Managing Part-Time Staff
Strategies for Your Flexible Workforce
Managing a team that includes part-time workers can be challenging.
For instance, how do you assign people who work part-time to a team or project when they're in the office only a few days a week? What if a client or team member needs answers that only a part-timer has, and it's that person's day off? And how do you help part-time staff feel that they're part of the team?
These are a few common challenges that managers can face when they have people on their team who work part-time. In this article, we'll offer some ideas and strategies for managing part-time staff.
Assigning Tasks and Projects
Assigning part-timers to team projects can be tricky. On one hand, this is a great way to use their skills, particularly if those skills are specialized or unique. On the other hand, their involvement can slow the team's progress because they're not available as much, and their absence may also cause them to miss key discussions and planning sessions.
Many managers find it best to assign specific projects and tasks to their part-time staff, and then leave larger, team-oriented projects to people who work full-time.
However, bear in mind that part-timers may have a lot to offer within a project – both in terms of professional skills and the team roles that they fulfill. (Our articles Belbin's Team Roles and Benne and Sheats' Group Roles will help you better understand and define roles for individual team members.)
When you decide which tasks to assign, follow these guidelines:
- Make sure tasks are achievable on time – Part-time staff may need more time to complete assignments. Make sure that they can and do meet deadlines – over-runs can be more extensive with part-timers, simply because they don't have as much time available to catch up.
- Give people who work part-time clear goals for each project – This can also help you avoid micromanaging them.
- Show part-time staff how their work fits with the organization's strategy – This helps them make good decisions about the work they do, and see that their work is making a difference.
- Offer training as needed – Your part-time staff may need, and want, appropriate training for tasks and projects. Use a Training Needs Assessment to help you determine how much training they need.
If you want to learn more about assigning tasks, our article on Task Allocation can help you choose the right people for the right jobs.
Your part-time staff may occasionally feel "second class," because they handle only a portion of the workload of full-time staff, and aren't in the office as much. Try these tips to improve team dynamics:
- Schedule meetings intelligently – If you have a lot of meetings, then having part time staff attend all of them will leave them with little time to get work done. However, they're unlikely to feel or act as part of a team if they're not attending key team meetings. Make sure that you schedule key team meetings on days when part-time staff will be there.
- Treat people who work part-time the same as full-time staff – Make sure that you keep part-time staff up-to-date on important communications and events, and brief them on any relevant news that they might have missed while they weren't in work.
- Encourage initiative from part-time staff – People who work part-time might feel reluctant to offer ideas because they're not around as often as people who work full-time, and they may assume that others have already made these suggestions. But if you make it clear that you value their ideas, they're more likely to share. This can also keep them motivated, and make them feel as if they're really part of the team.
- Schedule social events when part-time staff can attend – People who work part-time often miss important social activities, even if it's just casual conversations during coffee breaks. Make an effort to schedule team lunches and team-building exercises when your part-time people are available.
Policies and Employment Laws
Learn about your organization's policies regarding part-time staff, so you have the support and knowledge to manage them successfully.
Also remember that each state and country has its own laws affecting part-time employment. Check the relevant laws in your region, so that you can make sure that you meet requirements for vacations, training, time off, breaks, and benefits.
More Tips for Managing Part-Time Staff
- Communicate regularly with people who work part-time – Communication is vital to managing part-time staff successfully. Schedule a two-minute "catch up" meeting with them at the beginning and end of each day, or week. This keeps you informed of their progress so that you can address any concerns. You'll also be better informed if there are any issues with their work or projects while they aren't in the office.
- Ensure that part-time staff communicate regularly with other team members – Your part-time staff also must communicate their progress to co-workers who are affected by their work. Ask them to update relevant team members routinely on their tasks.
- Make sure you have current contact information – You may agree with part-time staff that it's OK to contact them if an urgent issue arises when they're not in work. If this is the case, make sure their contact information is up-to-date so you can reach them quickly.
- Keep part-time staff informed – If any processes or procedures change while your part-time staff are not in work, let them know as soon as they return. It may help to keep a list on your desk or on your computer desktop, so you can write down things as you think of them.
Learning how to communicate and delegate tasks to part-time staff is essential for many managers.
People who work part-time should feel included with the rest of the team, so make sure they realize how they contribute to the company's overall strategy and objectives.Set clear goals for people who work part-time, and keep a list of tasks so they'll know what to do when they come to work. Also, schedule key team meetings and social activities on days when part-time staff will be in the office. This helps them work effectively within the team, and can help promote good communication.