Can You Retain the Part-Time Employee?

By Patrick O. Teague

Can You Retain the Part-Time Employee?

Having fantastic and talented part-time employees is common in the museum field; keeping them is not. If you are involved in hiring or managing staff, part-time employee turnover is a reality of daily operations. 

Where Do You Start?

Your institution likely has several initiatives in place for employee recruitment and retention, including:
  • Data for your part-time workforce: Where did they hear about the job opportunity, what attracted them to working for your organization, how long did they stay, what were their reasons for leaving, and where they are going to work?
  • That same data sorted by demographic information: You likely know retirees, those with military experience, recent college graduates in museum studies and employees who cannot work full time because of dependent-care issues.
  • A robust volunteer program from youth to seniors that allows the organization and the volunteer to vet one another prior to the employment commitment.
  • A targeted recruitment program that goes to senior job fairs, military recruitment fairs, college job fairs, local education providers and all the complementary media.
But the question remains, now that you have the part-time staff from the sources most likely to be retained, how do you keep them engaged and fulfill that promising recruitment?

Where Do You Go From Here?

The Boston Consulting Group published a survey in 2014 of more than 200,000 people from around the world on the top factors for employee satisfaction at work with some surprising results.

The top 10 factors are:
  1. Appreciation for your work
  2. Good relationships with colleagues
  3. Good work-life balance
  4. Good relationships with superiors
  5. Company’s financial stability
  6. Learning and career development
  7. Job security
  8. Attractive fixed salary
  9. Interesting job content
  10. Company values
We know from experience that salary and relationships are important for employee job satisfaction. But career development, work-life balance and appreciation are higher on the employee satisfaction scale than monetary rewards, and they provides Human Resources some very tangible goals, even during economic downturns.

A Next Step in Retention

How can you show appreciation for your employee’s skills and contributions, provide the ideal relationships with colleagues, allow for an employee’s work-life balance, and ensure learning and career development while providing interesting job content? Create a part-time employee workforce pool. This will take buy-in from management across your organization, but once in place, managers will instantly see the benefits of a happier and more flexible workforce. Allow employees to work in more than one cost unit/division at one time since not all parts of your organization have the same workload peaks and valleys. This allows part-time employees to maximize their hours by taking on other roles, or reduce their hours by moving to a different unit during busy times in their lives. It also allows employees to develop skills in other areas, utilizing skills and talents they brought but were not initially required.

Once the buy-in is in place, Human Resources has the job of ensuring that the human resource information system, the payroll system and the employee evaluation process can manage employees with: 1) different job titles/job descriptions in different work areas; 2) different hourly salary rates in different work areas; and 3) different supervisors in each work area. HR will then post these internal opportunities, assist management in screening interested applicants and update employee records as they transition between departments. This is illustrated in a personal story from Joyce Patterson; one of our seasoned part-time staff who has participated in the workforce pool:

“This coming November will mark my 11-year anniversary as an employee of the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. My career, thanks to the Human Resource Department’s great efforts to fill permanent and temporary positions from the ranks of its part-time staff, has allowed me to have varied experiences, meet great people, learn many new things, and be part of a world-class, internationally recognized museum.
“I started as a Museum Program Assistant (MPA), a part-time position giving tours to school and adult groups from across the globe. During my first winter season here, when there were few tours, several other MPAs and I responded to a posting for a two- to three-month project for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation’s deputy executive director. We reviewed workload levels in advance of ramping up for the Jamestown quadricentennial event in 2007. The next winter I pinch hit in our Development office for an administrative assistant on maternity leave. After each of these short-term winter assignments, I was able to return to my MPA position. In spring of 2006, I responded to another job posting and left the MPA corps to become a part-time costumed historical interpreter on Jamestown Settlement’s replica ships. Several months later, as we approached the 400th anniversary, a sheet was circulated among the interpreters listing various departments that needed extra staffing. Historical Clothing was one, and since I am an avid seamstress, I readily signed up for the extra hours. I continued in the two part-time positions of historical interpreter and historical clothing technician until late 2008. I also answered the call, along with many others, to work several evenings making calls to raise money for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

“The economic downturn of 2008 caught up with the part-time staff of the historical clothing department with layoffs in November of that year. However, yet another posting for a part-time position led to an assistant job in the Finance department. In seven years there, my role has changed from assistant to technician to my current position as internal control specialist, which I thoroughly enjoy. While I don’t have the classic background for internal control, the breadth of my experience here at JYF was a key factor in being selected for this position.”

Patrick O. Teague is originally from Oregon with a career in social services and public management. He is the Human Resources Manager for the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation in Williamsburg, Virginia, realizing a love of history with an expertise in Human Resources.