Job Sharing – The Power of Two

Claire Hyde and Louise Wadman, a long-term communication partnership, share how to successfully deliver in a job-share and the value of two minds working together.

 Q : What are your roles and how long have you been job sharing?

We’ve been job sharing for the last four years, each of us working three days a week.  Our first two roles together were at Lloyds Banking Group and now we’re looking for our next opportunity together.  At Lloyds Banking Group, we were Joint Heads of Internal Communication, leading communications in the support functions across the Group.  Most recently we were Joint Heads of Creative, leading a team of expert film, design, photography and event specialists who helped tell the Lloyds Banking Group story.  We are big believers in the benefits of flexible working.  Many of our team worked remotely and 70% of our last team had a flexible working arrangement.

When we decided to apply to do a job share, we spent time with job sharers in the public sector to work out how to do it.  We decided to fully share, rather than split the role.  Splitting would have meant we had separate responsibilities.  Sharing the role means that we each need to ensure that the other is fully cognisant of everything that happens whilst the other is off.  We have a robust governance process to ensure there’s a seamless transition.

Q : What led you to seek a job share?

We each have important things we want to do outside of work.  Claire spends much of her time volunteering and Louise looks after her family.

Before we started job sharing, we each worked part time, four days a week.  We found that too often, important things happened on our days off and we needed to be connected to work.  It was impossible to properly focus on the other things we wanted to do externally.  Now when one of us is off work, we know that the other one is running the team, making the decisions and getting the job done.

Q : What’s the best thing about your job share role?

Working alongside someone we completely trust.  It’s a very different working relationship that would not work for everyone.  Knowing that we don’t want to let the other one down, pushes us further.  We deliver to higher standards, we challenge each other to think bigger and we have a lot of fun working together.

Q : How do you make it work for the employer?

We are grateful that Lloyds Banking Group is such a forward thinking organisation which embraces new and modern ways of working, and that it has enabled and supported our partnership.  Our first job sharing role was to provide internal communication partnering to six Executive Committee members.  Most of them were intrigued about how it would work but over time they saw that we could draw on a wider range of skills and experience because there were two of us.  Our governance process is essential so that our stakeholders only need to speak to one of us, for both of us to be up-to-speed.

Q : What has been the biggest challenge so far?

It’s not exactly a challenge, but we believe people think it is!  The question that we are often asked is ‘what happens when we fall out’.  We never fall out, but when we have different views about something the first thing we do is listen to each other.  Sometimes it becomes obvious to both of us which has the stronger or better option.  Sometimes we realise if we combine different elements from each view, we will create a better solution.  And sometimes we’ll go with the idea we’ve never tried, in order to test and learn.  Because there are no ego’s in our partnership, we never claim individual success.  Any achievements are down to the two of us working together.

Q : What messages would you give to others who are unsure if a job share might work?

We’d probably start with three tips.

  1. Think about ‘why’ you want to job share.  For us, we wanted to reduce our working weeks while still taking a step forward in our career.  The motivation is key, as job sharing will force you to think differently about how you view success.  It’s not for everyone.
  1. Invest in ‘how’ you’ll make it work.  We spent one year putting together our business case, working out how to create the best governance infrastructure, getting IT on board to create joint mailboxes etc.  The time you put into these building blocks will pay dividends.
  1. Expect skepticism.  Not everyone is comfortable with the concept of job sharing.  In a partnering role, where success often relies on the deep relationships you build, you’ll need to do this at pace and times two.  But once you’ve proven it works seamlessly, you’ll gain confidence and your stakeholders will believe they really have got two heads for one.

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?

We’ve been asked a lot about our job share as we look for our next role.  So we created a website  to explain more about what we do and how we make it work.

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