Job share teams: Stretching the potential for flexible work
Simone McLaughlin established Jobs Shared with a clear goal: to try to take gender out of the flexible work equation. Job-share is a form of flexible working where two people share a full-time role, and it has been around for a long time. But Jobs Shared takes that established concept in a new direction; the formation of a job-share team who then apply for full-time roles as a cohesive unit. It takes the recruitment load off the employer and offers people who traditionally have found it difficult to transition to part-time roles the chance to work flexibly.
“People get fixated on the issue of gender – and by that I mean women – and flexible work. Diversity is about more than gender, and it’s not just women who want to work flexibly.”
“If what you want is to be creative and come up with diverse solutions, then of course you have to have a diverse team. Generations up to and including Gen X are gender issue fixated when it comes to diversity. Not so for millennials; they are concerned about race, sex, age, religion, culture, gender identification.”
“According to the ABS, 40% of employed people aged 15 and over are baby boomers. People aged over 45 make up 85% of the workforce. Of that 85%, 71% are working full time. 48% of those working full time at the moment intend to leave full time work and transition to part time. They are ideal candidates for job sharing.”
“I started this because I’m a Mum and I saw how hard it was to get back into the workforce. It needs to be normalised. There’s a problem when people return to work, because it’s not the work they want. It’s been dumbed down.”
“Companies are getting better about flexible work. People get the hours they want but lower level work. Then they are overlooked for promotion. Their career is impacted. Job share is an ideal solution for senior roles that can’t be cut back to part-time.”
“If men aren’t comfortable asking for flexible work, if they feel it could jeopardise their work, they won’t ask. Families need the wage.”
Simone’s business model works two ways. The Jobs Shared website offers a free service for jobseekers to use. It’s similar to a dating website in that users set up a profile and look for compatible people to create a job-share team.
It can also operate as an internal platform for big corporates to use for staff who may be on parental leave, for instance, and wanting to return with reduced hours, to look for someone else in the organisation to team up with. “Some of the additional benefits of job-sharing are that it provides cross training between colleagues, up-skilling and even succession planning. This can be a real value-add for companies,” Simone says.
Simone encourages employers to post full time roles they are willing to consider as job-share. There are also a couple of companies who have made a commitment to their staff to set up an internal job-share register.
“Diversity and increasing the participation of women in the workplace is such a hot topic right now. It’s not hard to start up a conversation, although it can be a hard sell to get companies to commit to the concept of job-share as a valid way to do this. Middle management can be a barrier because they don’t know how to recruit, interview and manage job-share teams.”
Simone’s recommendation is to partner up and present a business case to demonstrate the advantages and benefits a job-share team can bring to a role. “In many organisations, HR doesn’t have time to look for two people; it’s challenging enough to find one person to fit a role, with the time taken to fill a vacancy easily blowing out to eight weeks or more. If you have a job-share team ready to go you have a better chance of success.”
“I think it’s really important to have different ways to work flexibly. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach. We have the tech now for people to work from home, vary their hours, you name it. A job share team is the equivalent to full time coverage for a role. It can work for positions where that full-time coverage is required while still giving the individuals the flexibility they need.”
“Talking to a lot of HR teams about diversity and flexibility options like job-sharing is preaching to the choir. It’s the other stakeholders and managers who need to be informed and educated. It really has to be top down, to counter that attitude where nothing is ever said, but there’s resentment simmering along the ‘why can’t I work whenever I want to as well?’ type of thing. A lot of people don’t understand that flexible work arrangements are for mutual benefit; it doesn’t just mean employees doing whatever they want. And it doesn’t matter whether someone wants flexibility so they can study, or pick up the kids from school or play golf on Fridays; this doesn’t rule out the valuable contribution they can make to an organisation. In fact, it usually creates a happier more productive employee whose contribution is increased.”
Simone’s tips for people looking to job-share:
1. Start looking well before you go on leave or want to make that change to flexible work. What will make or break your team is having the right partner and it takes time to establish this partnership. You might find someone who looks like a great fit on paper but you aren’t compatible in person.
2. It’s vital that both people in the team have similar work ethics and career aspirations.
3. Have a good business case put together. Outline how you will share the role and clearly articulate the benefits for the employer.
4. Combine your resumes so your application comes from a cohesive team right from the start. Make sure you write a terrific cover letter.
5. This is possibly the most important thing: look for someone with complementary skills to yours, not identical abilities. This is a key aspect of your sales pitch, for why the employer should hire your job-share team. You really do need to demonstrate that two heads are better than one.
“For a job-share to be successful, management need to support it and promote it in the workplace,” Simone says. “It has to be seen at all levels in the organisation as a positive move and a benefit for the greater good of the organisation.”