We take a look at the case for job shares, and how we can overcome barriers to the job sharing concept.
Job and advice website workingmums.co.uk has run its annual survey for over 10 years and the statistics on job shares have rarely budged in that time. This is despite employers such as the Civil Service promoting them both internally and externally, including for senior level jobs.
One reason is that there is little awareness about how well they can work and how much more than one full-time equivalent person they can offer. Another is that finding the right job share match can be complicated. Nevertheless, several job share specialists have set up in recent years, driven by a strong belief that job shares offer the kind of flexible hours many employees want, help address the gender pay gap by enabling women to work part time in senior roles and give employers the benefits of two people’s expertise in one role.
Sara Allen, founder of Further&More job share firm, thinks job shares are a no brainer for both employer and employee. For employees they mean they can do a senior job on reduced hours; for employers they get full-time cover and more than full-time expertise and productivity, she says.
Her site has an online matching mechanism to achieve the best possible match. It also offers advice on what works in job shares, including checklists about holidays, handovers and so on. “We have created the mother of all guidebooks for job shares,” says Sara.
The company also provides coaches who sit down with job shares and help them prepare and decide how they want the job share to work. Sara says most job shares take between six and nine months to bed in. Handovers are vital, she states, but some employers, particularly SMEs, are worried about paying extra for an overlapping day. She says it can be half a day or less and the time can be covered by letting job shares leave early on other days.
While economics is sometimes a barrier to job shares, Sara is adamant they are cost effective because employers save on recruitment to cover a person who leaves because they can’t get reduced hours, they don’t lose out on any investment they have made in that person’s training and they retain the person’s organisational knowledge.
Also because job shares are more likely to be women, the chances are that two female jobs shares will earn less than one full-time man. In addition, they increase diversity, which has been shown to be good for a business’ bottom line, increase innovation [two heads being better than one] and coach each other as well as transferring skills between each other.
They also require less management time, she says, because they solve problems together. “Our research shows that the best job share pairs have an interesting range of experience,” she states. “They are both able to do the fundamentals of the job, but they have different strengths. Jointly they offer more than one single person. They are the uber employee.”
Another potential barrier is line managers’ resistance. Sara advises setting up a job share pilot to get over initial reticence. “It’s important to work with line managers,” she says. “We offer support and training for them.” She adds that it is important that their first experience of job shares works as a failure can put them off.
Further&More’s matching technology helps create a shortlist of candidates. “It is like online dating so we create the shortlist and they choose who they gel best with,” says Sara, adding that it is important that pairs share core values and their online questionnaires looks to investigate these, for instance, their attitude to risk or to punctuality.
She feels that more than overcoming resistance to job shares, what is needed is to raise awareness by spreading case studies of effective job shares. She says: “I want to see job sharing weaved into the DNA of every organisation. I would like to see every full-time job should be open to a job share.”