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Frontline: Part-Timers (By Choice) Diversify the Workforce

Q4 2015
There is a growing population of workers who, by choice, prefer to work part-time hours. According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figure cited by Bloomberg, six million Americans are choosing to work part time — an increase of about 12 percent since 2007. It’s not that these workers can’t find full-time, corporate jobs; instead, they choose to have time to pursue personal interests — a flexibility that most full-time jobs do not provide.

Overall, employees voluntarily working part-time are happier, more productive, and more engaged when at work. They also tend to be younger, well-educated independent thinkers. Because of these attributes, more companies are building flexibility into their own hiring practices to attract and retain these workers.

Why Hire Part-Timers?
Many of these part-timers have what it takes to be self-starters, where their independence, diligence, and creativity are valued by employers. Many are also millennials, who are tech-savvy and career-oriented, but can be more challenging to recruit because of their desire for independence. For example, a recent study by Accenture revealed that only 15 percent of 2015 college graduates want to work for a large corporation.

According to Joshua Kim, director of Digital Learning Initiatives at Dartmouth’s Center for the Advancement of Learning, there are several key reasons why “part-timers by choice” are valuable to an organization:
  • No slack time — They tend to spend their “work hours” actually working and can get as much done in a day as their full-time counterparts.
  • Project work — Part-timers excel at projects because projects are shorter term and better defined than operations work and easier to fit into their schedules.
  • Presentation of self — Because they need demonstrate their value in the workplace, part-timers care about how they are perceived and work hard to follow through.
  • High energy — Since part-timers by choice are enriching their personal lives, they come to work with greater energy and resilience.
  • Digital and mobile communications — Because they are focused and dedicated, part-timers are highly effective when working remotely. “They might work part-time hours at the office, but in my experience they put in as many nights and weekend hours as everyone else,” says Kim.
No Time Like the Present
Millennials enjoy their freedom and flexibility and tend to pursue their careers “on their own terms and in less conventional ways,” writes business consultant Leah Arnold-Smeets on “It’s no surprise, then, that this generation seeks out professions that offer them fulfillment and the freedom to express themselves as individuals, even if it costs them that six-figure salary.”

Forward-thinking companies are on the lookout for these types of employees. For example, Deloitte has created a group called Deloitte Open Talent to recruit talented, part-time workers. According to Bloomberg, over 11 percent of Deloitte’s total workforce consists of part-time workers.

“In some deep sense, the people I know who have chosen to work part-time are very wise,” adds Kim. “They have chosen perhaps to trade-off some income for time, in search of balance. They are making choices based on what is best for them and their families, not their employer, and this makes them better and more internally motivated workers. Part-timers are a necessary and important part of a diverse team. We are lucky to work with them.”
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