Inspiring Your Part-Time Team Members

Inspiring Your Part-Time Team Members

According to the Hay Group, median turnover rates for part-time retail workers averages approximately 67% in 2015. As most retailers know we rely heavily on part-time employees in our stores to protect scheduling. Depending on the retail organization part-time workers make up a lot of the scheduling (outside store leadership) flexibility. Because most retailers hire sales in at part-time, I have met some great talent that has to hold two or three jobs to make end’s meet. These are also the people who will leave quickly if they are given a better opportunity, more pay, more hour elsewhere – hence the high-turnover.

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The issue is that these workers are no different than your full-time employees in terms of their expectations for a happy and productive workplace. They want work that challenges, intrigues, includes them, and allows them to find a sense of accomplishment. One of the initiatives we implemented in late 2014 was focusing on this critical customer-facing team member and ensuring they were given the opportunity to be introduced to the business and that their role was understood as significant. Through creating a fun, engaging, structured onboarding program for our part-timers, as well a training, developing, and less formal career path planning for them. Through a focus on this role we lowered our PT turnover to 22% in 2015. Here are some of the programs/ideas we implemented:

Tips For Hiring & Inspiring Part-Time Employees

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  • Hire Smart: Hiring “warm bodies” in retail is an unfortunate practice. I have heard that phrase [and unfortunately, I’ve probably said it a time or two in my career] ad nausem inside our industry – up to, and including, this week. When hiring PT workers, we made a concerted effort to hire, primarily, for cultural fit. People who could enhance the store environment. People who were great reflections of the community and the brand. Remember, operations and product knowledge can be taught, but enthusiasm and energy, for example, cannot. We establish expectations initially that this role is critical to the store/team success at the early stages of the interviewing process through our “interview kit” – pre-interview.
  • Onboard Them: Even though PT may work as little at 12-15 hours per week, they are customer facing 85-95% of their time – which means they have an organic impact on your store’s customer experience delivery. The program doesn’t need to be as detailed as for your FT or leadership new hires – BUT…providing them an onboarding experience, a 30 day development plan, the goals and objectives of the organization, the mission and values of the company will help put context to their role and their importance in the business. Give them the tools to ensure that every customer’s experience they provide is the high point of that customer’s day.
  • Enlist A FT Employee Help Train A New PT Hire: This is the best example of mentoring. The FT employee will have an opportunity to be a part of the development of a coworker – which is a great stretch assignment for them. They can also help assimilate a new person into the business and give them a great perspective on what to expect and encounter that, perhaps, leadership would forget to mention. It also helps build team relationships and a sense of ownership and success of colleagues.
  • Assign Work With Meaning & Purpose: In the past I have identified excessive PT turnover with assigning these employees the least desirable responsibilities of the store. A few years ago the PT turn was so high [92%] in a business I stepped into  – people were exiting the business less than a week after starting. So, I started calling the employees and these are thing they told me, among other things, – they were left on the selling floor alone frequently, they were told to perform all the cleaning/recovery/replenishment while the Manager and their staff sat in the back and talked. People want and deserve to perform work that is measurable and relevant.
  • Recognize & Appreciate A Lot:  It only takes two seconds to say, ‘Great job!’ or “Thank You” — yet, especially when things get busy, it tends not to happen. Emerging employees, typically, are younger and expect a lot of reinforcement, and they really miss it if it isn’t there. They should be performing tasks that complement the business and they should be, just like everyone deserves to be, thanked for that when they achieve their objectives.
  • Make It Fun: Having fun makes people feel connected to each other and gives them a chance to express their individuality. Celebrate individual and team success. Make sure you include your PT’s in all recognition opportunities.
  • Provide On-Going/In-The-Moment Feedback: I was speaking with a colleague on Monday who just found out that the common practice in one of their District’s is to cut the hours of part timers in lieu of having conversations with them – if they are not hitting their goals. The hope being that they will quit or abandon their jobs…yikes. We owe it to all team members to tell them what they are doing well and what their opportunities are – just like every employee.

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  • Employee-Led Scheduling: Obviously we have to protect the business at the store level during peak shopping day/weeks. We usually just fill in PT employee schedules because have a “bodies” mentality for coverage. This can lead to resentment when work hours interfere with other things that may be going on in their lives or we don’t ask about their availability. Empowering employees to be part of the overall schedule design is beneficial for two reasons: it helps your employees understand and align to the needs of your company, and it gives them more flexibility to maintain their own version of work-life balance. A topic like this is most effective to start engaging in during the interviewing process.
  • Update The Work Environment: One of our biggest gauges of store/district culture was to ask our part-time employees what the store environment was like after their first week – “Is it warm and inclusive, or bland and uninspiring?” Having a pleasant work environment can positively impact the everyday moods of your employees and positively impact the customer experience. This is a great gauge to show where the gaps are in on-boarding and successfully embracing new hires at a part time level.
  • Communicate Openly With Them: Though you may believe a new policy won’t/doesn’t effect them – you need to communicate with your part-time team members. Because part-time employees are out of the business much more than full-time staff, they can feel disconnected when they miss critical communication that took place while they weren’t working. Great leadership and strong teams maintain a protocol for how they share essential information to part-timers throughout the week so that they feel included and engaged in the business.
  • Offer Alternative Benefits/Rewards: There is no doubt that part-timers benefit retail organizations because of decreased costs but that doesn’t mean that part-timers should feel taken advantage of or left-out because of their role. They want to be part of the team and to have their contributions and value to the business recognized. Making rewards fun – we designed t-shirts for our top part-timer monthly and gave it to the top performer. We included our PT employees in our recognition program. We built contests around business levers that were fair and balanced and simply a reflection of customer interaction that all team members could participate in.

Seasonal and regular part-time employees can help you achieve your daily, weekly, quarterly, and annual goals if treated well and as part of the team! They can be amazing brand ambassadors, customers, and future leaders for your organization if they are respected, developed, recognized, rewarded, career path’ed, and included in the organizations goals and communication.


Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail and 18 year retailer. I am a passionate and creative leader and coach committed to inspiring thought, action, truth-telling, solution-seeking, and dialog about how to maximize talent through identifying and creating a process around critical success factors, workplace culture, signature leadership practices, productivity, profitability, alignment of employees and company vision & values, and workplace happiness inside all retail organizations. I help create healthy, vibrant, high-performing, and highly-productive organizations that are talent magnets and focused on delivering the highest level of customer experience that will differentiate them from competition and result in long-term growth and sustainability.

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