10 August 2014

Job sharing in senior roles: how to make it viable

Job sharing is an option that is becoming increasingly popular within organisations as employers respond to employees' needs for different ways of working. This article outlines how to develop a job share arrangement so it works effectively for everyone.

The global market is highly competitive, so having the right staff is crucial if an organisation is to thrive. In a global market, firms are often expected to be able to respond to issues on a 24/7 basis. This can result in staff working longer hours, which can squeeze out employees who need to balance the demands of their career with family life. In order to overcome this challenge, many organisations are choosing to offer flexible working conditions for senior staff. Job sharing is an option that is becoming increasingly popular. We look at what this entails and how to make it work for both employees and employers.

What is job sharing?

A job share arrangement is when two people share the same role. Some people may want to job share as they prefer to work part-time, others may want to reduce hours as they near retirement. The contract and responsibilities are usually shared 50/50 but employees may split a role 60/40 or similar.

Reasons to choose job sharing arrangement

The benefits of job sharing are that employees who are struggling to balance work and family life can keep their job and also manage commitments outside of work.

This can improve recruitment and retention of staff who may not want full-time work. Parents with young children often find it a good option, and people caring for elderly parents or relatives with chronic health issues can also find it beneficial.

The Job Share Project is a collaborative venture between Capability Jane and seven global organisations including Centrica, Deloitte, DHL, Freshfields, Herbert Smith, KPMG and RBS to investigate job sharing in senior leadership positions, and to find out how feasible this is. The report authors carried out a survey with a number of global companies and found that 87% of job sharers were women, 13% were men.

Many women in senior roles find themselves forced out of the job market if they wish to work part-time, so in this instance job sharing is one way to maintain their position while coping with childcare.

How to make it work?

There’s no set formula for how to make a job sharing arrangement work at a senior level. How it works will depend on several factors including the nature of the role being shared, the number of hours that each employee wants to work, the people involved in the job sharing arrangement and the corporate culture.

Pros and cons for individuals

The benefits for employees include:

  •  A better work-life balance
  • Shared responsibility can increase confidence, creativity and productivity
  • Despite not working fulltime, individuals can maintain a senior position within the organisation

Some possible negatives include:

  • Employees’ skills may not complement each other
  • It can be difficult to fully ‘own’ the role & have consistency
  • Handovers between employees may be difficult
  • Mixed messages could cause communication problems between the job sharers and also between the wider organisation as a whole

Pros and cons for employers

The benefits for employers include:

  • Greater staff retention
  • Happier and more motivated staff
  • Two people can bring a multi-dimensional skill set to the role

Possible negatives include:

  • Increased costs
  • More administration involved
  • Solving conflicts between the job sharers/managers
  • Lack of continuity for clients & members of staff

Recommendations for best practice

The key recommendation for successful job sharing is a shift in employee mindset from “I” to “we”. Job sharers are a team and have to think and be treated as one. This applies to working methods and communication – both external and internal.

Other tips for making it work include:

  • Honesty – job sharers must always be open with each other to promote understanding
  • Communication – schedule regular meetings to check progress and discuss any issues arising
  • Respect – Recognising each other’s strengths and weaknesses and not being defensive about issues will help the relationship to grow in a supportive way.

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