At this point, we all know the stats and numbers behind The Great Resignation. And, we know that even in May 2022, the hot job market isn’t going anywhere, even if we might see it taper down a bit due to ongoing inflation, the continuation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and other factors.
When you Google “how to navigate the great resignation,” the tips offered can range from “build a strong company culture” (something we know can’t be done overnight), to “revisit your perks” and “refine your onboarding process” (more actionable, but actions that also take a bit of time to change). Then, there’s the “offer flexible working” suggestion. However, it’s usually focused on remote work vs. hybrid work vs. heading back to the office full-time.
Flexible work comes in many forms, including an option we rarely see discussed — offering part-time career opportunities. Our Talent Strategist & Sourcing Specialist Jen Emmons is a champion of part-time careers, having seen both sides of the equation as an employee and a leader at companies like Alliant Energy and TDS. Below, she breaks down the trends she’s seeing that make offering part-time opportunities a great way forward for companies, the benefits of these roles, and some of the paradigm shifts both employers and employers have to make part-time roles a reality.
What are the trends we’re seeing that might make part-time roles a solution for talent-strapped companies?
“Of course, the hot job market is starting to create a paradigm shift in both employees and employers,” Jen says. “The shift is slower with employers, but some are starting to realize that if they truly want to retain their employees and fill their roles, they need to be thinking creatively.”
Jen says she’s also seeing plenty of top-level talent start to become part of the part-time conversation. “Make no mistake: the people who are wanting to transition to part-time roles aren’t slackers — that’s always an interesting misconception,” she says. “These people are high-performers who want to continue to do rewarding and challenging work. They want to drive huge projects and programs. They just want to have more time for other parts of their lives.”
From her vantage point, Jen says that smaller companies are currently leading the way, as they can be more nimble with hiring and clearly see the incentives due to smaller budgets and less bureaucracy. With that said, we shouldn’t overlook larger organizations, because those part-time roles are out there. And, while historically lower-level career opportunities are more often seen as a fit for a part-time role than a management role or executive position, Jen says part-time shouldn’t be counted out for these roles, either. “We see this a lot with startups — they’ll hire a part-time Chief Marketing Officer or a fractional leader because they know they need the expertise but they don’t have the funds for a full-time executive salary,” she says. A part-time appointment can help these companies grow in a more scalable way.
Who might be looking for a part-time career opportunity?
“Everyone,” Jen says. “All ages, all socio-economic groups, and gender. The operative word is balance, and these job seekers are looking for it. “Parents of young children, those returning to school or seeking graduate degrees, people who are caring for aging parents, and even experienced professionals that have planned their careers well, are financially stable, and have the flexibility to take a step back from full-time work — these are just some of the situations I’m seeing.”
She also says that a part-time career seeker may not have any of these extenuating circumstances. “Many people are no longer buying into the ‘work until you drop or retire’ mentality,” she says. “Again, it’s all about balance — these candidates know they’re top performers and have much to offer a company, but they want the chance to enjoy their lives and truly have that work/life blend all of us aspire to.”
What are the challenges and/or barriers to creating or working in part-time roles?
“Challenges differ by the company,” Jen says, but overall, “creating part-time roles should be relatively easy to do if the expectations for the role are clear.” The biggest challenges, she says, have everything to do with the culture within a company. “For companies that have never entertained offering these part-time opportunities, it’s simply a mindset shift that needs to happen,” she says. “There are often few internal champions of part-time roles because full-time roles are all the company has known and offered, and change is hard. There’s also this thought that in order to have a part-time role, you have to ‘prove yourself.’”
The other barrier? Employees don’t think to ask. “The reason I was able to pursue part-time work in my former role is that I asked — and I didn’t always take ‘no’ for an answer the first time around,” Jen says. “In many companies, employees have the upper hand. Companies want to retain their employees. What’s the harm in asking if you can transition to a part-time role — or at least begin having those conversations?”
What are the benefits of offering part-time career opportunities?
For employers, Jen says there are plenty of benefits. “The biggest one is a flexible workforce,” she says. “The fluctuation in demand might be able to be addressed with part-time roles, as opposed to laying people off outright.” She points to her team at her former employer, WPS Health Solutions, which had a combination of full-time and part-time employees as well as interns and contractors.
There’s also less money spent on salaries, the opportunity for pro-rated benefits, fewer sick days, and flexibility that extends beyond a particular part-time employee. “In some cases, two part-time employees can share what is usually a full-time role,” Jen says. “This can help with cross-training, and it can also insulate the team when members come and go for other internal or external opportunities.”
In addition, the work done by part-time employees may be more results-oriented. “If employees know they have a certain amount of hours to get things done, their output might be higher than if they had twice the time,” Jen says. However, she cautions that this doesn’t mean that employers should be trying to cram a full-time position into a part-time one. “Part-time roles are just that — part-time,” she says.
What do companies need to think about if they’d like to offer more part-time roles?
Communication and transparency are the names of the game, Jen says. “Employers and employees need to work together to communicate and agree on the responsibilities of the role, the schedule, and the expectations — and then those parameters need to be communicated with everyone that touches that role — team members, other internal employees that may interact with this role, and external customers if it makes sense.”
This might require a reimagining of the role, and Jen says that’s okay. “A role might need to be redesigned to ensure it fits the needs of the company and that deliverables are met.” As the employee begins part-time work, establishing productivity measures and deliverables will be crucial, as are consistent check-ins. And finally, Jen says that part-time pilots or experiments should be celebrated. “Share that it’s working — and if it’s not, share where it went wrong and how to address it. Make sure to dig into the root cause and avoid focusing on the symptoms,” she says. “Let others in the company know that this is what you’ve learned — this will only help to create more internal champions for part-time roles.”
Another key is hiring the right person not only a technical and cultural fit but someone that embodies the traits for the type of role you are hiring for. If the individual isn’t a consistent producer full-time or lacks organization and initiative, that won’t change with reduced hours.
The bottom line: part-time roles can be a competitive advantage for companies
“Progressive companies understand that part-time career opportunities can be used to their benefit,” Jen says. “They have access to a talented pool of educated, successful professionals that simply want to live their personal and professional lives in a different way.”
“Having part-time opportunities signals to potential employees — and current ones — that you’re taking the steps to become a more innovative, diverse, and inclusive company,” Jen says. “And that’s the kind of company that everyone wants to work for.”
If you have part-time roles that you’d like to consider offering, we can help. Reach out to someone on the Carex team and we can help strategize — and find those top-tier candidates as well.