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Ford bolsters job shares with matchmaking app

Ford Motor Company has launched a matchmaking tool to help employees find potential partners for job shares. 

Piloting in the UK and Germany after a successful trial in the US, the web-based app connects employees looking to cut down their hours to manage childcare or other responsibilities outside of work. 

In the eight weeks since the European launch 87 workers had signed up and made five connections between them.

Based on results at the end of the pilot the motor company, which is famous for its early introduction of weekends and 40-hour working week, hopes to roll it out further in future.

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Speaking to HR magazine Peter Godsell, Ford Motor Company chief HR officer, international operations, said: “Ford is seen as a very, I would say, formulaic, systematised company and to some extent that's still true – if you're if you're doing large-scale complex engineering, you need a certain amount of systems and processes – but what really sits behind this are a few things. 

“To stay relevant in the world and what our employees would demand required us to make moves in terms of providing additional flexibility and then alongside that we're going through this huge industry transition, from traditional, heavy engineering to a much more software and tech-oriented company. And we're now competing for talent in pools that we haven't had to compete in before.” 

It is part of a wider transformation strategy at the firm which has accelerated since the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Godsell added: “We're on this journey of transforming many aspects of the business and wrap it up under a mantra that we call Ford Plus.

"It's the transformation of our business, including cultural transformation, the processes, the organisation structure, everything that allows us to transform into a future-focused business.” 

Sian Hodgson-Wood (pictured right), joint Ford Credit TSP consumer portfolio manager, is one of the beneficiaries of job sharing at Ford. 

She has been in a job share with her colleague Gillian Humphries since 2015 and it was coincidence they matched.

Both part time, they went for the same promotion and were subsequently offered the role as a job share. 

As part of the Women of Ford employee resource group (ERG) they have both championed the introduction of the JobShare Connect app to help other colleagues find flexible working opportunities like theirs without leaving it up to chance. 

Hodgson-Wood told HR magazine: “Job sharing has been a thing in Ford for many, many years but the one thing that's held it back is finding a partner. 

“For me it's putting the power of flexible working in the hands of the employees to go out there, find somebody, make a match and then drive that opportunity to job share in the organisation, because you can appreciate in a company our size, it's hard to know who's out there.” 

The success of the arrangement, she said, relies on the rapport between job sharing partners. 

She added: “You have got to find someone that you can have that absolute transparent and fluid communication with. If you job shared with someone you couldn't work with well or didn't like or respect or get on with, I think it would be an absolute nightmare. It's a bit like a marriage.” 

Hodgson-Wood and Humphries have developed well-defined roles between them that play to their strengths, this helps them delegate effectively and reduces potential complications. 

They share a OneNote notebook and other collaboration tools to make sure they’re on the same page. 

To avoid any confusion from the teams around them and facilitate communication, even when one is off work, they ask direct reports and other colleagues to send messages to them both, so they work out who takes responsibility. 

Hodgson-Wood added: “Gill and I have morphed more into taking slightly separate roles with an overlay of stuff we do jointly. [We have] the ability to stay patched in on what each other's doing so we can cover, but she's the expert in this bit, I'm the expert in that bit, and this bit we do together. And that just worked well for us.” 

The introduction of the app has also pushed to make all salaried roles at Ford shareable as a standard, with the onus on managers to prove that a job is not suited to such an arrangement. 

The exception is the company's hourly-paid production staff, due to how complicated it would be to introduce it alongside shift patterns. 

Godsell added: “The way we run that business, which is typically through shift patterns, makes it challenging to apply this type of tool, but shift working brings other types of flexibility. 

“I guess there are some roles where you have a really strong requirement for continuity and the ability to hand over work, but I have to say those are really the exceptions rather than the rule. I mean in senior and executive level positions we've been able to make it work.”