Can Part-Time Jobs Boost Startups?

Startups everywhere struggle to find good talent, which has recently become very apparent in Seattle. In February, SEOmoz announced $12,000 for employee referrals, and EnergySavvy offered $10,000. Despite so many engineers at large corporations in Seattle – many interested in joining a startup – hiring is very difficult.

Based on conversations I’ve had with local engineers, I’d like to suggest a new hiring strategy: part-time jobs. Rather than pay for referrals, startups could create part-time contracts. Engineers often want to explore a startup of their own, and stick with the corporation to maximize their salary until they take the plunge.  An alternative is to offer them a way to transition to a startup.  They can continue to make a good income, with the opportunity to pursue their own ideas and experience startup life. It’s likely many part-time employees would find that they enjoy working for a startup and stay on full-time.  Part-time jobs provide a way to lure highly qualified employees from their comfortable jobs and salaries, but unfortunately these opportunities are currently very rare.

Since leaving Microsoft, I’ve been surprised that it’s so difficult to find part-time work. Especially in this economy, I’d expect more businesses to be open to part-time employees. It’s understandable that companies want to invest in employees they know will stick around, but with a shortage of talent, part-time employees get the work done and are likely to grow into full-time employees, either directly or indirectly.  This alternative is also a great opportunity to move away from 40-hour weeks; some employees will be just as effective in half the time.

Part-time jobs are at best an effective recruiting mechanism, and at worst a way to support the local startup scene, whose progress benefits everyone.  It allows startups to test employees, and employees to test startups.  If startup and employee get along, it’s likely they will find an opportunity to work together gain; at the very least, they will provide referrals – for free.

I’m eager to know what you think. Would you be willing to work part-time while pursuing your idea? Does your startup have a reason for not offering part-time jobs?

Aaron Franklin is co-founder of LazyMeter, an application designed to end procrastination and forgetting. He works as a part-time consultant to support his startup.

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