Sunday, 17 April 2011

If you hire part time workers then your management has to be first rate.

Retail Human Resources Issues:
Controlling the time of long term loyal part time workers.
By Tom Thorne

Issue: Long term loyal part time employees need to experience flexible humane management.  Hard nosed procedural bureaucratic management destroys morale and relationships in the part time workplace. It is better to accommodate the requests of good well established part time workers for scheduling and time off because a more enlightened management builds trust, morale and loyalty which has a direct effect on training costs and employee turnover rates. 
Many part time employees don’t want full time employment for one personal reason or another. Part time employment enables them to work for multiple employers balancing the available hours from one employer to another to build their employment up to the equivalent of a 35-40 hour full time position when such positions are scarce in the labour markets. Also employers decide consciously not to staff with full time positions. Full time employment creates a firm contractual agreement with employers that can claim to control the employee’s time. Simply stated full time employment buys employers more control over their employees. 
Balancing for flexibility
Employers who want the flexibility and cost savings of part time workers realize that the quid pro quo is that they also get less control over their labour pool and especially their time. A part time employee cannot  be fully subject to employer controls associated with full time employment . The more formal the employment contract the more control that the employer can exercise over employee availabilities and time.
However, when employers make a conscious choice to staff their stores, offices and factories with part time employees the amount of time they can set for the employees is limited by statute labour laws in most jurisdictions. As a result no part time employee can ever have equivalent hours to a full time employee so by definition the number of hours they can legally expect is always less than the maximum allowed under the law for what is considered part time. If an employer wants a part time worker for some reason to work full time hours they must at that point provide the employee with a shot term contract to do full time hours for a designated period of time.
The choice to use part time workers means less control but lower costs but likely higher turnovers and increased training costs.
These facts set up an interesting situation where the part time employees hours are not fully in control of the employer unless there is a written employment contract. In fact a part time employee can always negotiate hours of work with an employer mainly because there is no guaranteed hour employment contract with many part time employees. Part time employees are by their status, in a position to bargain or negotiate for hours and tell employers with sufficient notice their availabilities in any given future work period. In fact this happens all the time and especially when part time employees have more than one job and have to balance schedules and their availabilities with two or more employers. Another instance could be that the part time employee gives notice that he or she wants unpaid time off for personal and other reasons.
Inflexible employment policies and procedures make decisions easier for managers but they do little to build the loyalty of part time employees.
The response of some more conservative employers is to get part time employees to quit and be rehired if they want more time off than the labour statutes allow as minimums for holidays but that is not always the method used because many part time employees drop out and drop back into the work force as their needs and the employers needs dictate. In this situation enlightened employers especially with long term part time employers usually work with the employee for extra time off. Where a problem arises is when employees are irresponsible and simply expect the get time off on short  or even no notice or for frivolous reasons. 
Unrealistic expectations of part time workers creates stress.
It is unrealistic to try to impose on part time employees full time work standards or policies and procedures relating to availabilities. If a part time employee declares in reasonable time that they are unavailable to be scheduled, then they cannot and should not be scheduled for that time slot. To do so would place the employer and employee relationship in jeopardy. It takes real human management skills to manage a cadre of part time workers well. The most important skill that managers need is to realize is that workers also have their agendas from time to time and accommodating them when the time off does not jeopardize the business’s operations is often a great morale builder and an investment in loyalty and mutual respect and goes a long way to controlling high employee turnovers.  
Older loyal workers need respect
The aging population is producing productive people who are officially retired but want to keep active with a part time job. They are often highly motivated people with excellent job histories that a smart part time employer can use to build staff continuity with customers in their place of business.
Older employee’s objectives for working will be entirely different from a younger person. They may see their employment not as a need but as an interest or an activity that gives some extra money to use for vacations and trips or simply something in their lives that keeps them active. 
This means that a one size fits all personnel policies probably will create stress with these employees if it is rigidly enforced. Also having time off and holiday policies that only offer two weeks per year may be passé with this type of workforce.
Older employees expect respect in the workplace from their managers. They expect to be consulted not told and when they ask for a consideration they expect that they will be treated equitably. It is simply poor management to do anything less with older employees because they are loyal if they are treated well. Their experience over the years creates stability and if managed well a better bottom line created by high morale and low employee turnover.

© Copyright 2011, Tom Thorne, All Rights Reserved

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