Owning and operating a successful small business has its challenges – long hours, limited resources and restricted staffing capabilities – especially when you operate in Downtown Vancouver, during a recession and in a competitive industry such as Harrison Galleries and The Buzz Café.
For Harrison Galleries and The Buzz Café, leveraging part-time employment is a means of reaching future goals and continuing to build their business. So, how do they do it? What’s their secret? Jennifer Harrison, Co-Owner shares her experience:
Hiring Part-Time Employees
Especially in small businesses, once an organization identifies the need for a vacancy (in our case, part-time) and develops an accurate position description, managers and/or business owners can begin the recruitment process. At Harrison Galleries and The Buzz Café, co-owner Jennifer Harrison finds Craigslist to be a cost effective means of recruiting a part-time barista, aside from using referrals. On the same token, Jennifer relies on the clear representation of her part-time job advertisements to attract the ‘right’ candidate. Although she receives more than 40 applications per ad, Jennifer says that the success of her screening process for part-time employees is easily attributed to the clear communication of the role’s expectations – used in conjunction with a retention strategy (described below).
No matter how successful their recruitment process, Harrison Galleries and The Buzz Café still struggles (like most small businesses) with organizational fit, engagement, retention, language barriers, communicating expectations, quality of applicants, and knowledge transfer after training – despite precautions taken. But, when recruitment is successful, part-time employees are used to bridge scheduling gaps, support budgetary capabilities, and fulfill a need our labour force possesses.
Retaining Part-Time Employees
According to Statistics Canada, “in 2012, 11.6% of working-age Canadians worked part-time, whereas 50.2% worked fulltime”. Of those part-time workers, 27.2% preferred to work full-time (making them involuntary part-time workers)2. Given these Statistics, Canadian businesses need to use effective retention strategies to make part-time roles more attractive to involuntary part-time workers.
In order to retain part-time employees, Harrison Galleries and The Buzz Café offers a wide array of tangible and intangible benefits:
- Saturday or Sunday shift off each week, guaranteed
- Steady hours (eg. a minimum number of hours per week)
- Equal wages (eg. full-time and part-time staff earn the same rate)
- Consistent shifts (eg. no shift alterations by management/business owners)
- Flexibility (eg. employees can swap scheduled shifts as long as business needs are met)
- Open communication (eg. employees leave praise, ideas and concerns in an open log book)
- Understanding work-life balance (eg. Owners and other employees may cover shifts)
- A family-like company culture (eg. appreciation for one another/social atmosphere)
Despite these retention efforts, this small business still finds it challenging to compete with turnover and changing expectations of the part-time workforce. “The most common issue is that part-time employees expect to receive increased hours over time. However, I make it clear in the job advertisement, during the interview and upon hire that part-time hours will not change”1. For Jennifer Harrison (Co-Owner), this means spending more time on recruitment, interviews, training, and placement trials. However, with the professional connections she has made over the years she is able to limit the negative impacts that part-time employees and the challenges surrounding them have on her small business.
What retention strategies have you used to effectively leverage your part-time employees?
1 Interview: Harrison, Jennifer. Co-Owner, Harrison Galleries and The Buzz Café. 15 April 2014.