Lack of qualified staff is not the risk

Lack of qualified staff (or iterations thereof) would have to be one of the risks that I see most often in risk registers.  I have even had robust discussions with Executives who insist that an inability to attract and retain staff is one of their biggest risks. 

No, it isn’t.

My questions are always the same:

  • Which staff?
  • Which skills?
  • So what does it mean if you don’t have the staff? 

I have even seen the risk worded as: an inability to recruit and retain staff leads to poor organisational performance. So we have a cause and a consequence – but no risk!!!

My view on this was highlighted in June when it was reported by the ABC that: Two years of investigations into preschools and early childhood centres in Canberra have linked widespread understaffing to serious safety incidents, including one where a child wandered away from the centre and ran across a road unnoticed.

The incidents they detailed in the story included:

  • Child leaving the centre unaccompanied;
  • Child/children consuming potentially dangerous substances; and
  • Disoriented man entering childcare centre

There were also puncture wounds and other injuries attributed to the lack of staff.

In my eBook: Revolution de Risque, I detailed a number of risks that are standard across a range of industries – one of them was for childcare centres (the ones I have placed an Asterix next to all have the cause: lack of effective supervision):

Childcare Centre Common Risks  
Child kidnapped from childcare centre *
Child leaves the childcare centre unaccompanied *
Child released into custody of person not on the authorised list *
Inappropriate behaviour towards a child by a member of staff *
Heavy item falls on a child from height (e.g. bookcase, television, tree branch etc.) *
Child falls from heights *
Fire in the childcare centre during opening hours *
Structural failure of outdoor playground equipment  
Child left in childcare centre after closing *
Child ingest substance to which they are allergic *
Inappropriate response to a medical emergency by staff *
Child ingests poisonous substance (including medication) *
Child exposed to dangerous foreign objects (e.g. broken glass/syringes etc.) in playground *

If this is a cause for all of these risks, then it’s not about the qualifications, it’s about ensuring there are sufficient ratios of staff to children to considerably reduce the likelihood that this risk will occur.

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