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The Right Fit

by Lindsey Getz
Only you can know what mix of part-time, full-time or outsourced employees will work for your business. Here, we list the advantages of each to help you shape your workforce.

In today’s marketplace, the “types” of employees that companies are hiring really run the gamut. In addition to full-time and part-time positions, current trends show employers are seeking contracted and even outsourced workers as well. For a while, the state of the economy made these latter types seem to be the norm, but a recent Bloomberg article reported that more part-timers are now finding full-time work. “Whether this trend will continue depends greatly on what happens in the economy,” says Jean Phillips, Ph.D., associate professor at Rutgers’ School of Management and Labor Relations.

Because no true norm exists in this economy, companies must know how to adapt. “We’re living in very unique times and there is an increasing need for organizational adaptability,” says Bill Castellano, Ph.D., director of the Center for Human Resource Strategy and Human Resources Management undergraduate programs at Rutgers University. “The only thing that’s constant right now is change. Competitive positions change overnight and a company can be on top one day and knocked off by tomorrow. It emphasizes the need to be adaptable.”

In terms of what type of employee is best suited for what company, William Emerson, president of Cherry Hill-based Emerson Personnel Group, says it’s not always industry specific. However, you are likely to see a greater number of part-time or temporary employees within companies or industries that have seasonal workloads or large amounts of project work that can be sporadic.

“You may also find a higher number of temporary or part-time workers that have large call centers, customer service, telemarketing or production departments,” he adds. “One of the main reasons is that they are typically high turnover areas. Where you will find more consistency with full time is with executive teams and senior management.”

We took a look at the three key types of employees and what pros and cons you can expect with each.

Part-Time Flexibility
In attempting to be more adaptable and flexible, many companies are still embracing part-time employees. “Hiring someone part time provides you with more flexibility with hours worked, benefits and workflow,” says Emerson. “You can also avoid paying a salary as most part-time workers are paid on an hourly basis. However, the risk is that you may not get a full commitment from that individual. They may look at it as ‘just part time’ and may not be fully engaged.”

It’s also important to recognize that an employer risks losing part-time workers who would prefer a full-time position, says Phillips, to which Castellano agrees. “There’s currently an underlying trend of an increasing number of people who are ‘underemployed.’ They have part-time jobs but what they really want is a full-time, traditional position.”

Another emerging trend among the part-timer group is benefits coverage. Some companies are beginning to offer benefits to their part-time employees. “It is always important to consider money spent on employees as an investment,” Phillips says. “Investing in paying for benefits—whether the employee is part time or full time—can yield a return if it reduces turnover, increases engagement and helps employees to feel highly committed to the organization. Some organizations, such as Starbucks, United Parcel Service, Lowe’s and REI pay benefits to part-timers because they want them to feel committed, highly valued, and engaged in providing high quality performance and customer service.”

Full-Time Commitment
Although we have an 8.5 percent unemployment rate in New Jersey, there are still three million jobs unfilled, says Castellano. “That shows that there are companies looking for people to work full time,” he adds. “Perhaps a skills mismatch is the biggest reason these jobs have been left open.”

One of the main benefits of a full-time employee is the increased level of commitment, says Emerson. “If someone knows you have made the commitment and investment with them, then they are more likely to return the favor with hard work and greater productivity,” he says. “Full-time employees help you create more of a team within your company—something more difficult to do with part-time or temporary employees.”

Whether full time or part time, Phillips says both can be equally good performers and many organizations will pursue different mixes depending on their strategy. “Generally, organizations will make employees who are ‘core’ or central to their business full time, and other employees part time. However, this isn’t always true. Starbucks has many part-timers and they view the performance of such employees, like baristas, as critical to their business success.”

Outsourced and Contracted Help
Of course, not every employee “type” falls neatly into the part-time or full-time categories. Many businesses are supplementing their staffing needs with outsourced or contracted/temporary workers. “Temporary associates can cover short-term, seasonal or peak periods and fill in for employee illness, maternity or disability leaves,” says Eva Blow, vice president of ACCU Staffing Services. “But since they are so cost-efficient, hiring managers have even been regularly using a part-time workforce of temporaries to supplement a smaller group of core employees.”

Working through a temporary staffing agency, the organization is not the employer of record.

Rather, the agency is the employer of record, taking on all payroll costs, unemployment costs, workers’ compensation and more, says Emerson. “And they are the ones issuing the W2 at the end of the year,” he adds. “The company simply pays a weekly invoice for the hours the employee worked at an agreed upon hourly rate.”

The cost effectiveness of these options is a big plus. But often, temp workers, like many part-time workers, are ideally seeking a full-time position, says Emerson. “If you have not made a commitment to them, they could still be in ‘search mode’ and leave if a full-time opportunity is presented to them.”

Constantly training new employees who come and go is another downside, says Blow. “A person may also not feel committed to the organization if they are in a supplemental role, unless there is good assimilation between the temporary workforce and the full-timers.”

Having a mix of all of these types of employees may be the best strategy; Castellano says it may open up a wider pool of talent. “Looking to part-time or contracted employees is not always just about managing cost,” he says. “The company may be trying to attract a wider audience. Though we tend to think in terms of part-time jobs being temporary, there are many talented people who don’t want to work a traditional full-time job even though that was once considered the norm.”

Published (and copyrighted) in South Jersey Biz, Volume 2, Issue 4 (April, 2012).
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