Future of Work Conversations
Part 1: The Job Share, with Lucy Carter and Debra Dean
Building flexibility in the workplace is paramount to ensuring employee engagement, continued productivity and well-being. As we explored in a previous article, many organisations are aiming to differentiate on their progressive approaches to flexible working. In this instalment of our “Future of Work Conversations”, we delve deeper into the secrets of success in a job share with Lucy Carter and Debra Dean.
In the summer of 2020, ChapmanCG introduced Lucy Carter and Debra Dean as a job share profile into an HR Director EMEA role at JLL.
Our client had not set out to hire a job share, but on meeting Lucy and Debra was quick to see not only their own individual set of skills and expertise, but also the value their partnership could bring to JLL—one role, but two individuals working in seamless partnership together to fulfil that role.
Lucy and Debra each work three days a week, with Wednesday being their crossover (or handover) day, although they are together only for a small portion of the Wednesday ensuring the business gets six days a week! They share one email address and inbox. There is no disruption to their clients, colleagues or stakeholders, no day without a HR Business Partner to contact or speak to — this is crucial to the success of the job share. It works seamlessly for the business and it enables Lucy and Debra to truly switch off and focus on their life outside of work, on the days they aren’t in the office. Lucy Allard, Director at ChapmanCG, spoke to Lucy and Debra to understand more about their job share experience, how it came about, what the benefits are for them and their clients and what drives success in a job share.
Why a Job Share?
I had been working full-time at EY for 10 years, and after the birth of my daughter I knew continuing on a full-time basis would not give me the work-life balance I wanted. I considered reducing to a part-time contract, but the reality is that a senior HR Business Partner is a demanding role and expands often beyond a five-day week. I was keen to continue progressing my career and have fulfilment at work. I felt a job share arrangement working three-day a week would genuinely offer this to me.Lucy Carter
The motivation was a little different for me as my children were slightly older. Since having children I had already taken a career break, spent time working part-time or contracting, and I had then been back to full-time for two years. I was finding it very hard to balance my home life — I rarely saw my husband, we were both working late at opposite ends of the day. I travelled a lot in my former role, and we had little family time together with the children. Life felt hard. I had tried working part-time, four days a week, but it wasn’t giving me the balance I desired — I had to work on the fifth day, it was a global role and the business demanded it. I felt that I was, not thriving at home or at work and I really needed a change. I hadn’t even thought of a job share before, but when the opportunity came up, I was excited and very interested!Debra Dean
Interestingly, one of my close friends had been job sharing for around 10 years at that point and she had set a really positive example. She had been with the same job share partner throughout, had been promoted and achieved genuine balance as her career continued to progress. It was important for me to see that. In contrast, I felt like my career had gone on pause and I need to push it on again, working part-time felt like a barrier to my own career progression.
From this, we can see that motivation can vary from person to person. The key for any potential candidate approaching a job share concept is that they have to be in the right frame of mind and point in their career.
How do You Find the Right Person?
When we advertised the role as a job share at EY, we had over one hundred applicants—I interviewed a lot of people! I hadn’t worked as a job share before so I did my research on what I should be looking for. What came through with a lot of people I met was that they did not have the right mindset—job sharing is a partnership, and you must really want the other person to be as successful as you. You have to accept that you will not be in the limelight all the time and you need to be comfortable with that.Lucy
Of course, getting along with each other is hugely important too. After the initial more formal interviews, Debra and I went for a coffee and conversation flowed, we were really motivated by what each other had to say and it became immediately evident that we could bounce ideas off each other, discuss various topics and not take offence if we had differing opinions!
We are both naturally very open people and that helped hugely. We built a positive rapport immediately. Lucy was very open from the get-go and that helped build trust. We spoke openly and quickly aligned on a number of things, and we could see that we had the same work ethic and values. What was also very important is that we were both at the same career level. We get asked a lot if you could do a job share with someone at different stages of their career and I am not sure it would work.Debra
Just like finding the right person for a role, finding the right person to partner with is as important as finding the right company to work for. It has to be a true partnership and more importantly collaboration. It is not a decision to take lightly.
Differences Can Be Beneficial
It’s interesting because for the first year we thought we were very similar, values, ethics, career level and so on… but over time we have come to recognise our styles are actually very different. When we did Myers-Briggs, we were on opposite ends of the spectrum! But this drives the success of our partnership—Lucy is the opposite side of me, she has all the bits I don’t! I know if I struggle with something, Lucy will crack on with it and vice versa.Debra
This comes through more and more. I’ll be working on something on a Monday or Tuesday, for example, then Debra and I will put our heads together on a Wednesday and come up with a new slant or perspective and it really helps build momentum—two heads are better than one!Lucy
We have recognised that we are bolder together and quicker to make decisions. We always make time to be available for each other. It’s so different from working part-time when you carry that stress and burden on your own. We can have a tough situation at work, discuss it on the phone, and then walk away and not think about it. From a health and well-being point of view it’s a major plus.Debra
Our stress levels are much lower because we are both in it together and we both have genuine down time when we aren’t working. I don’t internalise over the weekend for example, I genuinely switch off when I am not working.
I have really felt the benefits of the job share whilst starting a new role together last year. It was particularly helpful comparing the notes we each took during induction meetings, finding we had picked up on different points. This helped broaden the knowledge we would have otherwise gathered working individually.Lucy
The coaching that comes from your job share partner is a great development point. We give each other continuous feedback in a safe environment, so having a job share partner is like having a built-in coach! Of course, there will be a learning curve going into a new role, and all those questions you would normally internalise—am I getting up to speed quick enough? Did I read that conversation correctly? I have Lucy to discuss all of that with.Debra
What About the Employer?
Absolutely, this is an important point to share as everyone looks at it from the point of view of the job share. We each work a three-day week so the business is effectively getting a six-day capacity, our clients have always really liked that and the pace we can bring to the role.Debra
They also appreciate the breadth of experience we bring to this one role. Between us we have forty years in HR gained in different industry sectors and organisations, and that combined depth of experience is a huge advantage for our business.Lucy
We have focussed largely on the reasons behind a job share for the candidate and how they would approach it, but as Lucy and Debra clearly point out, the benefits are clear for the employer too. There are numerous ways to offer flexibility and including job share in this is can be a positive and progressive move for an employer.
Starting a New Role as a Job Share
You must acknowledge that other people may not be familiar with job sharing and how it will work practically. Whenever we meet new stakeholders, we always explain how we will deliver—we take away the elephant in the room! You have to recognise that they may have some questions and doubts at the beginning.Debra
At the beginning we made ourselves more available to each other on our non-working days than we would normally. You are learning so much at the beginning it does require more commitment to ensure that seamless delivery in the long-run.Lucy
We also made sure we were together when we met our key stakeholders for the first time and did a lot of the initial meetings and training together when we joined JLL. This worked really well, we would speak to each other after each meeting and reflect on what we had learnt—it helped us progress much quicker.Debra
With more unpredictability in the workplace and the desire for greater flexibility from the workforce, we envisage job sharing will help to address this. For Lucy and Debra, job sharing has been highly beneficial to both them and their employers, increasing productivity, as well as engagement and well-being. Most importantly, a progressive approach like this can allow organisations to attract and retain great talent.
Fast-forwarding to the future, these approaches will play nicely into an increasing gig economy whereby individuals can further balance their personal situations with a multitude of work requirements most likely across different organisations.
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