If Done Right, Part-Time Professionals Can Work for Your Business

Think part-time professionals aren’t a right fit for your business? You might want to rethink this: If you don't consider hiring part-time people when you have a position open, you may be throwing money down the drain, settling for someone with the wrong skill set, or both.

Many businesses don’t consider hiring part-time employees as an option, as they really don’t have a handle of how much time is needed to get a particular job done. The person doing the hiring very often doesn’t have the background and practical experience in the field they looking to fill. A business owner, for example, without a background in accounting and finances doesn’t really know what’s involved to do the job of a Controller, but he or she is doing the hiring. The business owner assumes this is an eight-hour-a-day or more position and hires a Controller full time, spending way more money that they perhaps need to – not only in the person’s salary but also in providing employee benefits and paying unemployment and Social Security taxes. Over time, the owner may find that the Controller’s bandwidth is pretty broad and begins to give him or her more responsibility to fill in the space. The Controller finds himself/herself performing tasks outside his or her purview – in areas that he or she may not be trained on or experienced in, or doing menial or administrative tasks that are below his or her pay scale. He or she ends up wearing a lot of different hats, some of which are not a great fit. Inevitably, the individual will become frustrated, feeling under utilized and overworked (yes at the same time!), and eventually will leave. It’s a losing paradigm for both the business owner who has spent a great deal of time and money hiring a candidate and showing him or her the ins and outs of the company’s operation, and the employee who opts to leave for a better fit.

How does a business turn this around to leverage the benefits that come with part-time workers?

First, get a good grasp of what the position entails. Do this by summarizing the position and expectations, and prioritizing the essential qualities you're looking for. Make a list of each of the tasks that fall under the job function and determine whether they are necessary or a requirement to perform the job. For example, a Controller, depending on the size of the company, will perform or oversee the following tasks: implementation of policies and procedures, staff management, budget creation, payroll, financial statements preparation and review, coordination with CPAs on audits and tax returns, implementation of financial and accounting systems, strategic planning management, among others. Determine how much time is spent performing each task, the consequences of not performing the function, and whether this would be detrimental to the business operation or result in severe consequences.

Once you’ve defined the functions he or she may be required to undertake, it also makes sense to understand the skills needed to perform each task well. In this example, a Controller’s skills sets, depending on the tasks outlined, should include having a strong understanding of all functions of a typical accounting department; be able to answer tough questions and manage others in the financial department (if one exists); have the ability to negotiate contracts and insurance policies, reviewing invoices, and meet with tax advisors and auditors; have an innate passion for details and the ability to explain them; just to name a few.

With this information in hand, you can then suss out the amount of work the position requires and the time needed to do it along with the necessary skill level needed to perform the job well and succeed. The smaller the business, the more likely it is that in doing this exercise one of two scenarios will become clear: 1) a part-time person (as there is a finite number of functions that can be performed in X hours) will suffice in completing all the tasks, or 2) the position is a full-time job that requires two or more different skill sets in order to get the work done.

For accounting positions, business owners can look to their trusted advisors, like their CPA firm, to get insight into how long specific tasks should take and what skill levels would be required. You can also enlist the help of an accounting services firm (like ours) who can conduct an analysis as part of an evaluation and assessment of the entire accounting department infrastructure. Oftentimes, these firms will forego a portion of their fees for these services if they also assist help with some of the accounting work.

Part-time professional employees can work if a business truly understands its needs and how to address those needs. Take the time to evaluate the position, the work involved and the type of individual you need before looking to recruit or hire an employee. This will increase your odds of hiring the right person the first time around in a full- or part-time position. Or, you may determine an outside firm can accomplish what you need and this is the avenue you should take.


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