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Job shares are a win for all parties

Be curious. Identify challenges. Evolve. Evaluate. Rinse and repeat. This is how I practice my craft. Sometimes this leads to refinement, continuous improvement, optimisation.

Occasionally, it sparks a revolutionary spirit, a desire to challenge the status quo head on and exclaim there must be a better way. This article is very much aligned to the latter.

In my mind, job shares make total sense and are a win for all parties. If done well, those in a job share should be in a stimulating role that enables them to progress and perform. Some of the organisation benefits include:

● Synergy of two individuals delivering well together and providing a wider skill set than a single appointee.

● Direct reports having two people to provide support and development.

● More likely to have holiday cover as they may not choose to take the same time off.

So what is stifling the mainstream adoption of this practice? Companies like Ford have adopted and normalised job shares but only internally.

Read more: Agile: how HR is changing shape

I am in the early stage of a co-enquiry on this, and my sense is that the barrier (as with all equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives) is a blend of a lack of capability and confidence.

If I was being a bit more forthright, I’d add courage to that list.

I don’t know how it will work; I don’t know how to interview; I don’t have the budget; I don’t see how my organisation will benefit; no one else is doing it.

There is a long list of excuses but what if we came together as a profession to negate all the ‘reasons’ for not mainstreaming job share?

What if we dared to collectively disrupt and build guidelines for a new model that helped us build job share as a normalised option for all people in the workforce? From parents, carers, disabled employees and those nearing retirement.

In fact, it would suit anyone who wants to work in a challenging role but would prefer to work part-time hours.

Let’s think for a moment about all the high-calibre, talented people working beneath their capability in part-time roles because we haven’t had the foresight to create an environment where job shares are a normal and everyday option.

It is still early in the co-enquiry, but there are some very consistent lessons being learned from the conversations we are having:

1. Be honest about whether your culture is ready for job shares and if it isn’t, commit to doing the work required to get it ready.

2. Budget all roles as being 1.2 to allow you to recruit job shares working for example a 0.6 contract. This allows a crossover day to ensure seamless handover.

3. Consider advertising all roles as being open to job shares – you don’t know what talent you are missing out on unless you ask the question and invite applications.

4. Think about applicants as one individual and run your process in a way that enables them to apply as such, for example a joint CV or interview together.

5. If you appoint job shares, allocate budget for them to have a shared coach to help them enhance and improve their working relationship.

6. You will need to organise a clear contracting process with manager, peers and direct reports to avoid issues such as people only going to one individual or organising large numbers of meetings on the crossover day.

I fully believe if we systematically introduce job shares, we will be addressing the biggest driver of the gender pay gap.

It isn’t really a matter of whether we should, but a question of why we aren’t doing this already. If you are interested in joining a growing band of pioneering organisations committed to job share then please reach out to me.


Tiger de Souza is executive director of people at Samaritans and appeared on the HR Most Influential Practitioners list 2023