Keeping employees motivated is an ongoing challenge for small business owners, but that challenge is often magnified when it comes to part-time workers. Part-time employees are frequently less invested than their full-time counterparts, and as such, the techniques that help keep your full-time workers at the top of their game may not work as well.
One of the major reasons part-time workers can be more difficult to motivate is that they typically feel less important than their full-time colleagues. Full-time workers may command higher hourly wages, and they often get benefits packages and other perks that diminish part-time employees’ sense of value.
Employees are the lifeblood of any successful business. If they’re happy at work, they’ll do a better job, and that benefits you and your customers alike. The overall key is to make all your workers, full-time and part-time, feel appreciated as much as possible.
How to Make Your Employees Feel Appreciated
Genuine appreciation is much more than words and gestures. In fact, saying or doing the wrong thing at the wrong time can have a negative rather than positive effect. To avoid that, it’s important to personalize your appreciation of individual employees.
Consider the following example, using two part-time employees: Employee A and Employee B. Employee A is constantly struggling to make ends meet, and works a full-time job in addition to the part-time hours they put in at your business. Employee B, meanwhile, comes from a comparatively privileged background and took on their job because they’re interested in the industry and they want to gain some real-life experience.
On a particular work day, things were very busy and you asked both Employee A and Employee B to put in a couple of extra hours. At the end of the shift, you took them both aside and told them you really appreciated the extra effort. Yet, Employee A leaves feeling resentful rather than appreciated.
A better approach would be to take both employees aside individually. In the case of Employee A, you would want to acknowledge that he or she works very long hours and that you genuinely appreciate that they found some extra time to help out the team. This stands a much better chance of making Employee A feel invested in the company and connected to the other team members, and it also makes your praise and appreciation feel genuine rather than generic.
Using a similar example, you’ll see why it’s not always a good idea to offer equal amounts of praise and appreciation to all your part-time employees. In the small business world, underperforming employees are a fact of life. If you’re aware of performance issues, you can be sure that employee’s coworkers are equally if not more aware of them than you are. Giving that employee equal praise in front of other, more deserving coworkers can lower overall morale, making the whole team less motivated.
In such cases, you’ll need to make some difficult decisions. If a particular part-time employee has consistently shown that he or she just isn’t a good fit, letting them go becomes an important strategic move in the right direction. Doing so accomplishes two things: first, it establishes that lackadaisical performance won’t be tolerated, and it sets a benchmark for the rest of your employees to meet. Second, it shows that you care about the way your dutiful, well-performing employees feel. In many such situations, the proverbial “good apples” are wondering why the “bad apple” isn’t being tossed out of the bushel. The longer the bad apple stays around, the greater the chance that your good workers will start to feel less motivated to perform at a high level.
Remember: keeping part-time employees motivated takes an optimized mix of discipline and genuine appreciation for their efforts. Specific situations can be challenging to navigate, but you should always approach them the same way: make the good workers feel appreciated, and ensure that underperforming workers face consequences. This will ultimately create a positive working environment with a healthy dose of internal competition, which will benefit both your customers and the overall success of your business.