Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Part-Time Employees – Keys to Organizational Success

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in August 2013 that, due to economic reasons, 7.6 million people were working part-time.  Unfortunately it’s not very clear why the recent growth in part-time work. It’s theorized that perhaps since the economy still isn’t as strong as it could be, organizations simply don’t need as much labor. Others think that with the passing of the Affordable Care Act, some organizations are trying to avoid providing benefits to employees. Regardless of your organization’s circumstances with respect to part-time workers, the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ discoveries do indicate that all should be keenly aware of this growing staffing option.

Identifying the Part-Time Employee

The first step in learning how to manage part-time employees is knowing what exactly classifies a person as part-time.  For example, a bevy of recent lawsuits have proliferated where interns have sued former places of employment for violating minimum wage laws. A perfect example of employee misclassification includes the Fox Searchlight Pictures lawsuit in June 2013. In this lawsuit, former interns of the film Black Swan claimed their work on the film should have classified them as employees, not unpaid interns. The Cal Chamber, a not-for-profit business advocate and human resources compliance resource, listed in its “Top 10 Things Employers Do to Get Sued” whitepaper as #5, “Let Employees Decide Which Hours and How Many They Want to Work Each Day.” Why? The potential lawsuits include the issue of back pay on overtime and violation of state specific laws.

So what classifies a worker as part-time? The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define what constitutes a part-time employee. As an employer, you generally define a part-time worker in your employee handbook. Traditionally speaking, part-time workers are employees who work less than 40 hours a week. Some organizations lower that threshold, to working less than 30 – 36 hours a week.

How Can Employers Support their Part-Time Employees? 

Inc.com lists 7 tips on how to manage and support part-time workers:
·         Write a proper job description: “No position should be treated ad hoc.” An employee’s ability to support the organization should not be weighted by how often they work in the office, but what he / she contributes to the organization. Creating a proper job description of the position will help clarify why the employee is present, and will help with negating opinions that the employee is “less than” everyone else because he / she works less hours. It’s also a very easy way to help the employee and the employer to be on the same page when it comes to the commitment the employee should have to the organization.

·         Assign part-timers projects, rather than giving the projects to departments or teams: Look for projects that are straightforward and task oriented.

·         Avoid treating a part-timer like a second class employee: Take steps to ensure that all employees share this attitude in order to avoid division between full and part-time employees.

·         Gather contact information: Emergencies occur during off hours at times.  Having a means to contact a part-time employee to answer the emergency is important. Have ways to keep in contact with staff members either via e-mail or telephone.

·         Schedule regular meetings: Steve Durie, CEO of Secure Search says, “We include our part-time staff in our strategy sessions and our team meetings and they come up with some great ideas.”  Inc.com also suggests scheduling weekly, biweekly, or monthly “check-in meetings with part-time employees” in order to facilitate communication and status updates on projects.

·         Understand relevant employment laws: Use the US Department of Labor’s website to get an understanding of relevant compliance laws for your state. Also make sure you are consistent with hiring practices. Don’t tread into dangerous lawsuit waters by asking applicants about their personal circumstances or personal reasons for wanting part-time employment.

·         Keep in mind that managers can work part-time: At Insight Performance, a Boston based HR consulting firm, a senior director that manages a team of employees works part-time. According to Insight’s CEO, the arrangement is extremely positive, as the part-time work arrangement satisfies not only the company’s needs but also the senior director’s.

Do you have any tips on managing part-time employees?  What approaches have you found successful?  Write to Astronology!  We’d love to share your experiences and tips on part-time employment!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Astronology: Integrated Social Media

IBM’s blog makes clear for us social networking’s overall effects: the world currently spends 110 billion minutes on social networks and blog sites per month…which equates to 22% of all time spent online. We live in a social media age. Social networking, in particular, has been at the forefront of this trend.  Whether you’re using Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, or myriad other social networking sites for personal or business use, you simply can’t escape the dominance of social media and its influence on the masses. Since the rise of social media, organizations in all sectors have been trying to find ways to use it to better themselves.   

With the popularity of social media, many organizations have been curious on whether one aspect, social networking, could be used to better their functionality. Social networking can be confusing with its various forms. To clarify, there are three types of social networks:

-Public social networks: such as Facebook or Twitter, which can be used to make contact with customers and potential customers.

-Social extranets: such as customer communities, which allow for deeper communication and collaboration with customers and even private communication between business partners.  An example of a social extranet includes a message board community designed solely for an organization’s customers.

-Employee networks: an internal organization communication device, such as a company designed instant messaging system / video conferencing community.

It’s been noted that although employee networks have made the least progress in terms of popularity, they offer the greatest potential in business value. Some of IBM’s customers have noted success in self-tailored social collaborative / social network devices for their businesses. For instance, the electronics manufacturer Celestica has noticed a “$40 million savings opportunity.”  VCC, a construction firm, noticed a 40% year over year increase in new business due to its IBM created social device.

What are some tools organizations could use to test the waters of social networking in their businesses? Kurt Kaufer, an associate at e-Boost Consulting, lists the following:
  • Yammer: A social networking service that focuses on businesses. Only employees with the same e-mail domain of an organization can join their specific network.  David Sacks, the founder of Yammer explains, “If Twitter asks, ‘what are you doing?’ Yammer asks, ‘What are you working on?”
  • Digsby: An instant messaging (IM) application. Besides supporting the IM protocols of AIM, MSN, Yahoo, Google Talk, ICQ, Jabber, and Facebook Chat, Digsby also has a feature that alerts the user of e-mail notifications and alerts from MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
  • Skype: A software that allows users to make telephone calls and video calls over the internet. Other useful features include an instant messenger and file transfer. This is extremely helpful for organizations that may not be able to verbally describe changes that need to be made to project documents or other work related items.  If items need to be physically seen, a video call can clear confusion.
Kaufer also listed podcasts and wiki websites as useful social media tools to help with organizational collaborative progress.

Has your organization found ways to use social networking to better itself? Do you see areas where your organization could possibly use some of the tools listed? Share with us your thoughts on social media and its impact on your organization!

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