Darryl Stewart
By Darryl Stewart
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How to engage employees working more than one job

The reality in today’s economy is that many employees are working more than one job.  Well paying “career” jobs are getting harder and harder to find. The question is: how do you engage your employees when they don’t just work for you?

Whether someone works exclusively for you or not, it is important for you to take the time to understand what their future goals are and what they are passionate about.  With staff who work multiple jobs, taking the time to do this can be hard since you may not feel as invested in them as you do with your “fully committed” staff, but the opportunity to create engagement is high, since their other employers may be acting and feeling the same way.  Many multiple job holders report feeling like they don’t really fit in at any of their jobs and feel like outsiders compared to those that work exclusively for one employer.

How do you engage employees who are balancing multiple jobs? Picture by Quinn Dombrowski
How do you engage employees who are balancing multiple jobs? Picture by Quinn Dombrowski

One thing that has worked well for me is encouraging open discussion about the trials and tribulations of not only an employee’s work for me, but also their work for other employers.  Once I show that I am not going to get upset when they talk about their other job and that my true interest lies in their success, the discussions become more open and I can feel engagement increasing.

As far as motivation, I have had some had some success here as well. Many employees working multiple jobs have expressed frustration with me that they don’t feel like they are getting anywhere.  Some feel trapped with little hope for the future.  When I am hearing this from someone I believe in, I tell them the truth: that I admire their work ethic and the fact that they are working multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. I find that sharing my admiration and feelings on this point is very helpful.

Here is the big one for me.  You must prepare yourself for their promotion within or their departure from your organization.  Your goal needs to be to help them find the right situation for their needs. Few people willingly choose to work multiple jobs. Once you understand their goals, you need to commit to helping your employee achieve them. If their goal is to have a regular full time job that pays enough that they no longer have to work for you, that needs to become your goal too. Then the discussions become more open, and you get a fully committed employee with whom you are working in unison to get the important work done as you both strive to get him or her into a situation they desire.

In the end the keys to being an engaging leader to multiple job holders is to:

  • understand their full work situation and their future goals
  • coach them and support their success in all their endeavours
  • share your admiration for the hard work they are doing despite the difficulties of having to work multiple jobs
  • work with them to get them into a situation they desire

Some of the best, most moving, leadership stories I hear involve tearful thank yous from past employees to that leader that encouraged them to grow, despite the fact that the growth would take that employee away from that leader.