How to … create a successful job-share

by 04 Sep 2007

Why is it important?

Job-sharing is often dismissed by managers as being too expensive and too difficult to manage – but the benefits of creating job-sharing roles can far outweigh the initial struggle to overcome these hurdles.

Consider changing demographics and an increasingly discerning workforce, who are demanding more flexible working arrangements and better work-life balance. Not adapting your recruitment strategy to keep up with these evolving trends means you could be missing out on a significant talent pool.

Kelly Watson, president of global consultancy firm Career Partners, explodes the top five myths that deter employers from job-sharing.

Myth one: cost

If you fear that job-sharing will be too expensive, bear in mind evidence that suggests job-sharers have fewer absences and work more productively.

Watson believes the best practical solution is to split the total compensation package for a job-share role proportionately, meaning that benefits such as holiday time, sick days and company pension-matching is accrued based on the number of hours worked.

In a job-share situation, these are simply reduced for each individual, so the total cost is the same.

Myth two: challenge of two

You may feel it’s more of a challenge to manage two people in a role. With the pressure of increased competition, you may find yourself having less time to manage. However, job-sharing does not have to be any more taxing than looking after individual employees.

According to Watson, you need to seek candidates who have similar values and complementary skills, experience and personality styles. She says: “Companies can create powerful job-sharing teams that communicate so well they act like a single individual.”

Myth three: everyone will want to do it

If you offer the option of a job-share to one person, everyone will want it. Watson explains that this concern is based on fear rather than reality, and believes that if you can truly tap two brains for the price of one, why not let everyone who wants flexibility do it?

Myth four: hard to recruit

If you believe it’s more difficult to be able to source and match talented candidates into job-share teams, Watson argues this can be resolved by using creative avenues to advertise a job-share scheme and allows you to tap into hidden talent pools.

“Contact former employees who have retired or ‘opted out’ for family reasons. These people already know the company and might need less training,” she says. “Also, existing employees might be able to provide excellent referrals.”

Myth five: worries about performance

The final myth concerns worries about performance and accountability, based on the assumption that job mistakes are more likely to be made. Or you may worry that when two people are responsible for one job role, no-one is truly accountable.

Watson believes that with job-share the opposite is usually true, and offering work flexibility can have a powerful motivational impact. She says: “Treat job-sharing teams as single employees and reward their collective effectiveness. This helps to ensure that each individual holds themselves accountable to their partnership.”

A question of faith

Dr Pete Bradon, head of research at workplace engagement specialist Best Companies, says it’s all a question of trust. If this is holding you back, you need to show more confidence in your staff.

Offering your employees the option to job-share sends out the message that you trust them and are listening to their needs. He concludes: “Allowing employees to choose their own pattern of working is about listening to your people rather than telling them what to do. Use the job-share choice as a means of creating a more engaged workforce.”

For more information

Job Sharing: Two heads are better than one, by Angela Morella and Mary O'Hanlon, Allen & Unwin, 2003, ISBN 1865089648

Tolleys Managing Fixed-term and Part-time Workers: A practical guide to employing temporary and part-time staff, by Lynda AC Macdonald, LexisNexis, 2003, ISBN 0754524108

By Scott Beagrie. Courtesy of Personnel Today magazine. www.personneltoday.com

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