Part-time, temporary and contract workers slip through the cracks too often and don’t always get the recognition they deserve. They’re easy to overlook — typically they work odd hours, fewer hours, out in the field or from home, and as a result are not as well known to management and to their permanent, full-time peers.
But their numbers are growing, and it isn’t necessarily by choice. The size of the part-time workforce in the U.S. jumped during the 2008 recession, and full-time hiring doesn’t appear to be picking back up, according to research overseen by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and reported earlier this year in the New York Times.
“Basically all of the growth in part-time workers has been among people reluctantly working few hours because of either slack business conditions or an inability to find a full-time job. Together these people are considered to be working part time ‘for economic reasons.’ Their numbers have grown by 3.4 million since the downturn began,” Catherine Rampell writes in the Times’ Economix blog.
At the same time, part-timers and temp workers also play a vital role in many business operations, from the retired grandmother who shares her maturity and expertise as a part-time retail cashier to the seasonal employees who help a company meet consumer demands and weather the busy holiday season.
Collectively referred to as “contingent” employees, part-time, temporary and contract workers will appreciate knowing how much they’re valued at your organization, even if they’re outside the box of what’s considered “normal” employment.
Most significantly — and simply — the first step toward effective recognition for contingent workers is to treat them the way you want them to act. A contingent worker treated as a cast off to be discarded at the end of the season, or as a temporary solution to a long-term need, will act accordingly.
“If you want part-time employees to have a long-term perspective, treat them with a long-term perspective. Talk about where they want to be in five years, for example, or what skills they are interested in learning,” advises author Bob Nelson at Workforce.com. Encouraging contingent workers to take initiative and offering the training they need will empower them, give them a sense of ownership and motivate them to be more dedicated to their work.
Think of the future. That contract worker today may turn out to be an invaluable resource and worth hiring full-time down the road. And the more seasonal workers you have returning year after year, the better prepared and knowledgeable your workforce will be.
For your older employees who may be coming out of retirement to work part-time or on a contract basis, Incentive Magazine recommends encouraging cross-generational innovation: “Each generation has its own perspective on products and services. Cross-pollinate ideas by utilizing the diversity in the workplace, and develop innovative products and services.” This goes for all contingent workers. Invite their input, and you may be surprised by their ideas and innovation.
Nelson, author of 1001 Ways to Take Initiative at Work, also recommends including part-time workers in the same activities as their full-time counterparts, such as department meetings and social events. Consider throwing a special holiday party for contingent workers who work from home or at off hours, or do it at a time when everyone can partake. “Everyone — especially part-timers — needs and wants to feel a part of the team,” he writes.
Bottom line: never underestimate the power of saying “Thank You.” Just as everyone wants to feel a part of the team, everyone craves recognition. Often it’s as simple as saying these two words, backed by a heartfelt and specific compliment. And, there is no better time than now to share your gratitude.
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