Podcast: part-time, flexible working, remote, job share, leadership, management
Industry: Civil service
Nicola Golding is an absolute job share rockstar. She has shared three positions in the UK government Civil Service, and today shares the role of Head of Strategic Projects at the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The arrangement benefits the organization by allowing for coaching and feedback between the partners, low maintenance requirements from their manager and increased energy levels throughout the workweek.
In this podcast episode of Talk Roleshare we cover the following:
+ Nicola Golding had come back from her second maternity leave and realized that she couldn't do the really stretching minister facing exciting roles as a part-timer.
+ She started looking for a role where she could job share with someone so that she could do the really exciting roles that she'd done before she'd had children.
+ After finding a colleague who was also looking for a job share partner, they moved departments to a completely new area of policy work which turned out to be high profile and interesting.
+ Golding has now been job sharing for more than five years, currently heading up the strategic projects team at EFRA with her current job share partner.
+The arrangement benefits the organization by allowing for coaching and feedback between partners, low maintenance requirements, and increased energy levels throughout the work week.
+ Sophie Smallwood and Nicola Golding discuss the advantages of job sharing, including increased diversity and better work-life balance.
+ They advise that companies who are considering implementing job sharing should be aware of the need for excellent communication between the pair, as well as patience from external stakeholders during the induction period.
+ Golding shares that, in her experience, one of the biggest challenges of job sharing is managing performance expectations (for both parties), but that this can be overcome with clear communication from the outset.
+Job sharing is can be critical piece of a company’s employment strategy but it depending on an organization's ethos around diversity and performance.
Nicola Golding: I had come back from my second maternity leave and I came back in a part-time role and realized that. The team had done their best, but I couldn't do the really stretching minister facing exciting roles as a part-timer. It just wasn't feasible. And after about a year, I started looking for a role where I could job share with someone so that I could do the really exciting roles that I'd done before I'd had children. used my networks and there was very early civil service, job sharing network. But actually I found it through my contacts to find a colleague in another department who herself was looking for a job share partner. And. It was a real leap of faith. We got to know each other and we asked each other a whole series of questions about our approach and what we wanted and stuff.
But I moved departments to a completely new area of policy work, which turned out to be really high profile, really interesting stuff with someone I didn't really know that we'd had this series of conversations. And I've been job sharing ever since. It went really well. I worked with her incredible for a year and a half. She left to have a baby, found another job share partner in that department. Worked with her for about a year. Moved back to Department of Health. Found myself another job share partner who I'm still with.
Sophie Smallwood: Incredible. Oftentimes people who start to job share continue to do it for multiple years. Some will move from one company to another, which is in essence what you did not within a different company, but you took on different roles. And the current job share partner that you have now, have you shared this particular role that you're sharing now only, or did you say you were sharing another role together as well previously.
Nicola Golding: We shared another role together. So I've worked as a job in three different government departments. And when I moved back to the Department of Health and Social Care, from my role in Housing Communities and Local Government my job share partner in, in that role didn't want to move with me for lots of very good reasons.
It was all completely amicable. So I moved back to Health. And recruited myself a job share partner. And five years later, more than five years, I think now, we're still working together. But initially I recruited her to work at the Department of Health, and now we are both working at the Department for Environment for Food and Rural Affairs.
Sophie Smallwood: Perhaps you can tell a little bit about the current role that you're in to help some of the preconceptions people have around job sharing and seniority levels. I think oftentimes people think job sharing is perhaps easier to do and better suited for more junior roles, and we would say from our findings that is not necessarily a correct assumption.
Nicola Golding: So my role with my job share partner, I head up the strategic projects team at EFRA, and really what we do is take on the big urgent crosscutting issues that don't sit neatly anywhere else, of which any government department will have these things that sort of bubble up.
And we also support and provide resource and sometimes leadership support, sometimes PPM support sometimes just resource to projects that other teams need some help on. So it is not the sort of role that can be done part-time because often our deadlines are in hours, sometimes minutes.
We do a lot of things that are minister facing. A lot of things that are for the board, exco executive committee. And it absolutely requires someone to be in the office every day. And one of the things that job sharing allows us to do is to keep working at this pace.
So we've gone straight from one reshuffled preparation. To another set of reshuffle preparations to the fiscal event, to now inducting a new Secretary of State and working on setting up delivery meetings for her, all of which is very fast paced work, working with the most senior people in the department and of colleagues very widely across government as well. Much as the civil service is very flexible. I can't see how you would do that role part-time effectively, or at least it'd be really hard and you'd be relying on your team and your deputy a lot. And job sharing when it gets really busy, when we both worked on a judicial review, for example, we basically covered the weekend, so I took the Saturday.
My job share partner took the Sunday because that was the level of work that needed to be done, and that was the place we had to work and because we're both job share, we could do that. I think one individual working on that judicial review might well have burned out.
Sophie Smallwood: So I can understand from a talent perspective, the burnout that you just mentioned. Makes sense. Complete sense. Now. How has this arrangement itself benefited the organization in your view?
Nicola Golding: I think there's quite a lot of ways it benefits the organization. The first one is we coach each other. We challenge each other. We give each other feedback all the time. I am better at certain aspects of my job because I've seen my job share partners do it, and I've copied them, and equally they've learned from me.
The second thing is we don't often need support or advice or help from our manager. We're quite low maintenance, I think, because we get it from each other. , the third thing is, In a really pacey job, it's hard not to flag at the end of the week, but I can come in on Wednesday and I've got a load of energy and I can keep on pushing things through right to the end of Friday in a way that it would be hard to do if I've been working that hard since Monday.
Sophie Smallwood: Nicola, this is brilliant. You have articulated the benefits of job sharing and just three simple points. Fantastic. What do you do in the case of a job share where people are curious about the practicalities of it. So people understand the benefits, right? But they sometimes get stuck on the how.
It can create confusion in their minds around the handover and the actual details of keeping other members of the team in the loop and making sure that things don't fall through. So from a day to day practicality perspective, how do you and your job share partner handle it?
Nicola Golding: I always note every meeting, I've always done that. So now I note them on OneNote and I may make sure I put them in my handover note. So my job share partner sees every meeting I've been in. I'll have done a note just automatically. I will write a handover on Friday that will go through the inbox, which I'll have flagged for action, for information for our teams dealing for.
We're waiting for response on this, all different colors saying these are the actions you need to take. This is what we're waiting to hear back on chase by then if you haven't heard. And then has a section at the end that's about the team. The development chat I've had. The issue that someone brought to me sometimes, personal things like people are ill or they've had a personal issue in their private lives that as a manager we need to know about.
And a combination of a really good handover note and then a conversation on Monday morning. We rarely need to text or call each other during the working week. It, very occasionally on sensitive HR stuff where you've got to get the nuance exactly right, but it's very rare. And equally, Amanda will write me a handover on Tuesday night.
We'll go through it on Wednesday morning together. And I just work off that and run with it. The other thing is we have one inbox, one calendar. If the MS team set up allowed, we'd just have one of us on there as well. So it doesn't, people don't need to know who's on duty because they just email the inbox or send the meeting invite to the shared mailbox and they know they'll get whoever's around and it doesn't matter who at all.
Sophie Smallwood: Tell me a little bit about how the two of you manage a team together.
Nicola Golding: So we've got at the moment, six direct reports, and what we would usually do is have Wednesday as our day when we see everyone and do what we call our two to ones. For some members of the team if diaries don't work or if they've expressed a preference that they'd rather just have one of us at a time, we would not necessarily do it on a Wednesday. But generally speaking, we have a two to one with each of our direct reports every Wednesday. And we'll aimed to have a development chat every six weeks with the people who aren't our direct reports. So who are the people who report to us manage so that we get a sort of development and general chat with them relatively regularly.
It makes for quite a meeting, heavy Wednesday, and sometimes it doesn't work out that we see everyone every week, and that's fine. Having job shared for a while, that seems to me the best way to manage it because however good a meeting that you do, it's the hr personal stuff that's harder to get the nuances of over it works better to be there, whereas quite a technical, difficult meeting with a stakeholder or a minister in some ways it's actually easier to convey in.
Sophie Smallwood: Really good point. Another question that sometimes comes up when it comes to being a job share in a leadership position with reporting lines is how do you ensure that certain members of the team don't favor one person in a , one person in a job, share.
Nicola Golding: I worked with someone years ago who called it splitting it like parent shopping, but mom said I could, and I've had it, I've had people try it but actually I got a completely different steer from your job share partner.
The solution is to have excellent communication. So I'll go back to my handover now. Oh, that's interesting cuz what she said in my handover was this, and I'm pretty sure that aligns with what I just said. Let me iron out any confusion. So it's the communication, it's being aware that some people will try and find the gaps between you, and it often tends to be the really detail focused, very methodical, very conscientious people, and they're not doing it to be nasty.
It's just that for them the precision and the detail is really important. So then we'd often have a conversation on the Wednesday and the two to one about we're never going to be absolutely identical. There's benefits to us being different. So let's talk about how we can make you feel comfortable with the level of detail you're getting from each of us, but not expecting us to be, use exactly the same words to each other all the time.
And I've always managed to resolve it, but it takes a bit of working through a little bit of checking back, and just making sure we haven't said different things. And a little bit of just thinking about what is it that's driving this person's worry about getting different things.
Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely. And closely tied to this, so your current job share partner, you have been together for five years, so you have a evolved partnership.
Have there been moments where you've had to work through conflict?
Nicola Golding: Very rarely. We're both experienced policy professionals. Although our backgrounds are quite different, we almost inevitably come to the same conclusion, but we get their completely different ways.
So on any given difficult policy or strategy issue, I have my method and I go into the detail and I think about, and I come out with a mind map and I come to a conclusion and I send an email and my job share partner will be, actually, I think the answer is this, and it's the same as I've said in the email, but she's got there by doing a completely different set logical thoughts. The areas where we've occasionally disagreed. And then one of us has been, actually no, you're right. Is again, the difficult HR stuff, the people stuff where actually it's quite useful to go, I was thinking of handling it this way, and she will go, actually, I think for that person that won't work.
You need to think about it this way. I'll take this approach and I might be either, I'm not sure that'll work. Let's combine or Yep. You're completely right. I haven't thought of it, but let's do it your way.
Sophie Smallwood: One of the things that comes up often when people never heard of job sharing is a very human response to this concept of sharing, right?
We learn from a very young age that sharing is an important thing to do, and then work traditionally has been very much designed, one person, one job. So for most people who've never come across it, their first reaction is, oh, but what if another person is better than me, and what if I end up carrying this other person?
So these sort of fearful, anxiety- producing questions that people have. What would you say to someone who has that sort of initial kind of thought or concern around job sharing?
Nicola Golding: It depends whether they're a recruiting manager or someone looking to job share. So if you're looking to job share, that's part of the conversation you need to have before you start.
What would you do if I wasn't performing? What would you expect me to do if you thought I was making the wrong judgements? You've got to be really open at the beginning about how you'd have those conversations and what you'd do. And that's part of what I've done with all the three people I've worked with. Particularly where you are doing the role and they come to join you or you are coming to join them and they're doing the role where there will always be a run in period where whoever's joining is less up to speed and the temptation from everyone around will be to wait for the person who's been enrolled for a while to come back.
And you have to think quite carefully about how to manage that. But that's not capability. That's just everyone needs a little bit of induction time to get up to speed.
But as a recruiting manager, I think I would be confident in my own ability to manage people. And if I thought it wasn't working, I'll give them feedback in the same way I thought performance wasn't hitting all the mark for any other employee? I think I'd have to think more carefully, I think as a manager about how I did that. Some job share partnerships are very happy to have shared objectives, shared appraisals. That's what I do. Some prefer to do it separately, so you'd need to be sensitive to that as a manager, but I don't see how it's that different to managing performance for any other person in your team.
Sophie Smallwood: And again, going back to what you said very early on, which is having excellent communication between the pair, and it sounds like setting up a solid foundation from the get go of expectations of how to handle differences and your joint performance. And then from the external or internal stakeholders who would be working with you as a pair, a little bit of induction patience.
Nicola Golding: I've advised quite a lot of people on how to pick a job share partner, and part of that is a whole series of really open conversations. About, what's your career plans? You planning to go off and have another baby, and if so, how long are we planning to work together?
And, are you aiming for promotion or is this a just holding steady role? And all of that stuff. What do you do when you're really cross? How do you handle it? What do you do if someone has really underperformed. How do you deal with underperformance as a manager? How do you deal with really difficult behavior from someone outside the team, like working through those scenarios together to check you're on the same page?
That's, I think, really important.
Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely.
So you mentioned earlier, having a shared appraisal and others having separate appraisals. Why would a company not just opt to have two part-time people working on their own aspects of a job?
Why a job share?
Nicola Golding: Because you've got cover for the whole week. It's as simple as that. If it's project work where the timing doesn't matter and there's never an urgent deadline, and it doesn't matter someone's not in for two, two working days, three working days, whatever it is. I can see that sort of two part-time roles, a job split, you might call it would work fine, but what you have is backup and cover.
So obviously, we still go on holiday and things like that. But what a job share gives you is five day a week cover for a role where you need that. And it also gives you two brains, which are better than one if it's a role that's really difficult and where the judgment calls are quite tricky and where it takes a certain amount of thinking and knowledge and experience.
You just get double that for, 1.2 of the money
Sophie Smallwood: Right, this idea of being better, becoming better because of your partner, this coaching, wouldn't happen if two part-timers are not sharing a role. And then this idea of less maintenance because as a team, you're self solving, right?
You're almost co-managing each other in a non-management sort of way.
Nicola Golding: Yeah, certainly. On the "Gosh, this looks really hard. I'm not even sure where to start with this one". That's where it's brilliant to have a job share partner where you can go, look I've had a go at this, but genuinely, this is really tricky.
Sophie Smallwood: Absolutely. It's like having the most fantastic ally to lean on. And when I think back about my best career experiences, even if they weren't in a job share specifically, it was when I had a real ally.
Someone that I could really count on.
Nicola Golding: Yeah. I have to say I've never thought.
And it may be partly why the job sharing has flourished so much in the civil service, which tend to be quite a collaborative culture. But I've never thought, oh no, she'll get the credit for that. And what I worry about is mucking things up and not allowing her to shine and not leaving the inbox tidy enough and not handing over properly so that she can absolutely hit the ground running on Monday morning.
That's what I worry about. It's not about does she look better than I do.
Sophie Smallwood: Yeah. Makes sense. I'm gonna ask you a question that investors have asked me in the past when we were pitching for funding, and the question was job sharing as a working model. Is it a Vicodin or is it a vitamin? And what they meant by that was Vicodin is a must have if you're undergoing surgery.
You would not want vitamins as an alternative. So what is job sharing? Is it a vitamin? Is it a Vicodin? What are your thoughts on this?
Nicola Golding: I think it depends on your company's, your organization's ethos.
If you want a truly diverse workforce, if you really believe that's the way you'll have the best product or the best, whatever it is that you're doing as an organization, then job sharing allows you to have a significantly more diverse workforce because it allows people to work, not full-time hours, and that just opens up to so many more, particularly women, but also I know people who job share because of long-term health conditions or disabilities or because they have elder care responsibilities. It just opens your talent pool so much wider. I personally believe that the more diversity you have in your team, the better it will perform. And job sharing is part of that.
Sophie Smallwood: Today, what does job sharing enable you to do? Your kids are a little bit older now. What is the time that you have away from work enable you to do?
Nicola Golding: So what it means is there's two days of the five in the week where I can definitely be at home when they get home from school.
So my youngest does just start a secondary school. So it's brilliant for her to come home to someone who's made a batch of flapjacks and got a cup of tea. And just being there at that moment is really important to me and my kids appreciate it as well.
The second thing it allows me to do is to do some voluntary work. So for a long time I was breastfeeding peer supporter. I now deputy chair of the clinical ethics committee at my local hospital. I give blood, things like that, things I just would not have time to do if I was working five days a week.
And it also allows me to spend a couple of days a week in the holidays when the kids were off school, taking them on trips or just to the dentist, just keeping on top of practical things that need doing to run a house with four of us in it, but also having time with my kids, even though they're teenagers.
Well, 11 and 14. It's really, these it's lovely to spend time with them in the holidays and not to feel, I've got to find activities and clubs and get them out the house so that I can work for those days.
Sophie Smallwood: I'm getting goosebumps thinking about the incredible work-life balance that you are able to achieve, but also the fulfillment on your volunteering work.
And being able to give that proper time and attention as well.
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