Job Sharing in Senior Roles

At this week’s Breakfast Briefing, “Job Sharing in Senior Roles” we were delighted to welcome experienced job sharers from Unilever, Ernst and Young and Vodafone.

Key Learnings  from Job Sharing in Senior roles, Breakfast Briefing 19th November 2012

At this week’s Breakfast Briefing, “Job Sharing in Senior Roles” we were delighted to welcome experienced job sharers from Unilever, Ernst and Young and Vodafone.

Here are just a few of the comments we received:

“Great! Fantastic! Really encouraging inspiring and informative! More Please!”

“A positive insight into current thinking about JS issues”

“Great insight into how senior women have made this work for themselves and their employers”

Our panellists outlined their inspirational job share journeys and how job sharing has impacted on both their careers and their personal lives.  Here are some of the key takeaways from the panel discussion.

Setting up the job share arrangement

Matthew Kirk, Group External Affairs Director at Vodafone and manager of a job share feels that it is essential for the job share partnership to establish its own way of working. The manager should not and does not need to get too closely involved in the set up. The job sharers themselves are best equipped to do that.

Alison Parbutt, a Global Governance Strategy Manager at Vodafone has a “hybrid” job share with her partner, Lisa Felton. They both report into Matthew. Alison and Lisa work on a project basis, each having their own portfolio as well as some shared projects. This plays to the strengths of each of them as individuals.

A clear and structured way of working is essential. Niamh Conroy and and Katie Quinton, European Brand Development Directors from Unilever created their own structured handover form that covers the main aspects of the role, including team, projects, stakeholders, strategic topics, decisions made, live topics etc. These are created by one and read by the other before the next “shift”.

Making it work

Job sharers should speak with “one voice”. It’s important to be unified on all communications, especially to the team. Niamh and Katie decided early on in the job share that this was essential to making it work. Amber Mace, Executive Director in the International Tax Services team for EY agrees. Communications to the team should come from from whichever of the job sharers is “fronting” the job share on that particular day. For pure job shares, where responsibilities are shared, the panel saw this as the most effective way to communicate.

To be a job sharer, you have to have implicit trust in one another. It’s a given. You have someone to bounce ideas off, but once a decision has been made by one, it must be adhered to by the both.

Career Progression

Two of the job share partnerships had achieved promotion whilst in their job share partnerships. They applied as a partnership and had joint interviews.

For Amber, who has ceased to job share as her circumstances changed, the skills she practiced as a job sharer, and the collaborative and consultative ways of working, have been invaluable in helping her to improve her own performance. Job sharing has enabled her to develop her career and advance her own skills whilst working part time.

Barriers to success

Many businesses are concerned that job sharing would not be well received by clients, and are therefore reluctant to have job sharers in client facing roles. This was certainly true of some of the employers represented at the event.

In is experience of managing and working with job sharers, Matthew feels that the key is in positioning the job share with clients and internal stakeholders. The benefits of having two senior talented people working on a project rather than one, can be positioned as an benefit rather than a disadvantage.


The job sharers on the panel felt that one of the real benefits of job sharing is that you have someone else who is on your side – to bounce ideas off and to help make key decisions. In all cases the job sharers felt that having the opportunity to work in this way has made them better and more productive than as individuals. Decision making is “enriched” by having two perspectives on any problem.

Having some time to think was cited as one of the key benefits to being a job sharer. With the current trend towards longer hours and “bigger” roles, having some time away from the coal face helps to provide perspective on tricky problems.

The ability to spend quality time outside of work, whilst maintaining an interesting and challenging career was seen by the job sharers as a powerful motivational factor. Being in a job share, a relatively uncommon form of flexible working at senior level, has made the panellists even more determined than ever to prove to themselves and to their employers that it can work, and be enormously successful.

A video of this session will be available shortly




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