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Managing Part-Time Employees

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With the pandemic affecting the amount of miles driven and cars on the road, the demand for quick lube services was at an all-time low. Like many businesses other than quick lubes, most staff hours have been cut in half, with full-time staffers turning into part-time help. By definition, that’s someone who works less than 30 hours per week, according to Bill Haas, owner of Haas Performance Consulting.

Haas says that some operators avoided cutting down on full-time staff hours, because their entire staff is made up of part-time employees. And with this type of roster, running operations can be a smooth ride. Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether a crew of full-time or part-time employees is right for your operation.

Are part-time employees right for my business model?

Part-time employment is more popular in the quick lube industry than in general automotive repair due to the speed of service, Haas says. For quick lube models that focus on 10-minute service models with light maintenance services, this is where part-time employees fit best.

“I think the primary thing that makes having part-time employees a good situation is their business model,” Haas says. “Their service and time spent is very limited, servicing the car in 15 to 20 minutes most times.”

And with this model, quick lubes are trying to limit the time spent on a vehicle, and most auto repair shops try to extend the amount of time, according to Haas. In quick lubes, it’s very easy to use part-time staff because the operator knows the shop will service X number of cars that day with no cars overlapping into the next day.

The Pros

While it may seem like there are a lot more employees to manage, there are other factors for owners. Haas says that operators are generally not required to provide benefits, PTO, holiday pay, or insurance. Haas says there are a lot of costs associated with payroll, and the savings of having all part-time employees really adds up in a big way.

Haas says while part-time employees are more beneficial for quick maintenance models,  a benefit to having part-time employees in a longer maintenance model is using it as a form of a job interview.

“To me, I think there is an opportunity with part-time help to see if they are a good fit,” Haas says.

For example, it’s perfect for an employee who has another job and needs extra income on the side, but is curious enough to see if working in quick lube operations is cut out for him or her. Haas says operators can find candidates to invest in, develop the skills they need in order to transition him or her into a full-time staff member.

The Cons

With quick lube models that may have waiting rooms and offer more full-maintenance services, it can be difficult to have part-time staff on the roster. Usually, one technician is in charge of a certain job, and when there are part-time workers involved, it can be hard to fill all services if he or she has limited hours to work on that job. 

For example, if an employee is assigned a car that comes in toward the end of a part-time shift and the shop needs to keep the vehicle for longer than expected, the part-time employee won’t be able to keep the job or won’t be able to get back to the repair until their next shift. That’s not as efficient.

“You need one technician to start the service, stay on it, and complete it,” Haas says.


How many PT staff members do you need?

To know how many part-time staffers you’ll need on your roster, Haas says you first need to know what hours the shop can produce, what the customer demand looks like, and have a good understanding of the shop’s daily car count. 

First, Haas says to look at how many hours the shop has available with the goal to sell all of those available hours, taking the total number of hours available to determine the total amount of hours available. For example, if he has two part-time employees that are there for four hours in the morning, Haas has a total of eight hours worth of work he can sell.

Haas says if his staff is productive, he can use the amount of time it takes each technician to see if they have enough part-time staff or not, and they are able to sell the time leftover that is still available with the right amount of staff on board. The biggest indicator of needing more part-time staff is when the customer demand is greater than the work that is currently being output. If there are bays that are two to three cars deep with vehicles, it’s probably time to hire out more help.


How should you schedule part-time employees?

Another pro of having part-time staff is operators can adjust their staffing based on customer demand on certain days of the week. For example, if Wednesdays are busier than most, an operator will want to have more part-time employees than any other day. With full-time employees, they expect to get all of their hours in and paid the same amount each week. If it’s a slow day, an operator can easily send home a part-time employee first versus sending home full-time staffers that depend on those hours and paychecks. There’s a lot more flexibility with part-time staff, like having an on-call staffer almost, and they can be used to fill in the gaps in order to have the right amount of people to keep up with the demand.


What should you look for in part-time employee candidates?

Whether it’s a part-time employee or one that’s full-time, choosing an employee for each is interchangeable. It’s all about the behavior and the attitude that they bring to the table.

“Just because they are part time, I can’t tolerate bad behavior,” Haas says.

What does matter, however, is what their schedule looks like. Haas says there has to be some flexibility in their schedule to meet the shop’s needs. For example, if a candidate can only work three days per week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, operators have to ask themselves how that will work into their schedule. If other part-time employees are more flexible on hours, will it require changing up the entire schedule? Or are there just certain days that you need to fill in with extra help? Haas says the biggest indicator of having a part-time hire work or not is if they are there when you need them.

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