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Tactics for tough times: 5 techniques for managing part-time employees

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

As U.S. companies struggle to weather the recession, many are cutting back employee hours. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a record 7.3 million Americans worked part time in November, a 62% increase over a year ago. Part-timers make up 5% of the workforce now, the highest proportion since the early 1990s.

Trimming labor costs by converting full-time workers into part-timers may make economic sense, but it can give supervisors fits.

It’s hard to build a cohesive team when employees work staggered hours and days. Plus, full-time employees and managers too often treat part-timers like second-class citizens, which can hurt morale and performance. Communication and productivity suffer.

Here are five strategies managers can use to motivate part-timers and unify their teams:

1. Assign a mentor. Because part-timers aren't on site as much, they likely have more questions floating in their heads. Assign each a full-time employee to serve as a mentor. The part-timer will feel more like part of the team, and the mentor will feel good about the added responsibility and recognition. Pick a patient person who has the time to answer questions.

2. Orient them properly. Run part-timers through the same orientation as full-timers; don't cut corners.

3. Mix up the workload. Urge managers not to overload part-timers with "grunt" tasks. Instead, managers should discover the person's specialized skills and take advantage of them.

4. Offer flexible hours. Many part-timers have special situations that led to their need for reduced hours. Use that to your advantage. By extending flex hours, you'll retain part-timers longer.

5. Give financial incentives. Urge senior management to include part-timers in any bonus or award structure ... at a pro-rated basis, of course.

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