A Shift in Workforce
Recruiting the right talent and managing the labor costs of full-time employees are becoming more difficult. Many companies, faced with these challenges, are focusing on part-time employees, contractors and consultants as a major part of their recruiting strategy. Many experts predict that the contingent workers will comprise more than 50% of the workforce in the United States by early 2020.
As this restructuring of the U. S. workforce occurs, employers are challenged to construct viable, part-time benefit programs for people who work on a freelance basis. Data from the 2016 Mercer National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans reveals that 51% of large employers (500+ employees) offer health insurance coverage to part-time employees who work an average of 21 hours a week.
In addition, the values of younger and older workers, nearing retirement, are shifting. One of the driving factors behind this shift is the value the current workforce is placing on work/life balance. However, many of these workers still need access to quality employer sponsored benefits.
Preparing for Part-Time Workers
In order to accommodate more part-time workers, employers need to start thinking now about the implications this scenario will have on their companies. The obvious complication of organizing schedules is not the only challenge of which employers need be aware in considering benefit options to attract part-time workers. Here are some factors companies can consider as they prepare for these changes.
- Research what work arrangements and benefits work best for an intermittent workforce. Consider part-time schedules such as a compressed workweek schedule or job sharing. Flexible work schedules allow part-time workers to be productive and still meet their needs for work/life balance. The 2015 WorldatWork “Trends in Workplace Flexibility” survey found that while 82 percent of the companies represented by the respondents offered part-time schedules, 52 percent did not offer a compressed workweek schedule and 79 percent did not utilize job sharing.
- Consider providing benefit options, such as offering a voluntary benefit program. In this situation, the company offers part-time and full-time employees a menu of benefits. Workers choose and pay for the ones they want, normally through payroll deductions. The employer handles administration costs and education information. There are challenges in creating these programs, which the employer must think through and be prepared to address.
- Engage the services of an outside expert in the design of benefit options for intermittent employees. Federal, state and local workplace regulations are in a state of flux. No one has a crystal ball to predicting what changes will be legislated in the next year or two. Relying on an outside benefits expert can save a company time and money as well as ensure benefit plans for intermittent employees are legally compliant.
- Analyze the demographics of the intermittent workforce you are trying to attract. Understand what they value in a benefits program. For example, young single people will not value short term and long-term disability programs as much as time off programs.
- Customize benefit communication. Whether employees are intermittent or full-time, they want benefits communications to be simple and tailored to answer their specific questions. Use social media and company literature to sell the importance of benefits provided to an intermittent workforce.
As the job market improves, employers have to work harder to design strategies to attract and retain top talent, whether they are part time or full time employees. If one thing is clear, not everyone is happy with a cookie cutter approach to benefits.
Structuring innovative benefit packages, tailored to meet the needs of a part-time workforce, takes time. However, employers, who are willing to explore these options, will be ahead in the ongoing talent search for part-time workers who want to work but place a high value on work/life balance.