Written by Liz D’Aloia

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During the recession many companies transitioned to a predominantly part-time staffing model. There are a few key reasons for this. Some companies transferred employees from a full-time to a part-time status because they wanted to reduce costs and avoid losing valuable employee experience. When the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), part-time staffing accelerated since companies wanted to avoid falling into the minimum thresholds for mandatory employee health insurance.

But the economy is recovering from the Great Recession. Crain’s recently interviewed Bill Hampel, chief economist at the Credit Union National Association. Hampel noted, “The labor market was about the last thing to recover from the Great Recession, and in the last six months it has picked up steam.”

Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that U.S. employers added 257,000 jobs in January, and wages jumped by the most in six years. Many economists, including Global Best Practices Conference presenter Joel Naroff, predicted that wages would increase in 2015.

So what does this mean for your staffing model?

Part-Time Employees
The restaurant industry, according to Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K)’s Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report), has traditionally been staffed by part-time employees, with these making up between 60-70% of all hourly employees. And although part-time employment is still high, but people really want full-time work. So, if you’re hiring for full-time workers you should have no problem finding and keeping them.

If it’s managed correctly, a part-time staffing model can definitely help make a business more flexible and agile. However as we approach full employment it will get harder to find part-time workers. Here are a few things to consider as you create your staffing model:

  • What’s your turnover rate? Review data and you may discover that hiring more full-time employees is a better return on investment than hiring part-time workers. According to Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report), for most restaurant companies turnover is becoming a major concern, as the industry has seen median hourly turnover rise for the last sixteen months and management turnover has increased for the last nine consecutive months.
  • Are your managers trained to manage and schedule part-timers? It’s not unusual to see companies hire part-time workers with the intent of having them work less than 30 hours/week, and then see their hours creep up over time.
  • What’s the ideal profile for a part-time employee at your company? Who are these folks? Are they students? Stay-at-home parents?
  • Does the current shift in demographics support your ideal profile? For example, the restaurant industry traditionally seeks employees who are 16 – 24 years of age. According to Workforce Intelligence (formerly People Report) the median age of a newly-hired restaurant hourly employee is 21 in Quick Service and 22 in Casual Dining. This demographic is shrinking, so the industry may need to think about early retirees and Gen X employees to fill the gap.

The war for talent is already here. In some sectors, such as IT, unemployment is already less than 1%. As we approach full employment (which economists consider to be 5.3% – 5.6%) it will get increasingly difficult to source candidates.

Passive candidates aren’t surfing openings on job boards. Keep in mind that may hourly employees are already working two or more jobs. They may not own a desktop and may not have a resume prepared. Don’t expect them to make a special trip to the local library just to spend an hour applying for a job through your computer-based applicant tracking system. Hourly hiring is truly a numbers game, and you need a large candidate pool from which you can select the most qualified applicants.

Here are a few things to consider now so you’re prepared:

  • How do you find employees? Are you posting on national job boards? If so, are you getting qualified local candidates or should you switch to local job boards (eBay Classifieds, Craig List, etc.).
  • Are you prepared to recruit in your community? Remember that passive job seekers usually aren’t looking at job boards. As the war for talent intensifies hiring managers will need to find candidates more aggressively. Post your openings where your prospective employees live, work, and play (at libraries, schools, local job fairs, etc.)
  • Are your managers trained to strike up conversations with prospective employees as they go about their daily lives in the community? Let’s say you’re a restaurant manager who’s shopping at a local retailer. You get amazing service from a store employee. Let the employee know you’re hiring and make sure they know how to apply.
  • Are you making it easy for people to apply? Do they have to come to your location in person to fill out a paper application? If so, you’re probably losing candidates. Transition to a simple and cost effective paperless solution. If you’re in a multilingual industry, make sure your employment applications are also available in at least Spanish and English.

The themes of the Global Best Practices Conference revolved around people, profits, and the planet. The economy is rapidly shifting from a buyer’s (employers) market to a seller’s (candidate’s). If you want to compete and be profitable you need to be ahead of these economic, social, and demographic factors.

Molly Fletcher reminded us that it’s not about best practices, it’s about next practices. The economic landscape is rapidly changing. These changes will impact your suppliers, vendors, customers, and employees. Are you ready for them?

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1f8e46dLiz D’Aloia is the founder of HR Virtuoso, a mobile recruiting company based in Dallas, TX. She is an HR professional, employment attorney, speaker, and blogger. Prior to launching HR Virtuoso Liz worked at national transportation companies and at a global retailer. Connect with Liz on LinkedIn and follower her @hrvirtuoso.