NEW YORK — Gone are the days when business owners looked upon part-time workers as dispensable resources of little value to the enterprise. Today’s part-timers have become critical gears in the profit machine, performing many vital duties formerly handled by a trimmed-down permanent staff.
“The whole business world is going in the direction of shorter-term work assignments and the hiring of people for specific projects,” says Barbara Glanz, a management consultant based in Sarasota, Fla.
No secret why: Business owners are feeling the heat from rising labor and benefits costs. Why add more full-time workers, goes the reasoning, when part-timers can do the job just as well? And then there’s the advantage of greater flexibility: Employers can add or subtract part-timers in response to variable—and unpredictable—business activity levels.
BREAK DOWN WALLS
While getting new workers off on the right foot is critical to success, management must also follow through. Make sure the new part-time workers quickly feel like part of the team. Start by erasing the imaginary wall that divides them from the rest of your staff.
“Your organization will be much healthier if you don’t make a distinction between full- and part-time workers,” says Glanz. “Treat all of your employees like valuable team members. Change the mindset from ‘us versus them’ to ‘all of us together.’”
Promoting a sense of team engagement will keep your part-timers from feeling isolated and ineffectual.
“People need a sense of purpose, to feel that they are part of something bigger,” says Glanz.
Maybe being part of a team is essential. But does one individual’s job really make a difference? The answer is yes. And as a manager you need to communicate how each task contributes to the valuable mission of your organization.
“Don’t just tell people what they do and how to do it but why they do it,” says Kleiman. “We don’t do things for the what and how, we do things for the why.” The why is the value that the employee’s actions give the larger mission of your business: to improve the lives of customers.
This advice applies to employees throughout the ranks.
“The lowest-level jobs are often the most important ones in satisfying the customer,” says Kleiman. At these positions, it is especially vital to make sure the employee knows the answers to the question, “Why is what I do important?”
That sounds like a communication challenge. And it’s true that managers with great communication skills are the most successful at making a compelling case that each employee is an essential part of the larger business whole.
A thoroughly engaged part-time worker is a critical gear in any business machine. But to keep the machine running well, it has to be continually maintained: Follow through on your hiring and intake practices by continuing to take an interest in your part-time workers’ personal lives.
Communicate with your part-timers regularly, obtaining feedback on their attitudes and soliciting suggestions on workplace improvements. Pay special attention to feedback during annual performance reviews when individuals may bring up issues that they have kept to themselves.
Remember that competing employers are looking to snap up the best workers from your part-time pool. Maintain open communications to preserve your investment in training and keep your peak performers on board.
“Employee engagement is not something that can be taken care of during one day or week,” says Glanz. “Employees want to be appreciated and engaged all year long.”