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Part-time workers – take a long-term view every time

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5th Aug 2013
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There has been a lot of debate recently regarding part-time workers and recent research paints quite a negative view as it reveals 75 per cent of part-time workers feel trapped in their jobs and unable to progress. In my opinion, this is partly down to employers taking quite a short-term view to their recruitment strategy.

There are many reasons why employees may need or want to work part-time, whether for health or childcare reasons, or purely because of a desire for a more flexible lifestyle. Understandably, at first glance, it may seem like part-time workers aren’t able to contribute as much to a company but I believe that the number of hours worked should not be the only way to measure an employee’s contributions to a company.

Quality not quantity

It’s important to look at the wider picture and not assume that part-time workers can’t contribute effectively to achieving your business goals. In terms of contribution, motivation and a high level of skill and experience are far more important than simply being available to sit at a desk from nine to five every day of the week. A skilled employee who is suited to the job will ultimately contribute far more to your company than an under-qualified employee who isn’t quite right for the position but is able to work a standard eight hour day.

Be flexible

If you have a long-serving employee who needs to change their working hours because of unavoidable commitments, be flexible and work with them to come to an arrangement to suit both employee and employer.

We often create specific roles for employees returning to part-time work after a period of absence, whether due to maternity or paternity leave, health issues or looking after a dependent, especially when previous positions aren’t practical as part-time roles. Additionally we have some employees who have left on maternity leave and have since returned to a promotion, whilst working part-time.

We aim to offer flexibility beyond that required by the legal requirement to offer flexible working, ranging from adjusted hours in summer (to enable an employee to further his golf ambitions), to a shorter contracted working year. We’ve even got a member of staff who spends eight weeks in France each year so we’ve come to an arrangement, which allows us to retain her skills, while helping her to achieve the lifestyle she is looking for.

Cultural change

Not only do you need to be flexible with your current employees, but a cultural change is also needed when recruiting. When employing new members of staff, more often than not organisations won’t actively seek a part-time employee and perhaps rule out those that do request a part-time role. As a HR team, you’ll need to help your organisation undergo a cultural change in which managers do not automatically assume that a role has to be full time. At the very least managers should be willing to consider a part-time worker when posting a new position.

Create strong key performance indicators

It’s essential to make sure any employee has a strong set of objectives and regular reviews, but it can be argued that for part-time employees it’s even more important. When an employee isn’t in the office as often, it’s vital their managers ensure they are adequately supported and the employee understands how their career can develop. By doing so, it should help alleviate any concerns from either side.

Give them time to focus on their personal issues

When you make your staff feel rushed or pressured because they aren’t working a standard eight hour day, their motivation is likely to drop and company productivity is likely to decrease. Particularly if an employee has a lot of responsibilities outside of work, be it dependent children or relatives to look after, you’ll find that if you give them the time to focus on their personal issues, they’ll come back into work much more focused.

Increased motivation

Ultimately if you show an employee they are valued and are flexible in meeting their needs, they will be much more willing to offer you flexibility in return when necessary. Being flexible with your employees means that you not only have a much more engaged and motivated workforce, but it also helps to improve your employee retention rate.

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