Ask HR

Q. With so many new graduates seeking work experience, and so many people in career transitions, why do you believe more employers do not offer volunteer, internships, part-time, or contract work opportunities?

Mark HeroldMark Herold, VP of Human Resources for Cypress Communications, Inc.

A.

What I'm seeing today is the opposite and that many employers are using part-time or contract employees to fill business needs while they assess the economic climate and the business need to actually add full-time employees. Today most employers are extraordinarily wary about adding full-time employees and will continue to utilize this path until things change. Also the supply the high-quality talent willing engage in shorter-term assignments has increased.

At the same time, employers are taking the opportunity to upgrade talent so you see full-time positions being filled as poor performers are replaced by more highly skilled talent. I see activity on both fronts.

Internships have a unique challenge in that they require more management time and structure which can be a deterrent and something that employers sometimes do not have the bandwidth to provide. Employers seem to be taking a more conservative approach to internships for this reason.

Mike HabermanMike Haberman, V.P. and Director of HR Services for Omega HR Solutions, Inc.

A. Many employers are not offering alternative work arrangements for a number of different reasons. Firstly I would think liability is an issue. Liability the employer has for the employee, such as in wokers' comp. In some cases these people may be covered by insurance and in other cases not. But regardless most employers would assume they will have to assume some liability for the safety and well-being of the worker. A second liability that is assumed is for the potential "damage" that these workers may cause to the employer's customers and employees.

A second reason that many companies may be avoiding this is that they are unfamiliar with the models for doing this and do not have the resources for learning how to deal with this contingent workforce. Additionally, there are costs associated with even "free" labor. Someone still has to manage the workers and find and assign work. If a company is already operating in a cost-cutting mode they will not want to assume this expense.

Thirdly, there are alternative resources to doing this by yourself. Just the other day there was a report that the temporary labor business was on an upswing. Temporary staffing offers an alternative, albeit a potentially pricey one, where much of the liability mentioned above is borne by the staffing company. And most companies are familiar with how a temporary staffing arrangement works.

Tywana MinorTywana Minor, HR Manager, RBS Americas

A. It is not that companies are not offering the alternative work methods listed, they are just not as readily available as in years past. Many companies are strategically focusing on improving economies of scale and workplace processes and procedures that are geared toward the goal of positively impacting overall efficiencies. These necessary adjustments over time will likely create future opportunities. Many of the alternative work methods listed actually help to create financial and work load flexibility, and are certainly more cost effective in the long run. Those seeking work, and those graduating can gain volunteer experiences by aligning themselves with organizations associated with their fields of study, and by seeking out volunteer opportunities. One must take initiatives to get exposed to those opportunities. Internship inquiries can be geared towards an institution's career placement center, through aggressive online searches, and through the use of staffing agencies which are great resources for part time and contract work opportunities. Finally, the Georgia Department of Labor is a great resource for potential work opportunities, as well as outplacement services, for those in career transitions.

The following human resources professionals are members of the Atlanta Chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management. If you have a question you would like to ask a panel of local experts, please e-mail it to Sharon Belhamel, vice president of public relations for SHRM-Atlanta at sbelhamel@bellsouth.net. For more information about becoming a member of SHRM-Atlanta, please visit their membership section or call 404.442.7335.