Tips for Managing a Part Time Workforce

Part Time WorkIn 2011 there were 8.5 million workers across the United States who said they were working in part time positions (34 hours or less per week) due to economic conditions.

This growing part time workforce brings new challenges to management, different dynamics to our business cultures, and changes how employees manage their personal and professional lives.

Many economists predict that the workforce paradigm has shifted and this flexible contingent workforce will become a permanent fixture that we must become comfortable with using.

The makeup of the part-time workforce is changing:

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines those 8.5 million people as involuntary part time workers, as they are unable to find a full time job, or their employer has cut their hours.  Indeed, it’s very likely that you may have employees like this in your business.

Traditionally, part time work has been primarily favored by students and women, most often in the service and retail industries.  Many times, the part time workers were paid substantially less than their full time counterparts.

In today’s workplace, employers are cutting hours and part time positions can include managers, professionals, and administrative personnel, as well as support positions.

Tips for managing part time employees:

Part time employees are just as valuable to a business as their full time counterparts.  It is just as expensive to recruit and train them, making it just as important to motivate and retain them.

Here are some tips that can help you create a positive and productive work environment for part time employees:

  • Treat them as valued employees:  They are not second class citizens.  Remember to include them in special events such as employee meetings and celebrations.
  • Give them adequate workspace and resources:  Don’t relegate them to the dingy corner, with the old slow computer.  They need to be just as productive during their work hours as anyone else, and feel like they are a part of the team.
  • Pay them a wage comparable to your full time employees:  You should pay your part time workers a comparable prorated wage to a full time worker, in order to avoid any claims of discrimination.  However, most small companies offer few if any benefits to part time workers, and the benefits they do offer are usually a slimmed down version of their normal benefits package, thus providing an additional savings to the company.
  • Go out of your way to communicate with your part-timers:  They miss out on casual conversations when they are not there, so they may not have background information to understand decisions that are made.  Have a system in place that gathers necessary information they miss out on, so they stay in the loop.  Conversely, make sure they communicate information with you before they leave, in order to lower frustrations in their absence.  Lastly, remember that your part time workers deserve the same amount of socialization time as everyone else.  Don’t forget to ask them how their weekend was, how the kids are doing, and what their plans are for their vacation.
  • Offer your part time workers opportunities for advancement as they arise: Be clear with them on their interests in full time work and where they’d like to take their career.  Even though they don’t have equal face time, they probably still want equal access to career advancement opportunities.
  • Recognize that your part time workers have some additional stress in their lives:  They may not always feel as included as others do.  They may very well have added financial burdens due to a lowered income.  They could possibly be working multiple jobs in order to get by.  It may be more difficult to feel on top of their job when they come in, not knowing what has transpired since the last time they were there.  By recognizing the pressures that the part-time position brings, you can mitigate their stress and help them find ways to adjust to it.
  • Communicate and agree on schedule expectations in advance:  If you decide to have an employee work Monday through Wednesday, but you might occasionally need them on Friday, tell them that in advance and come to an understanding of how that will work for both of you.  Your employee may need to take a second job to make up the extra income, making them unavailable to you.  Or they may not be able to have daycare on call at the last minute.
  • Get complete contact information, including cell phone numbers, if you need to get information about project status and other information when the employee is not onsite.  Understand that you will get better cooperation from your part time employee if you cooperate with their needs as well, as they work to accommodate a lowered income level.

Moonlighting and Daylighting:

Many involuntary part time workers have turned to a second job to supplement their reduced income.  Once referred to as moonlighting, it’s now called daylighting, as they cobble together 2 or 3 jobs into a full time position.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that almost 7 million workers now hold down more than one job, and in a 2009 survey by the Opinion Research Corporation it found that 13% of U.S. employees surveyed had taken on a second job as a result of economic conditions.  This brings another set of issues to employers.

How to create an employee moonlighting policy for your company:

Many years ago, it was common for employers to restrict employees’ ability to moonlight, under the theory that employers had the right to demand ultimate loyalty from their employees.  But loyalty has been redefined in today’s workplace.

Employers may still want to have a policy about moonlighting, or daylighting, but must recognize the limits of their rights and also their employees’ needs to make a living.

  • Your policy might deal with your company’s right to protect confidentiality, prevent conflict of interest, and deal with employee performance.
  • Your moonlighting and/or daylighting policy might state that an employee could hold an outside job as long as it did not interfere with the employee’s ability to perform their job duties and is not a conflict of interest.
  • Your employee confidentiality agreement will protect your company’s proprietary information and trade secrets.
  • A non-compete agreement, if applicable to the type of work the employee is doing, will further protect your organization’s interests.

You may also want to have a policy that states that an employee cannot perform work for another company or interest during their scheduled work hours.  This prevents the employee who is daylighting as a realtor from setting appointments during your workday, or the cosmetics sales person from having their customers pick up products at your business place, or from pitching products to coworkers onsite.

Another concern with moonlighting is the employee who takes a second job that affects the employer’s reputation.  For example, the church secretary who moonlights as a waitress in a topless bar.  For this reason, many employers have a provision in their moonlighting policy that employees must have their second job approved in advance by the company in order to ensure that it isn’t a conflict.

The part time and contingent workforce is here to stay:

Most economists predict that the part time and contingent workforce is here to stay.

The new health care laws going into effect in January 2014 affect companies with 50 or more full time equivalent employees.  Full time is defined as 30 hours per week.  There is much speculation that businesses will hold the line on employees’ hours in an attempt to stay below the threshold that pushes them over the 50 FTE brink.

Companies with health insurance plans will have to offer the coverage to the Act’s (not the employer’s) definition of full time employees, another incentive for businesses to hold the line on employees’ hours.

We can’t deny, however, the effects that part time jobs have on individuals who require full time pay in order to meet their financial obligations.  A recent survey of economists, think tanks and academics, by the Associated Press, revealed that the official poverty rate will rise from 15.1% in 2010 to as high as 15.7%, possibly the highest since 1965 and the start of the war on poverty.  They cite part time work and underemployment of workers as a key contributing factor.

Our companies have to be flexible, fluid and smart about utilizing our resources, while trimming our expenses.  This new economic climate has brought us a changed workforce demographic along with different demands on our employee relations capabilities.  Our management styles and policies have to change as well if we, and our employees, are to be successful.

Originally published in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal.

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