Part-time workers becoming more essential to central Ohio firms

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO
Brad Feldman, president and CEO of Part Time Works

Laurie Lathan knew she needed a qualified person to handle the finances at Columbus Children's Theatre.

She also knew she was operating on a tight budget. "I felt like it could be done by a part-timer," says Lathan, the organization's executive director.

Megan Mooney joined the staff as the permanent, part-time business director in 2013 and has made a tremendous difference, Lathan says.

"It's such a symbiotic relationship," she says. "Megan was the perfect match. She wanted that flexibility."

Throughout central Ohio, businesses-particularly nonprofit organizations-are exploring how they can utilize professional part-time workers to perform important duties without paying benefits or a full-time wage.

Brad L. Feldman, president and CEO of Part Time Works in Worthington, helps companies navigate the process. His company, which he runs part time, finds, screens and places part-time workers for clients. He spends a lot of time educating employers on the benefits of using them. He also serves as the executive director of the Ohio Council for Hospice and Home Care, where he employs a mix of part-time and full-time staff members.

Part-time workers tend to bring experience, efficiency and enthusiasm to their work, Feldman says. They also are generally very loyal employees, he adds. Often potential workers are women who worked full time before having children and want to return to the workforce in a lesser capacity or older adults who wish to keep their skills sharp or need a little extra money.

Moms and mature workers returning to the workforce tend to be committed workers who consistently show up and get the job done, adds Tracey Barton, a market manager with the Columbus staffing company, Acloche.

"They're dependable. They're reliable," she says. "They understand the importance of being at work every day."

Lathan worked with Feldman to hire Mooney. The quality of candidates impressed her. She also appreciated having someone else do the leg work of locating them. "As a busy executive that saved me a lot of time," she says.

Part-time workers represent about 19 percent of the nation's workforce. The majority of adults who work part time do so for non-economic reasons, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (The bureau labels people who would like more hours but can't get them as part-time for economic reasons.)

Part-timers were nearly three times as likely to cite child care, family obligations or other non-economic reasons for their schedule in a bureau study released in July.

Although part-time employment rose nationwide during the recession, Feldman and Chris DeCapua, owner of Dawson Recruiting, say they didn't see much of an increase locally. The economic downturn made many employers more inclined to hire full-timers because they were trying to maximize their workforce, says DeCapua, whose company is headquartered in Grandview. If employers couldn't afford to hire or replace full-timers during the recession, they were often asking existing employees to perform additional tasks, he says.

"They've piled more work on people than they had before," he says.

Now that the recession is over, Feldman, who launched his company in 2012, has committed himself to promoting the value of part-timers. He recommends them for growing companies that need help but can't commit to a full-time person, nonprofits that operate a tight budget and small companies that might benefit from having multiple part-timers as opposed to one or two full-time staffers. He also finds himself reminding potential employers that part-time doesn't mean discounted. Part of the education process is convincing companies that part-time workers need to be fairly compensated, he says.

Experience counts

Most of the employees that Feldman places have years of professional experience. This means they usually can quickly grasp their job duties and perform them with minimal training and coaching, he says.

"They jump right in on day one or two-they have that level of experience," he says.

Many of the workers accept jobs for which they are overqualified, he adds. That can make employers uneasy, but Feldman sees it as a positive.

The part-timers he works with have chosen this route because it fits with other aspects of their lives, he explains. They don't consider the job a stepping stone to a better position.

Most likely, they will find additional ways to contribute to the company and become a trusted resource, he says.

"They're incredible assets," he says. "They'll help you beyond their job description."

Randy Gerber of Gerber, LLC., has found that his part-time workers make great mentors. The owner of a Columbus financial services agency has made a conscientious effort to hire moms looking to return to the workforce part time. Most of them held high-level positions at major companies before starting their families.

"It's a strategy," he says. He allows the women to work part time during the school year and take off the entire summer. In return, he has a staff of highly-experienced go-getters who are eager to share their knowledge, he said.

"They bring a lot of wisdom," he said. "They know what to do and get it done efficiently."

The hiring practice does mean business slows down in the summer but Gerber is OK with that. "It cuts both ways," he says. "It takes a little effort. You have to plan for it."

The flexible schedule also builds a lot of loyalty among the staff, he adds.

Lynette Cox, who works as a part-time communications coordinator for Feldman at the Ohio Council for Home Care and Hospice, spent years hunting for a part-time position. She's grateful to work for an organization that recognizes her family commitments. She sets her work schedule around her children's school day.

"This opportunity has been amazing," says Cox, who does not need the income of a full-time job but wanted to put her college degree to use. "It feels like I'm contributing to the household. I'm putting my skills to work."

Feldman also has a part-time volunteer coordinator. That employee has a law degree and provides all kinds of support to the organization, he says.

The numbers add up

Having numerous part-timers allows for a more robust work environment with greater opportunities for brainstorming and problem solving, Feldman says. It also helps when the agency has a special project. The part-timers can increase their hours and assist with the workload, he says.

Chris Zimmer recommends permanent part-timers over contract or freelance employees. "The part-timer is immersed in your culture and what your company or association is about," said Zimmer, who took a part-time job for an association after taking time off to stay home with her son.

As the part-time director of communications, she helped the organization increase its social media presence and improve its member outreach, she says.

"It was great. I felt like I was making a meaningful contribution to the organization," says Zimmer, who recently started a full-time job at another organization.

She's still a proponent of part-time work because it's an affordable way for companies to fill gaps with quality people. "There's a lot of talent out there that doesn't want to work full time," she says.

Jennifer Starkey, president of Key Management Solutions in Worthington, has been impressed by the pool of people willing to work part time. She employs four part-timers at her company, which manages nonprofit membership associations. Their roles include marketing manager and legislative director.

"I'm looking for someone who wants to have a career but wants to do it on a part-time basis," she says.

Using part-timers saves her money-a cost savings she passes onto clients.

"Because we work with nonprofit organizations, we run a very low overhead," she says. "We can't afford to have full-timers in all the positions."

Part-time workers are a good fit for associations, agrees Shane Yates, executive director of the Ohio Society of Association Executives in Columbus.

"As an organization, you look at what is your overall strategy. It doesn't always indicate a traditional, full-time employee," he says.

He speculates that associations may be more likely to hire part-timers because they have a history of working with volunteers and are familiar with the amount of work that can be done in small blocks of time. He also sees a lot of retiring executives willing to work part-time to ease their replacement's transition into the job.

Starkey says she has found her part-timers to be very focused and adept at getting the job done. "I wouldn't do it any other way," she says. "It's such a great fit for our business needs."

Pay period

Although Starkey acknowledges that hiring part-timers saves money; she also recognizes that her employees deserve fair compensation.

"It's the old adage you get what you pay for," she says. "If I want loyal part-time professionals, then it is important to recognize their experience and pay them an hourlyequivalent wage to what a full-time salary would be."

Part-time employees need to be compensated for their experience and skill sets, agrees Feldman, who negotiates salaries commensurate with the candidate's experience. Companies do save money by not providing benefits.

Part Time Works also assists clients by providing payroll services for the employees it places.

"We encourage our clients to pay a fair wage," he said. "We're paying for the expertise we're getting."

Melissa Kossler Dutton is a freelance writer.