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Saturday, September 7, 2013

How do you make a job sharing situation work?

Two for one: making job sharing work

The Australian Financial Review

Rachel Nickless
Over dinner, friends Ella Tassi and ­Darlene White found themselves in a conversation very familiar to many working parents.
“We were commenting on the fact that if you are in a part-time role you do junior work, or you do interesting work but try to cram a full-time role into a part-time job,” says Tassi.
That was seven years ago. Since then the two women have teamed up to offer themselves as a “package deal” to land senior full-time roles.
The first role came about because White was working part-time in a senior marketing role for IOOF and taking care of her two children, when she was asked if she would go up to full-time hours to meet business needs.
“We came up with a detailed job-share proposition and offered IOOF a three-month trial period,” White says. Luckily for them, then chief executive of IOOF was Ron Dewhurst, who had previously had two women working in a job-share arrangement as chief financial officer while he was working for JPMorgan Fleming Asset Management in the US. “He was supportive in around 30 seconds,” says White.
Tassi and White held the role at IOOF for two years then decided to move on. One potential employer dismissed the idea of job sharing outright, but a former IOOF colleague working at Bennelong Funds Management had seen the two perform and hired them as joint head of marketing.
They have been working in the role for five years, each working two days a week separately with a crossover day on Fridays.

‘it has worked exceptionally smoothly’

Bennelong Funds Management chief executive Jarrod Brown is very positive about the benefits to his business saying, “to have one of our absolutely key roles in a job-share role is seemingly risky to most, but it has worked exceptionally smoothly”. But he remains slightly wary of the job sharing concept generally, adding: “I would continue to approach other opportunities with caution as at the end of the day, it is about the individuals involved.”
Many other Australian employers are also wary. Job sharing is still relatively unusual in Australia for senior roles, although it occurs across industries including law, medicine, teaching and public relations.
Tassi and White believe that job sharing has not become widespread because managers have seen few examples of it, and perceive it as more risky. “When you hire an unknown, it’s a leap of faith. When you hire two [it might be seen] as doubling that risk,” Tassi says.
Two workplace experts, University of Sydney Business School’s professor Marian Baird and University of South Australia Centre for Work + Life’s director professor Barbara Pocock, say that job sharing was seen as a “break-through” concept in the 1980s in Australia but has remained relatively uncommon. Pocock says while the US typically has more flexible work design, “in Australia we have a culture that’s quite resistant to new ways of working”.
Both experts think job sharing should be more widely embraced by workplaces and innovative job-seekers, and that the more it is seen, the more it is likely to take off.
Pocock says “only by demonstrating to managers that part-time workers can work at senior leadership levels will it become more widespread with more women in senior positions”.
Tassi and White say there are a few golden rules to follow to ensure job sharing works.
1. Have well-matched work ethics.
2. Present a consistent and united front. “The business can’t afford for one person to spend time undoing what has already been done, and the job-share partnership can’t afford to seem dysfunctional,” they say.
3. Leave ego at the door. Celebrate results as a team, not as an individual.
4. Have detailed handover processes. Tassi and White say they do their handover mid-week in their own time and it’s a small price to pay for flexibility. “We felt it was important to provide the business a seamless service – the burden of sharing information rests with us.”

The Australian Financial Review

BY Rachel Nickless


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