Part-time workers play the starring role in tons of businesses. Yes, their schedules can be all over the place, but the flexibility can be a huge plus if you’re a small business with a million things going on.
So how can you tap into the incredible power of part-time employees? By following the advice of business owners who’ve been through the absolutely useful but often confusing part-time world.
Chris Strom, owner of ClearPivot, an inbound marketing agency based in Denver; and Jon Smith, owner of Simple Home Management, a property management company based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, both have small teams (think fewer than 10 employees). We chatted with them to get some perspective on their successes in building and working with a part-time team.
Not everyone can do part-time well, so look for a few key characteristics while hiring.
The first step in assembling a team of part-timers is finding talented candidates that will shine in a part-time role. Here are a few pointers:
Search for folks who actually want part-time work.
“We primarily look for people who are interested in part-time and flexible work,” Chris says. The flexibility of a part-time job is a huge perk for lots of employees, so be on the lookout for people who are seeking less work as opposed to people who take a part-time gig as a last resort. To find those candidates, reach out to your network and use job boards that specialize in part-time work:
And that would be?
Year-round, part-time work is stellar for parents, students, and workers looking for a reliable paycheck that still allows them to pursue other passion projects. Chris notes that one of ClearPivot’s project managers is working toward a doctoral thesis, making part-time work ideal because he can squeeze it in between all of his thesis writing.
What about seasonal workers?
Let’s say you own a summer camp. If you only need extra help when camp’s in session, plan to advertise the position months before you intend to fill it. Someone who is seeking work well before the season’s start will probably be a better fit than a frantic last-minute hire.
Create a part-timers’ posse—but don’t treat them differently.
Once you’ve landed the perfect part-timer, you want to manage them the right way. A few tips:
Treat them just like your full-timers.
Make sure your part-time team is included in meetings, parties, happy hours, emails, and other company events and communications. It might seem obvious, but it’s easy to forget to CC someone who’s not physically in the office. Remember to keep your part-timers in the loop about goings-on in the office, too—even if they’re not physically present. Using FaceTime or Google Hangouts during a team gathering can be a fun and easy way to make remote folks feel connected. Did you take your on-site staff out for happy hour? Consider sending a bottle of wine or a box of cookies to your remote workers to make sure they know they’re just as valued.
Respect part-timers’ time.
Part-time workers are just that—available to work only part of the time—so respect when they’re off the clock. And make sure your other employees, full- or part-time, do the same. A part-time worker who’s answering emails at 11 p.m. might start to resent that they’re being paid less but expected to be available at all hours. As part of that, be sure your part-timer’s hours are clearly laid out before they begin so there’s no confusion.
Encourage part-timers to have each other’s backs.
For teams of part-timers, give them the flexibility to help each other out. For Chris’s seven mostly part-time project managers, that means their hours might change season to season, or even week to week—so he lets them swap shifts. For example, the project manager who’s working on a doctoral thesis puts in more hours in the summer, while employees who are parents often have less time in the summer months, when the kids are off school. The ability to assist one another helps his team balance out the workload in a way that works for everyone.
Make it ridiculously easy for them to do their jobs.
So your team of part-timers is working out. But how can you make sure they stick around?
Keep things flexible.
Chris says the ability to work from anywhere has helped him keep turnover low. One ClearPivot project manager was living in Denver, and when her husband got a job in Washington state, she was able to move with him but continue working for ClearPivot remotely. “The flexibility is a big part of what’s enabled us to have really low turnover,” Chris says.
Give them the tools to make part-time work doable.
Jon’s company is super lean—it’s just him and one part-time assistant. That assistant has young children, so he made sure she has the ability to work from home, on her own schedule, if need be. Jon says that all of the company’s data and documents are available in the cloud, and it wasn’t expensive to set up a second at-home office for his assistant. He notes that scanners, printers, and other office equipment are relatively inexpensive in the grand scheme of things, making it practical to duplicate for his part-timer’s home office. Chris also allows his employees to work remotely. “It’s kind of a no-brainer,” he says.
Offer perks not traditionally given to part-timers.
Everything from retirement plans and health benefits to gym subsidies and paid time off can go a long way in helping retain part-timers. Chris offers his employees a basic IRA program, allowing them to allocate a portion of their pay toward retirement savings, which ClearPivot matches up to three percent. Chris said that for several of his employees, it’s the first retirement plan of their careers.
Chris and Jon both noted that flexibility was the secret to maintaining a productive, happy staff of freelancers. And because their companies are small, they’re able to offer that. “Even if you think you’re not in the people business, you’re in the people business,” Smith says. “If you have 50 employees, it’s harder, but if you have 10 or even 20, it’s easier to say: ‘It’s a special situation, and we can do this for this person.’”