Would you consider job-sharing? Pros and cons for employers/employees

Job sharing may not be the most popular form of flexible working. Instinctively, it may just feel easier to split a job into two separate part-time roles. But a job-share can work very well where a) a job isn’t so easily broken down and b) where two employees can bring complementary skills and an additional layer of expertise.

A job-share might typically come about where an employee seeks to switch to a part-time role (perhaps due to caring responsibilities or just a desire for better work/life balance). But the role is resolutely full-time – it would not be possible to achieve its objectives in fewer hours. At the same time, the firm may not want to lose a highly valued, experienced employee who has been hugely successful in the role and is an invaluable member of the broader team.

This is where it’s worth discussing the possibility of a job share. Not only could this solution help retain talent, but it could bring significant benefits in terms of productivity and creativity. Two employees will bring fresh ideas, skills and experience to the role. Not only that, but mutual accountability can be a powerful motivator for improved performance. Neither job-sharer will want to let their team mate down – especially as it could jeopardise the entire role for both.

At the same time, however, there are inevitable challenges to getting the job share right. Finding two compatible employees, agreeing who has ‘ownership’ of what area, deciding hand-overs and communication processes – all these need careful consideration.

Here are our thoughts on getting the job-share role right:

  1. Time should be spent clarifying the job description. Exactly what hours will be expected? A sensible approach might be to agree Monday to Wednesday am for the first employee, and Wednesday pm to Friday for the second. The Wednesday could then incorporate a face-to-face hand-over period, where progress and tasks can be shared out and agreed.
  2. Although this isn’t a job split, it could still be useful to break the role down into its constituent parts. This will make it easier to agree responsibilities and gear different aspects of the role to the unique talents/skills of each job sharer.
  3. Employers and job-sharers will need to agree communication processes to broader teams – how will other members of the firm know who to contact and when? Each job sharer may need to be willing to answer urgent queries on their days off, albeit without it resulting in each employer ending up working full-time for part-time pay! Firms should not take advantage.
  4. Performance measurement and review will need to be carefully managed. Firms will need to have clear and transparent processes in place to ensure that each job-sharer is recognised for their personal effort. Problems may arise where one job-sharer takes credit for work the other feels they completed – or alternatively one ends up ‘covering’ for the other’s under-performance.
  5. Job sharers must be able to set aside time to plan together, set goals, and measure successes. Neither employee will be able to do things entirely their way – compromise will be essential. The reality is that if the job-sharers can’t get on, this is unlikely to work. It may be difficult to admit things aren’t working (for fear of losing the job-share), but problems raised early are more likely to get fixed.
  6. Managers will need to think about on-going processes to ensure that each job-sharer is treated equally. Do not plan team meetings for each Friday when only one job-sharer is in, be on hand to oversee hand-overs if necessary (especially in the early days) and don’t forget the importance of regular reviews, even if they are just 15-minute catch-ups. They are essential in the job-share environment.

The job share may take a little more time and preparation to get right. But done successfully, it’s not just productivity that might benefit, but engagement too – which in itself will then positively impact performance. In this respect, two heads can most certainly be better than one.

Read our Q&A to see how a job-share can work in practice.

Agile, Time management, Flexible working, Working mums, job-share

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