Job sharing for C-Suite Executives. Can it be done?

Livingston James’ Sophie Randles discusses how job sharing in high level positions can positively impact women in C-Suite roles, and slow the drain of senior level talent.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created a demand for organisations to become more agile and introduce flexible means of working; from allowing work from home, to flexible hours, to job sharing to accommodate people’s new found sense of ownership over their work/life balance.

While working from home and flexible hours have received vast coverage, job sharing is still less widely discussed, most likely for the increased challenges it presents and due to it being less commonly accepted. Job sharing most often takes the form of two employees sharing the responsibilities of one full time role while working alternative days or with limited cross over.

Job sharing has been praised for enabling individuals to take on some of the responsibilities of full-time work without the demand of full-time hours. It has enabled flexibility and improved employee satisfaction, in turn reducing staff turnover.  According to the Job Share Project, 87% of job sharers said the ability to job share meant the difference between staying with a company and leaving.

While statistics about the number of people working a job share are inconsistent and poorly reported, there is evidence that suggests that job shares are becoming more popular, even in executive positions where this was previously rarely enabled.

Since 2012, Timewise has published its Power Part Time List which highlights those people working in senior part time roles, including job shares.  The 2021 list, published in Management Today, included joint HR Directors at the BBC, Wendy Aslett and Rachel Currie; Partners at Baker McKenzie, Helen Brown and Julie Hemmings; and IT Operations Managers at Ford, Sian Hodgson-Wood and Gillian Humphries.  A recent article in the Guardian highlighted job sharing at the highest levels in GCHQ, with two working mothers sharing the role as Heads of Counter Terrorism.  In the article the pair describe their job share as their “superpower” which allows them to double output and efficiency.

An increase in job sharing results in increased opportunities for people to take on executive positions. This is hugely impactful for women as they have famously lacked opportunities to move into executive roles. Organisations may opt for a male/ female job share to improve diversity and variety of thought allowing them benefit from having two points of view, influence, and people with opposing ways of thinking driving decisions; so long as decisions can be made amicably. With two people taking on the responsibilities of one role, there is opportunity for increasing productivity, ensuring financial and strategic gain.

Of course, it is essential that businesses ensure that they have fully considered the impact of introducing a job share at senior level, and even if it is appropriate for their business at this time.   If businesses decide that a job-share at executive level could work for them, clear communication and structure will be key to success. Ensuring employees know which executive is responsible for which aspects of the business will prevent any confusion.

Opting for two people who have a mutual sense of respect and trust, can offer complimentary skills and experience and who are open to having their views or decisions challenged for the long-term gain of the company will be crucial for success.

As people continue to demand that organisations embrace change, sustainability and innovation, job sharing is likely to grow in popularity with two people having more impact than one alone can. Something to consider, and perhaps embrace, when designing or reshaping your Board of the future!

For more advice on executive job-sharing opportunities, contact Sophie Randles at [email protected] for a confidential conversation.

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