“Entrepreneurs may feel stigmatized or diminished when financial
issues keep them from adding
full-time staff, but this blinds them
to the advantages of permanent
part-timers,” says Baba Prasad,
president and CEO of Vivékin
Group, a management consultancy in Durham, North Carolina,
and author of Nimble: Make Yourself andYour Company Resilient in
the Ageof Constant Change. Part-timers help ensure “operational
agility,” says Prasad, noting that
in workplaces where some tasks
are interchangeable, two part-timers—instead of one full-timer—
can prevent workflow interruption
through easy handoffs.
It’s often a challenge finding a
full-timer with the diverse expertise that can make your business
grow, so it’s worth considering
hiring several part-timers, each
with a highly defined skill set,
such as B2B sales or social
media savvy, says Prasad. It’s not
uncommon for owners to water
down their initial wish list and
then settle for a full-timer with an
incomplete mix of qualifications.
In contrast, part-time workers—
especially retirees—may have
spent entire careers in the very
specialized areas you need.
Eager part-timers who’ve proved
themselves have saved you a job
search. Jeff Rizzo, co-owner and
co-founder of the consumer-product review company Riz-Knows, based in Reno, Nevada,
made his second hire a part-timer.
When his budget allowed, he was
able to offer that person a full-time position. “It was a great
trial period for both worker and
employer,” he says. To date, three
of seven on RizKnows’s staff have
made that transition.
PART TIME, BY CHOICE
The Great Recession turned a lot of people into part-timers—involuntarily. But that tide has turned. Even as labor markets tighten—a trend that should hold for the year— the Bureau of Labor Statis- tics says the number of people voluntarily seeking part-time work is stable.
the long haul, however, may prefer to rely on
a core group of team members, not all of
whom are full time, to provide continuity
and stability. Although “permanent part-time employees”—people who are on the
company payroll and work a set number of
hours—may sound like a throwback to an
earlier era, it’s an appealing option for many.
KEEPING IT LEGAL
Employers often hire permanent part-timers to avoid including them in company-paid health insurance plans, thereby
making them an attractive proposition for
budget-constrained firms. “However, many
employers don’t realize hiring permanent
part-timers does come with the same legal
requirements as permanent full-time
employees,” says Matthew Struck, a founding partner at Treadstone Risk Management,
in Morristown, New Jersey. Keep in mind
that anyone who works an average of 30
hours a week or 130 hours a month is
deemed full time by the IRS. Most states,
he explains, mandate that all permanent
part-timers be covered by workers’ compensation—part of your property and casualty
insurance. “Not disclosing part-time workers at the time you purchase this insurance
may constitute insurance fraud and, in
certain cases, may lead to fines, penalties,
and even criminal charges,” says Struck.
Confidentiality issues may also pose a
concern. Permanent part-timers with highly
specialized expertise, say, in finance or
business law, are privy to significant
amounts of confidential information about
your company, which they may intentionally
or inadvertently disclose to competitors,
cautions Ken Taber, an employment attorney at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in
New York City. To prevent any diversion of
business by such part-timers, Taber advises
having them sign an agreement that, if
violated, may result in legal action by the
entrepreneur. “Business owners can readily
PERCENT 25–34 years 35–44 years 45–54 years
‘ 94 ‘ 96 ‘98 ‘00 ‘02 ‘04 ‘06 ‘08 ‘ 10 ‘ 12 ‘ 14 ‘ 16
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey.
From 1994 to 2016, nearly 1
in 10 workers ages 25 to 54
worked part time voluntarily.
secure such nondisclosure-agreement templates from their legal advisers,” he says.
YOUR HIDDEN ASSETS
One of the biggest mistakes companies make
is viewing permanent part-timers as place-holders until full-timers come on board.
DeeAnn Sims, owner and creative director of
SPBX, a branding and public relations company in Los Angeles that focuses on nonprofits and social enterprises, has a staff of
three part-timers, each working three days a
week. She regularly rewards their special
contributions with a gift certificate, or contributes to an in-house personal education fund
they can use for professional-development
seminars. “These perks add value and help
part-timers feel invested in your company,”
says Sims, noting that many entrepreneurs
incorrectly assume that team-building presupposes having a staff only of full-timers.
“A wise entrepreneur sees the potential
and growability of every job function and every
hire, including part-time ones,” says Carl J.
Schramm, innovation and international economics professor at Syracuse University and
the author of Burnthe Business Plan:What
GreatEntrepreneurs Really Do. Schramm cites
an example of a college student whose part-time task is to take items he packs to the post
office. Business owners typically err, Schramm
notes, by communicating to this type of
employee only the nuts-and-bolts nature of
the task. However, by letting a new hire know
you’re open to fresh ideas and initiative, this
person might suggest money- and timesaving shipping options, or have you more
efficiently schedule his out-of-office activities
when the postal lines are shorter.
Schramm advises entrepreneurs to
constantly educate their employees and
not marginalize those you may feel are
expendable: “By putting part-timers into
experimental situations that you have little
knowledge about, they can educate you in
growing your business.”