• The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring Part-Time, Temporary and Seasonal Workers

    January 10, 2019 by

     

    Whether a company needs seasonal workers to handle summer tourism, part-time help to meet increased demand during the holidays, or temporary employees to cover a short-term vacancy, acquiring additional support can be both a blessing and a curse. Part-time, temporary and seasonal employees can alleviate stress on full-time employees, improve productivity and keep customers satisfied. However, these hires can also be a headache for companies due to additional liabilities for payroll and HR departments – and if not handled correctly, can negatively impact your company. How can you make this process more productive than painful?

    UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCES

    The first issue to consider is the proper classification of employees. There are requirements under the law on how different types of employees should be treated, so it’s important to understand how each employment status is defined.

    Part-time Employees – Most states define part-time employees as those who work less than 35 hours per week, compared to full-time employees who typically work at least 40 hours per week. Part-time employees are usually paid on an hourly basis. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), part-time employees are treated the same as full-time employees when it comes to minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor. They are also covered under OSHA’s safety and health policies concerning work-related injuries, illnesses and occupational fatalities. Additionally, part-time employees who work 1,000 hours or more during a calendar year may be eligible for retirement benefits under the Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA).

    While part-time employees must comply with company rules and policies, they generally receive limited or no company benefits, such as health benefits, vacation and sick days, paid holidays and unemployment compensation, among others, unless required by state labor laws and/or individual company policies. In today’s more competitive environment, many companies are extending benefits such as paid sick days and holidays to part-time employees to attract and retain qualified employees.

    Temporary Employees – Temporary employees, sometimes referred to as “temps,” are typically hired to cover for absent employees (such as those who are on maternity or disability leave) and temporary vacancies, or to fill gaps in a company’s workforce. Temporary employees may be hired directly or through a temporary staffing agency, in which case the temp is “on lease” with the staffing company and not an employee of the company that uses its services. Temporary agencies typically charge clients 15 to 30% more than the amount of compensation given to the temporary employee, though some temp employees may wish to negotiate their hourly rate.

    In some cases, temporary jobs may lead to permanent employment, in which case the agency may charge a fee. More often, companies hire temporary workers for a specific purpose while avoiding the cost of hiring regular employees.

    Temporary employees may work full or part-time. Although they are not usually eligible for company benefits, some agencies offer health care and other benefits to their temps.

    Depending on the state, temporary employees may have rights regarding federal discrimination and harassment claims, as well as other claims. In some circumstances, temporary employees may claim rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, which provides the right to take a leave of absence while taking care of a child, sick spouse, or elderly parent.

    Seasonal Employees – When companies need extra help during a particular time period, such as the holidays, they rely on seasonal employees. Seasonal employees are usually hired on a part-time basis, but some may work full-time.

    Like part-time employees, seasonal workers must be treated equally under FLSA regarding minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping, workplace safety and health policies.

    While this provides a general overview of employment status, there are laws concerning employee treatment, benefits, and policies of part-time, temporary, or seasonal employees that vary by each state. Therefore, it’s advisable to check your state’s specific employment laws before making these hires. (add link to DOL – https://www.dol.gov/whd/state/state.htm)

    The employer needs to ensure that each employee is classified correctly and placed on the appropriate payroll. It’s important to complete paperwork correctly the first time in order to avoid problems down the road. For example, if you don’t withhold the correct amount of taxes the company will be responsible for refunding 100% of the owed taxes, plus additional fees and interest on the owed amount. The employer is also responsible for including temporary and seasonal employees’ wages in payroll taxes and filings. Filing correctly will save you from extra paperwork and penalties.

    PROVIDE PROPER ONBOARDING AND TRAINING

    Let’s begin with the tale of two hospitality companies. Company A views hiring seasonal employees as a necessary evil during the height of their tourist season. They usually wait until the last minute to start the hiring process, and because things are so hectic during this time of year, they scrimp on onboarding and training to save time. The result is high turnover, low productivity and an increase in customer service complaints.

    Meanwhile, Company B gears up for the busy season by planning ahead and scooping up the best candidates. They have formal onboarding and training procedures that have been fine-tuned over the years with feedback from seasonal employees and their managers. These hires do not start working in any capacity, especially interacting with customers, before finishing the required training course. The result is low turnover, higher productivity, repeat hires that reduces recruitment efforts and time bringing them up to speed, and satisfied customers.

    The moral of these stories is that part-time, temporary or seasonal employees deserve the same level of commitment and training as full-time employees. After all, you never know when one of these hires will become a full-time member of your team. Even if that never happens, these employees can have a big impact on your business in terms of productivity, culture, customer service and company reputation.

    Employers can set them up for success with an onboarding process that includes:

    • A full orientation that covers all company policies and procedures, as well as your expectations regarding their performance and accountability.
    • Training that provides the knowledge an employee needs to do a good job and make valuable contributions. Training should also encompass any safety issues that apply to the position.
    • Matching the new hire with a peer buddy, who can help them build a social network, encourage open dialogue and help with questions/issues in a timely manner. Having a buddy to keep a close eye on a new hire can also head off potential problems before they occur.
    • Regular check-ins with a manager/supervisor.
    • A formal introduction to the entire team, when possible.

    If part-time, temporary or seasonal workers do not feel like part of the team or become frustrated by the lack of knowledge and necessary tools to get the job done, it’s highly likely they will leave after a few days, putting you back to square one. During their short tenure with your company, they may cause more harm than good by interacting negatively with other employees and/or customers. Finally, in today’s world of social media, dissatisfied hires can tarnish your company’s reputation with a single scathing tweet.
     

    Top 5 Reasons Seasonal and Temporary Employees Quit

    While full-time employees typically cite reasons such as “lack of opportunity for advancement” or “a poor relationship with my boss” for leaving a company, seasonal hires and temps aren’t with a company long enough for these issues to come into play. With these employees, the most common reasons for quitting a job (usually after a very short time period) are:

    1. I don’t understand what I need to do (lack of training).
    2. There is no one available to help me or answer questions (lack of supervision).
    3. The work is boring or meaningless.
    4. The pay is not worth the amount of work required.
    5. I found a better job.

    IMMERSE HIRES IN YOUR COMPANY CULTURE

    Company culture can not only help you retain talented full-time employees, but also attract and keep part-time, temporary and seasonal hires. Numerous studies show that employees at every level become more invested and engaged with a company when there is a positive culture. What exactly does this mean? Culture can be defined as “a blend of the values, beliefs, taboos, symbols, rituals and myths all companies develop over time.”

    In other words, culture is the company’s personality. It might include the company’s mission, expectations, work environment, management style and community involvement. No matter how you define it, there is a strong link between culture and employee turnover, which affects productivity and success.

    A Columbia University study shows that the likelihood of job turnover at an organization with a rich company culture is just 13.9 percent, compared to 48.4 percent in companies with poor cultures. The reason for this is simple: unhappy employees don’t tend to do more than the minimum, great workers who don’t feel appreciated quit, and poor managers negatively affect workers and productivity.

    In his Harvard Business Review blog post, “Transform Your Employees Into Passionate Advocates,” Rob Markey states: “Loyal, passionate employees bring a company as much benefit as loyal, passionate customers. They stay longer, work harder, work more creatively and find ways to go the extra mile. They bring you more great employees. And that spreads even more happiness for employees, for customers and for shareholders.”

    In fact, it literally pays to keep employees happy! The Department of Economics at the University of Warwick found that happy workers are 12 percent more productive than the average worker and unhappy workers are 10 percent less productive.

    Therefore, it’s important to make sure all employees, including part-time, temporary and seasonal hires, are happy and engaged by immersing them into your company’s culture. A positive company culture can also help you with your recruiting efforts by making you stand out from the crowd.

    AVOID COMMON MISTAKES

    One of the most frequent mistakes companies make when hiring seasonal employees is waiting too long to begin the recruitment process. Ideally, you want to make sure there is adequate staff in place before a busy period starts or a temporary vacancy begins. This gives the company time to onboard and train employees properly. Don’t assume that you’ll be able to fill positions quickly, even if you’ve had success in past years. It’s best to have a detailed plan in place that includes when the process will start, as well as where and how you’ll recruit – which brings us to another common mistake…

    Don’t rely solely on one or two recruiting methods. This limits the quality and diversity of your applicant pool and could increase the time it takes to fill positions. Consider recruitment methods that target your “ideal applicants,” such as college students. Try cultivating relationships with local universities so they feel inclined to refer top candidates. Also, remember that employee referrals are the gold standard! Ask people in your organization if they know anyone who may be interested.

    Finally, avoid relaxing your hiring standards for seasonal or temporary employees. While their tenure may be short, the impact they have your company can be lasting. Employ the same methods you use to ensure a great full-time hire, including a well-written job description, careful review of applications and/or resumes, thorough interviews, references and background checks. Think of this extra effort as an investment in your company and its future.

    THINK LONG-TERM

    Speaking of the future, hiring quality workers for a temporary vacancy or busy season can give you a pool of qualified candidates to call upon when you need them. Similarly, hiring talented part-time employees increases the likelihood of them becoming valuable full-time team members when the need arises. In fact, companies can reduce the costs and efforts of recruiting by encouraging good seasonal or temp workers to return during the following season or the next time a vacancy needs to be filled. To ensure that employees leave on a positive note, don’t forget to:

    Provide feedback – Like regular employees, part-timers, temps and seasonal hires need regular feedback. You may also want to consider offering incentives, such as a small bonus or pay raise for employees who exceed expectations.

    Conduct an exit interview – Just because an employee is only with you for a short time doesn’t mean he or she can’t provide valuable insights. Exit interviews give you a chance to learn about potential problems and fix them or reinforce positive policies and procedures. Exit interviews can also help avoid a negative review about your company: If an employee had a bad experience, allowing them to “be heard” may negate their desire to vent their frustration online.

    Some questions to consider include:

    1. What did you like most and least about your job?
    2. What would you change about your job, your team or the company as a whole?
    3. Were you trained properly and given the direction you needed to do your job?
    4. Were you comfortable talking to your manager or supervisor about issues?
    5. Did you feel like a valued part of the team/company?
    6. Would you recommend the company to a friend looking for a job? If not, why?

    From proper planning and recruiting efforts, to thoughtful onboarding, training and management, it pays to devote the time and resources to finding and retaining quality part-time, temporary and seasonal employees. These folks can have a positive impact on your company’s performance, culture and reputation, both now and in the future.
     

    Sources:

    “Guidelines for Hiring Part Time, Seasonal and Temporary Employees,” Optimum HRIS.
    “It Really Pays to Have a Rich Company Culture,” Entrepreneur, 2016.
    “Part time, temporary, and seasonal employees,” FindLaw, 2018.
    “The Importance of Seasonal Exit Interviews,” by Christin Nein, Coal March Productions, 2017.
    The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, 2018.

     

  • How new overtime laws will affect interns and recent grads

    May 27, 2016 by
    How the new overtime laws will affect recent college graduates

    Photo by StockUnlimited.com

    How will the new overtime laws affect interns and recent grads? A variety of experts weigh in on this hot topic.

    Changes to overtime laws

    The Department of Labor expects the new overtime laws to affect 4.2 million workers – many of whom are likely new college grads out on their first “real” job.  As of December 1, 2016, the days of working 50+ hours a week and earning $35,000 should be gone, says Kate Bischoff, a human resources professional and employment/labor law attorney with the Minneapolis office of Zelle LLP, an international litigation and dispute resolution law firm. Bischoff is co-leading a June 2, 2016, webinar titled Preparing for Changes to FLSA Overtime Regulations, discussing this topic and more.

    Salary versus hourly

    There’s one thing college graduates should keep in mind, says Bischoff, and that is that salary has nothing to do with status.

    “Being paid a salary doesn’t mean that an employee is more valuable to his or her employer than an hourly employee,” says Bischoff. “It is simply a different way of paying people for their work.”

    Those who are nonexempt – those eligible for overtime – may earn time and a half when they work long hours and may even earn more than their salaried brethren, points out Bischoff. Those who are exempt and earn more than $913 a week will not be compensated for their long hours in the office in the form of hourly payments. In fact, when some employees shift from salaried to hourly, many times, they earn more as an hourly employee.

    The other thing about being paid on an hourly basis is that employers need to know how much you work, says Bischoff. With apps on smartphones and smart watches, employees can now track their time easier than ever before. “If you track your steps, you can track your hours,” says Bischoff. “The fact that you have to punch in or clock out only means you need to capture your time to get paid the value of your work. That’s all.”

    Ask questions to clarify status

    So what should college grads do and consider before accepting a job, or if they have questions about their current and future employment status at their existing job? Ask questions such as these, says Bischoff:

    • What will their overtime status be?
    • Will this position be eligible for overtime?
    • Will I be paid a salary?

    “For many college grads, work-life balance is important, so ask if you will be able to make it to your volunteer activity every Thursday evening,” says Bischoff. “While asking if you will ‘have to’ work overtime may be a signal to an employer that you might not be a dedicated employee, you can ask about particular events or activities important to you. You may glean from the answer the amount of hours you will put in.”

    What do the new overtime laws mean for interns?

    Currently, the vast majority of interns earn less than the $23,660 DOL threshold and therefore are classified as non-exempt and qualify for overtime. When the new rules take effect on December 1, 2016, the threshold will almost double to $50,440. The number of interns who earn between $23,660 and $50,440 is miniscule and, therefore, the law will directly impact virtually no interns, says Steven Rothberg, founder of College Recruiter. That said, there could be a substantial impact on new grad hiring as virtually all new grads earn more than $23,660, the average is about $46,000, and a substantial minority earn more than the $50,440.

    “At College Recruiter, we believe that the law will have a substantial impact on the number of hours worked by management trainees and other such workers who have traditionally been paid as exempt, salaried employees with no ability to earn overtime pay yet who routinely work far more than the standard 40-hour work week,” says Rothberg. “Employers will likely instruct these employees not to work more than 40-hours per week, which will effectively increase the compensation paid to and reduce the return on investment generated from these employees. Yet with a tightening labor market, more Baby Boomers retiring, and fewer Millennials graduating, it is unlikely that there will be any noticeable change in the number of recent grads finding employment within their chosen career paths.”

    Manufacturing director: New OT laws could hurt interns and recent grads

    John Johnston is Director of Manufacturing at States Manufacturing, a Minneapolis-based custom electrical and precision fabricated metal company with 49 employees.

    He fears the new overtime laws will hurt interns and new hires, namely those graduating from college or technical schools.

    “I would expect the starting wage to decrease to compensate for the change in overtime rules,” says Johnston. “Also, I would tend to expect the opportunities to reduce as well as the patience of employers. If we are going to pay more, we are going to raise our expectations and be less patient with someone because of the wage they are earning. When we have had lower wage earners at the start of their career, we are able to be more patient in part because the issues are not as magnified with a lesser wage. Once that increases, we have no choice but to be tougher that much quicker.”

    Johnston said his company may avoid hiring interns in the future due to the increased costs and instead balance it with multiple part-time employees. The company currently does not have any interns, partly because they were sorting out the details of the new labor and overtime laws.

    “I see this as a trend to save on escalating costs since benefits would not be required with part-time employees,” says Johnston.

    A ripple effect for college grads

    Elliot D. Lasson, Ph.D., SPHR, SHRM-SCP, is an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Rockville, Maryland and a Human Capital Consultant with Lasson Talent Solutions. Lasson regularly presents to students on behalf of college career centers.

    According to Lasson, the new overtime regulations will have ripple affects all around.

    “Students who are in college or right out of college want to gain meaningful experience,” he said. “They are not paying all that money to be flipping burgers or driving for Uber after graduation. The conventional wisdom is that internships are valuable. And they objectively are. However, many employers misappropriate that label to justify in order to get free labor from students who feel desperate for that experience. In many cases, internships play out in a way where the students are gaining only minimal exposure to the workplace and field, while at the same time are not getting paid.”

    The Department of Labor previously identified six conditions that must be met in order to permit unpaid internship scenarios. “Many employers play fast and loose with these under the pretense that the work environment itself is more important than it objectively is,” says Lasson. And now, this extends to graduate school as well. The grad students are still “students” and therefore unlike their undergraduate peers who are not in graduate school can still “qualify” to be unpaid interns while in graduate school.  So, there is additional abuse of the system here as well, says Lasson.

    “With the popularity of unpaid internships, many employers are inundated with requests and may just take advantage of students without having a handle on the DOL guidelines,” says Lasson.

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