The past year and a half transformed the way the entire world worked and lived leading organizations to rethink the work status quo.
Surprisingly, a decades-long practice previously believed by some to work best for administrative positions (and working moms) is seeing an uptake at the CEO level — job sharing. Once viewed as a practice almost exclusively for women, cross-gender job shares are on the rise as men’s priorities shift. A focus on well-being may be a primary factor in the wake of the pandemic.
From smaller companies like Jungle Creations to giants like JPMorgan shaking things up with joint heads of consumer and bank, the co-CEO model is noteworthy. Even in politics — just look at newly elected Green Party duo Carla Denyer and Adrian Ramsey, continuing a tradition started by Caroline Lucas and Jonathon Bartley in 2016.
Diversity of thought and background lead to greater outcomes in business and in this time, to employee well-being. It makes so much sense that companies implement these practices from the top-down.
For companies looking to stave off burnout while retaining and attracting diverse talent, job sharing is not only a talent strategy but a COVID-19 workplace solution.
Sarina Loo and her co-CEO partners were onto these top sharing benefits ahead of the pandemic and encourage others to consider them.
Written by Sarina Loo, Trent Wallis and Beth Ashworth; Co-Chief Executive Officers at Victorian Environmental Water Holder. This article first appeared on LinkedIn.
Job sharing is bringing flexibility, opportunity and greater resources to senior roles in the government sector.
It started with a leader aiming to bring diverse skills to the ceo position
A significant example of this flexibility is demonstrated by the completion of a 12-month job-share arrangement by Dr. Sarina Loo and Trent Wallis in the role of Executive Officer of the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, while the incumbent, Beth Ashworth, was on parental leave. The job share arrangement is now being continued by Sarina and Beth, now that she has returned from parental leave.
This novel approach was initiated by the chair of the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, Denis Flett. Through the recruitment process, Flett aimed to support workplace flexibility and bring a diversity of skills and perspectives to the role. This arrangement suited both Sarina returning from her own parental leave and seeking to work part-time and Trent interested in new senior management experience at a state-wide level.
the organization embraced the job share despite concerns of a new work practice
While there were some minor apprehensions at the start with how the job share would go and the disruption it may cause, the organization’s staff, its partners, and stakeholders readily embraced the new arrangement. Many key partners even commented openly how seamless the arrangement was in their dealings with the organization.
The success of this job share is due in part to the commitment of Trent, Sarina, and Beth to making it work, but also to the leadership and support of the Victorian Environmental Water Holder Commissioners and staff who were willing to make workplace flexibility not just a strategic employment goal but a reality.
This new approach has also delivered some clear workplace benefits – most notably through the additional perspectives brought to the role – in this case, the organization benefiting from two world views. It has also allowed the retention of corporate knowledge and capability within the organization, by facilitating Beth’s return, allowing both her and Sarina to balance an Executive role with family life.
10 tips to make job sharing a success
To help others to jump on board and clasp the benefits of this new flexible work arrangement, we’ve outlined the following ten key tips to making job sharing a success.
Tip #1: Trust and respect your partner
A good working relationship is critical for a job-share to work. Being able to work collaboratively on solutions and not wanting to be precious and have things your own way is essential. You occupy the role because your employer believes you can do the job. You need to take a team approach and know that on your days off, your partner is fully capable of delivering results to the same high standard as you. Lift your gaze and let go of the little issues and embrace diversity.
tip #2: have an overlap day or period of time
It is fundamental to allowing your relationship to form and trust to be built. It is essential for strategic meetings, team coordination and minimizes handover difficulties. The organization pays a fraction more in salary, but the extra resources and benefits far outweigh the small additional cost.
tip #3: devise a good handover system
Trial what works best for you both. You might prefer face-to-face talks (where possible), written handover notes, a shared task list, or a phone conversation.
tip #4: Take primacy on some projects, but be across everything
As a leader, you need to be across the business and able to make a decision on any matter on any given day. But working part-time means it is difficult to be across the detail of all projects. You should both identify which projects you will take the lead on for detailed review and input and those you will support or keep a watching brief.
tip #5: Have a joint email address
This enables you to both see all correspondence that comes in and goes out. Using a joint email also signals to staff, executives, board directors, and other stakeholders that you are both equal and united in the role.
tip #6: put your ego aside for an ‘organization first’ approach
Team and organizational outcomes must come first. Be prepared to start something and have the other person finish it off. Swings and roundabouts mean there will be times when you get to finish off the important task or give the high-profile presentation, whereas at other times, they will.
tip #7: make time to stop and think together
Don’t overcrowd the overlap day with meetings. The benefit of having a partner in the role is the ability to chew the fat over strategic issues. Two brains are better than one, so capitalize on it when you are together.
tip #8: minimize duplication or double handling for staff and stakeholders
If one of you has reviewed a document, then the other should read it for information. It is tempting for you both to review everything. Resist this urge, so you don’t burn out or add too much review time for staff. While you both might have valuable insights, capture them in conversations that set the direction of the project, not in wordsmithing the final product twice. This also goes for meetings on your overlap day with key partners, stakeholders, and staff. It is generally not the best use of time to have the two of you at each meeting.
tip #9: be persistent at overcoming It and hr issues
Many IT and HR systems and processes can’t handle the job share arrangement. Keep advocating for a solution until you find the right person who will innovate or find a workaround. Don’t take no for an answer. Be the ice-breaker as those behind you will appreciate it. Job-sharing is going to become more popular. That’s why our systems need to keep up with the times and be built (or retrofitted) to support flexible working arrangements.
Tip #10: take quick calls on your days off
It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes you both need to contribute to or be comfortable with the direction taken for a big decision. Be open to taking short phone calls on your day off for critical matters.
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