas of the country have a limited pool of personnel when it comes to certain kinds of workers, so all the agencies are pulling from the same narrow candidates;
  • Moving employees between locations/work sites: If you’re looking at a  short term staffing problem, this might be a solution -- but this is not sustainable for longer term situations.
  • Contingency staffing: A type of rapid staffing that pulls workers from all areas of the country and brings them into wherever the crisis staffing situation is. Used very well for staffing shortages, as well as during the pandemic.
  • Develop your plan: Pull together a group of people who will be responsible for the plan, and for implementing when and if it comes into play. Know what the skillsets are that you might need to keep the business running, how many people per job category are required, what the onboarding strategy might be, and how long you might need this type of support.
  • This process typically involves HR & Talent Acquisition and Operations (Plant Managers and VPs of Manufacturing or Warehousing). Sometimes Environmental Health & Safety will get involved, in smaller companies, executive leadership (CEO/CFO/COO) will be involved, as well as the legal department. 
  • Rule of thumb: include all critical stakeholders that will be involved in the day-to-day operations and certainly anyone that will be involved in managing or working with the temporary workers coming in.
  • Test your plan: Testing and exercises are the critical next phase of the project, but depending on the staffing disruption, there may not be time for this step. 
  • For companies that are preparing in advance: Test it out by bringing in a small groups of temps at first.
  • For companies that need to solve an issue immediately: Bring in small groups of temps at first and ramp up, as needed.
  • For labor disputes: This can be done with testing in advance, and depending on the industry it may be a required step. Companies may need to begin training temps ahead of time so they’ll be ready for an immediate transition if employees walk out. For discretion, it may help to test and train tempt employees at a different company location than the one they are intended to work in.
  • Contingency staffing plans should be reviewed every 3-5 years, or whenever your collective bargaining agreement comes up for renegotiation.

MADI: Business Continuity Staffing & Security

  • For 28 years, MADI has been helping companies develop strike contingency plans, they’ve been providing strike replacement workers and labor dispute security to ensure that companies remain operational and protected during a labor dispute.
  • They also offer contingency staffing and security unrelated to labor disputes -- so for any type of critical or crisis staffing need, similar to strikes, we move experienced workforces around the country so that a company can have a workforce that can acclimate very quickly and provide the operational stability needed to get back to normal business operations.
  • On the security side, MADI deploys teams of security officers to provide protection for all sorts of situations, including civil unrest, natural disasters, and corporate events.

Staffing Agency vs. Contingency Staffing Provider

  • The biggest difference between a regular staffing agency and a Contingency Staffing Provider is the size of the labor pool. Contingency Staffing Providers take employees from the entire country, not a particular town or region. 
  • Contingency Staffing Providers can quickly mobilize large workforces anywhere in the country.
  • Contingency Staffing Providers also bring the project management component.


Michele Vincent: Backstory

  • B.A. in Political Science from University of Massachusetts, Boston
  • B.A.. in Political Science (major) and Psychology (minor) from University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Began her career as Operations Manager/Paralegal for LegalTrieve Information Services
  • Ms. Vincent has been with MADI for the past 12+ years, and currently serves as their Senior Director of Marketing and Sales.


Subscribe & Review The ProjectHR Podcast!

Thanks for tuning into this week’s episode of ProjectHR. If the information in our weekly conversations and interviews have helped you in your business journey, please head over to wherever you get your podcasts and subscribe to the show. We'd also love it if you left us a five-star review! Your reviews and feedback will not only help us continue to deliver great, helpful content, but it will also help us reach even more amazing professionals just like you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email