Why should you care about morale? Well, the related question is: How do you keep employees from quitting? Employee morale matters.
Boosting morale for your full-time workers is tough enough. The problem is that, in a world where part-time workers are increasingly becoming a vital part of most businesses, those same workers are often ignored. Most business owners focus on providing great benefits for their full-time employees while neglecting their part-timers.
You know what that creates? A revolving door of perpetual part-time hiring and training, a never-ending expense that could be stopped if only you considered the morale of the part-time worker as much as the full-time.
Why You Should Keep Part-Time Workers Happy
Depending on your business, part-time workers play a varied role. Some businesses, because of their industry (e.g. fast food), local demographics (e.g. lots of high school or college students), or other factors (e.g. available workforce issues) may rely more heavily on part-time workers rather than full-time.
If this is the case for you, you know that getting trapped in a cycle of hiring and quitting or firing is expensive. Part-time workers often have less invested in where they work, and they easily go from job to job if they think that the grass is greener somewhere else.
Yet the cost of training is often just as much for a part-time worker as it is for a full-time worker. And not only do you want to avoid throwing away those training costs or constantly in a state of training new workers (which your customers and current employees don’t like), but you want to hang onto part-time workers simply because of what they can bring to your company:
- Talent you might have missed out on. Not everyone wants or can handle a full-time job, but there are a lot of talented people out there. Offering part-time work lets you tap into their skills that you otherwise might have missed.
- An affordable workforce. I’d caution you against using part-time jobs solely as a budgetary measure (I’ll talk more about that at the end), but it can help you build a workforce you’d otherwise not be able to afford. If the part-time work is rich and rewarding, it’s a win for everyone.
- New energy and ideas. Part-time workers aren’t there all the time, every day. Because of that, they come in with energy and ideas their full-time day-in and day-out coworkers might lack. Let’s be honest: sometimes full-time workers slip into a sense of drudgery about their 9-to-5 job. Part-time workers, with their flexible schedules and longer time away from the workplace, can feel more refreshed each time they come to work. They often have a fresh eye when it comes to challenges, since they haven’t been inundated as much with workplace policy and discussion.
How To Improve Part-Time Worker Morale
It might seem like a tricky dance. You want all of your workers to have good morale, both full- and part-time, but you also know that human nature is human nature and that too many perks for part-time workers might not sit down well with full-time workers.
What’s the solution?
Simply, it needs to be a combination of small and useful ways that you can let your part-time workers know you’re glad they are on the team.
Here are 12 ideas:
1. Gift cards.
Gift cards are a great way to say thank you. To celebrate birthdays. To celebrate anniversary dates of how long they’ve been working for you.
Consider gift cards for restaurants, movie theaters, or big box stores.
Whether it’s gift cards or just a little gift in general, you must show part-time workers that you appreciate them. They are already a little less connected to your workplace culture than the full-time employee, and so it is easy for them to feel unappreciated.
2. Discounts for your own business.
Many people work part-time simply to get the discount while shopping or spending money at your business.
Offer a genuinely great discount, one that is better than what customers can get. A paltry 5% versus 20%? I know which one would make me willing to work part-time.
The reality is that a seriously great discount can make people pick up a second part-time job simply for those savings. If you’re in an area where it’s tough to find workers or you’re struggling to find good applicants, use this discount to entice people who have others jobs but are willing to work in their off hours.
3. Get valuable discounts for your workers.
Why stop with discounts at your own place of business? Whether your workers are part- or full-time, they’ll appreciate getting a deal at local businesses.
Can you work a deal with a local gym so that your employees get a discount? How about a local salon? Coffee shop?
Or, can you access discounts for online retailers or national stores? Can you share the discounts you get as a business (i.e. technology, services) with your employees? Corporations, in particular, often get discounts because of large bulk purchases from various vendors. If allowed, let your employees tap into this and get some of the bulk order.
4. A break room for everyone.
Everyone needs to take a break and eat, not just your full-time workers. And, if you have a break room, the food you might make available should be for everyone. Nothing makes a person feel second-class like being told the snacks or break room is for full-time employees only.
And do all of your workers a favor: go for tasty, high-quality and healthy, not just donuts.
5. Flexibility in hours.
A willingness to work with your part-time employee’s schedules is imperative.
Many people choose part-time work specifically because their schedules won’t allow full-time work (e.g. college students), not because they don’t want to earn more income.
To make this flexibility work:
- Determine what times and days you’ll be needing part-time workers so you know where and how flexible you can be with what your business requires.
- Discuss what you need, and what the worker needs during the hiring process. Know beforehand what is expected.
- Communicate with the worker and make sure they have an avenue to alert you to changes in their schedule (e.g. new semester, different schedule).
- Have policies that allow for flexibility to function, such as allowing employees to find others who are willing to take their shift if necessary.
- Have policies that allow “grace” days, i.e. days in which schedule conflicts do not result in punitive action or questions asked. Full-time employees get vacation and sick days. Part-time workers can have a limited number of grace days.
Most businesses that advertise for part-time work use flexible schedules as a selling point, but too many aren’t all that flexible when it comes down to the actual practice of it. Work with your employee, not against.
6. Assurances of hours.
Flexibility in hours doesn’t mean you are brutish about your part-time worker’s income. Hopefully, during the hiring process, you and the worker agreed upon expectations as far as hours were concerned. If so, stand by those hours as closely as you can.
In other words, a part-time worker who wants to work 15 hours a week and suddenly finds herself with only 3 hours one week and 20 hours the next isn’t going to be very happy.
Flexible labor practices that benefit the employer only aren’t really flexible. They’re cruel, they destroy morale by frustrating the worker, and they lead to quitting.
7. Parking access for low or no cost.
Depending on where your business is located, offering part-time workers handy parking is a great incentive. In particular, if you’re located in a downtown area where parking is a challenge and parking garage fees can eat into part-time wages, consider paying for all or some of their parking.
They have to get to work, after all, and this is one incentive that won’t step on any full-time worker’s toes.
8. Possibility for full-time work.
Some part-time workers use their position to see if your business or the work is a good fit before making decisions, or they have an eye for full-time work even though part-time positions were all that was available at the time.
Let’s face it: part-time workers are a great pool to draw full-time employees from. You’ll get to know their personality, attitudes, skills, and work ethic before they become a full-time employee, which is much more than most traditional hiring processes give you.
For this to work:
- Be honest with potential part-time workers as to whether or not there is the possibility for full-time work. If there isn’t, you don’t want a part-time worker who hopes that there is. They’ll either quit or grumble about the lack of opportunity when it becomes clear no full-time opportunities exist.
- Have clear policies about how, when, and why the transition from part-time to full-time happens in your employee handbook.
9. Provide great training.
Part-time workers deserve to be as well trained as your full-time workers. Give them the training they need to do their job, but also make other types of training available as much as possible.
For example, if your full-time employees are going to a conference, open it up to part-time workers completely or offer to pay part of their attendance fee if they want to go. If you bring someone in to train your full-time employees, consider opening it up to the part-time workers whose jobs might be related or who have expressed an interest.
Remember, some of these part-time workers may end up being full-time employees. Getting a taste for great training will encourage them to stay, and will give you a well-trained future employee.
10. Make them feel a part of the team.
It’s easy for a part-time worker to feel left out. They aren’t in the workplace as much, and they miss some of the daily conversations and activities that your full-time employees participate in.
Remember to include part-time workers in special events, workplace picnics or activities, and even invite them to come in (if they want) to birthday parties or other workplace celebrations whether they’re on the work schedule or not.
11. Don’t use part-time work as the punishment.
Some businesses, in trying to coerce more hours and less flexibility out of their full-time workers, use the threat of going part-time as a way to achieve their goal. It’s not unheard of for a business to hire someone full-time, promising them flexibility (to go to school, for example), and then reneging on that promise and threatening to revert them to part-time if they don’t work the hours assigned them.
Part-time work is not the bottom shelf solution.
If you view it as such, you’ll treat your workers as such.
Look at your part-time work opportunities as important and as valid as the full-time. If you don’t start with that mindset, no amount of gimmicks or cajoling will ever keep morale up because you’ve based it all on a low opinion of the work and the worker.
Part-time work isn’t a lesser thing. It needs to be seen as a viable solution in your business so employees know they (and their job) has value in the big picture of the company.
12. Don’t solely rely on part-time work as a budget fix.
There may be times when you have a larger part-time staff than you’d prefer because that’s all the budget allows for, but be wary about relying on that approach or reverting to it when you hadn’t had it in place earlier. Just as governments who rely on continually increased taxes to fix bloated budgets eventually get themselves into trouble, businesses who view employees, their most valuable resource, as a place to go to cut hours and save money create more problems than they solve.
You can’t have great employee morale when they know their personal income and job advancement is what you’re taking to the cutting block to solve your business’s income problems.
When hours are cut and turning full-time to part-time work is the budget fix, you’ll struggle to keep employees on long-term. Employees who don’t want to be part-time are going to immediately start looking elsewhere.
Part-time work is a valuable asset in the marketplace. It allows people to choose work and hours that fits with their lifestyle, and it allows you to get a complete workforce for your business.
Avoid viewing part-time workers as “disposable” and see them as vital employees whose morale ought to be kept up so that they stay with you for a long time. Often, the same employee incentives that you use with your full-time workers can be retrofitted and applied to your part-time workers, too.12 Best Employee Morale Tactics For Part-Time Workers Rob Wormley