Increasing part-time employees to reduce costs?

Topic: Job Satisfaction, Organizational Commitment
Publication: Journal of Vocational Behavior (JAN 2011)
Article: Effects of scheduling perceptions on attitudes and mobility in different part-time employee types
Authors: J.L.S. Wittmer, J.E. Martin
Reviewed By: Rebecca Eckart

Is your organization increasing the amount of part-time employees so as to reduce costs, increase flexibility, and remain competitive? If so, then you are not alone. However, emerging evidence suggests that the growing population of part-time employees may have important behavioral and attitude differences than full-time employees. Part-time employees commonly work nonstandard schedules, including the less desirable days (e.g., weekends) and hours (e.g., evenings and nights). This leads to increased negative work attitudes, more work-family conflict, and higher turnover.

More specifically, recent research suggests that there is considerable diversity among the part-time workforce, and insight into this can help managers manage sub-groups more strategically.   Some part-time workers having external attachments that are very fixed (e.g., students with class schedules & “moonlighters” with other job commitments), whereas others can be classified as having more flexible external attachments (e.g., “primaries” (contributing >50% of family income) and “supplementers” (job supplements family income) with fluid family commitments. These differing categorizations based on the degree of flexibility of external commitments plays a role in the level of inclusion part-time workers feel in the organization, according to new research.

Wittmer and Martin (2011) found that being classified as “fixed” vs. “flexible” played an important role between work scheduling perceptions (scheduling control, scheduling satisfaction) and organizational attitudes (organizational commitment, job satisfaction, employment mobility) for part-time employees.

Particularly, part-time workers with more “fixed” outside roles (e.g., school or another job) demonstrate lower job attitudes and appear to perceive less inclusion in the organization. On the other hand, part-timers with “flexible” attachment typically face external commitments that are more fluid, such as family obligations, and were found to hold higher job attitudes.

Part-time workers have one of the highest turnover rates. With the knowledge that work scheduling perceptions positively influence important job attitudes such as commitment and satisfaction for “fixed” attachment employees, managers can strive to offer increased flexibility around external commitments for these “fixed” part-time workers. On the other hand, Wittmer and Martin (2011) suggest alternative incentives, such as pay premiums, for part-time employees with “flexible” attachment, as they are not as motivated by scheduling flexibility.

Wittmer, J.L.S, & Martin, J.E. (2011). Effects of scheduling perceptions on attitudes and mobility in different part-time employee types. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 78, 149-158.