Handing over the reigns: how to make job sharing work

Handing over the reigns: how to make job sharing work

Podcast: future of work, part-time, flexible working, remote, job share
Industry: Financial services, professional services, marketing, charity

People unfamiliar with job sharing might wonder about duplication in a job share or how the partners will hand over responsibilities effectively. I recently met Liz Morgan, who was in a very successful senior job share as HR manager at the National Autistic Society in the UK. She and her partner, Dawn, attribute their joint success to their very effective handover, which, in their experience, also added incremental value to the business. Listen above or read the transcript below to learn how the partnership started and the handover that made it great. We promise it's not rocket science.

In this podcast episode of Talk Roleshare we cover the following:

+ Liz started job sharing with Dawn after Dawn had been working in her role for about three years part-time, when she persuaded the HR director to do a job share

+ They discussed how it would work and hit it off because they shared similar values

+ The key to making it work was having a handover day where one person worked Monday-Wednesday and the other worked Wednesday-Friday. This allowed them to have a face-to-face discussion at the end of each week and stay up-to-date on what was going on

+ When the pandemic happened, they started having Zoom calls at the end of each Wednesday so that nothing got lost in translation

+ Job sharing created less work for their manager while still taking care of everything that needed to be done



Liz Morgan: She'd been working in that role for about three years part-time and was just overloaded. So she had persuaded the HR director to do a job share. She was settled in the role, but just not getting through this, the volume of work that she needed to. And we talked about how it would work. We just hit it off with kind of the same values. I think the critical thing that made it work was we were fortunate to have a handover day. So she worked Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, so I work Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. And that handover day was really useful for us to just get on, get a good induction in, learn some of the systems, the processes, get to meet some of the managers, and that continued.

So we were just over a one FTE. We were 1.1 or something like that. And that really helped. She was ending her week as I was starting my week. We were able to have a face to face. And then when the pandemic happened, we obviously all worked from home. So we'd have a Zoom at the end of a Wednesday.

She would update me. I'd already caught up on some emails. But she'd be like, "Okay, if you can carry on with this," or, we'd agree what we were gonna do. And then on a Friday before I logged off, I'd send her an email. So that she would pick up on a Monday morning effectively.

Sophie Smallwood: You just made me think there's this essence of co-management in essence of two of you working together, collaborating, but equally managing each other in a very sort of peer friendly way.

Liz Morgan: Absolutely.

Sophie Smallwood: And let me ask you, do you believe that working together in this capacity created more work for your manager?

Liz Morgan: I would say it created less work. I suppose in terms of appraisals and one-to-ones, although we had joint one-to-ones, we didn't have joint appraisals, but we did have joint one-to-ones where possible.

If we needed to speak to our manager separately, we could, but I think it certainly helped. We professionally we reported into hr, but operationally we reported into an area manager. So we had like a matrix reporting for that. But he was great because he knew that he could pick up the phone to either one of us and we'd be pretty much up to speed as to what was going on.

So we took a real responsibility. To do that and to take the pressure off the managers and not have to repeat their story six times. I think it helped that we were more, we were both quite mature in our careers as well, so we'd got that tried and tested knowing how to work already embedded.

Sophie Smallwood: Yeah, absolutely. This is why we believe job sharing is actually a really fantastic way to enable mid to senior professionals who want part-time in their life. You mentioned something just at the onset around values. You said the two of you had similar values.

Can you elaborate around what you mean by that?

Liz Morgan: I think it was about, we wanted to empower the managers, we wanted to do a lot of coaching with them, talking through a little bit of handholding when necessary. But so in our approach to the job was similar and they wouldn't get one style from me.

And occasionally, maybe I was a little bit more soft and Dawn would be a bit like, "No, I think we need to tackle this a bit harder." But we compromised, we talked about it, we compromised. We didn't want each other to feel that they weren't able to bring themselves to work and be true to themselves.

Sometimes you have to put on a professional mask and you have to do something that the organization tells you to do and you don't really agree with it. But we agreed and approach to that. And also we shared management of a small team. So we had to be sure that they were getting the right messages from us consistently.

And we were close to them and we did have some difficult conversations with them, but we had to say, this is the plan, this is the corporate view, and like it or not, we have to do this.

Sophie Smallwood: How did you share the reporting line?

I took recruitment and then my job share partner managed the HR coordinator and the HR administrator. So that was the kind of hard line, but, it had to be flexible.

It had to, and it was, and it worked. It worked well.

Sophie Smallwood: And another thing that initially peaked my interest, when we initially started chatting, you mentioned that you both had a really substantial or a really effective handover, and you started to touch on that just a little earlier. But I'd love to dig a little bit more around what was involved in your handover.

Almost walk me through a handover session.

Liz Morgan: For example, on a Wednesday. So as I said, Dawn was at the end of her week and I was starting. And Wednesdays we had a lot of meetings cuz people knew we were both there. So it was really our, we don't have a lot of spare time in the diary day, so it might not be until the end of the day and she wouldn't repeat anything she'd say "have you got up speed on this?"

I said, "Yeah, check the emails on that, but can you just talk to me about this." So we wouldn't waste time. We try and be quite efficient with it. And then we might talk strategies on an ER case that's come up. What are we gonna do with that? Or project work. She got the busiest end of the week really.

So on a Friday I had a bit of capacity to do project work. So she'd say, "All right, I said I'm gonna try and do this. I'll let you know how far I've got, I'll let you know where the documents are saved." So we needed to make sure, really practical things. If I set up a spreadsheet for something, but it's quite confidential, she needed to know where to get to it.

Or I'd say "I'll update. I need to speak to so and so about, a sensitive matter. I'll update you on an email." So, on a Friday I tend to maybe try and email her as I went through, but not, so she got like a ton of emails from me. I tried to prioritize it as best I could.

And as I said, sometimes if something was really critical I'd text her maybe on a Sunday night and say, don't worry, cuz we knew we could manage it, but I just wanted her to be up to speed on that thing cuz she might be getting a call from a senior manager and if she was a bit like, "Oh, I dunno what's going on," that didn't look good on either of us. And we wanted to prove the job show would work. And, it was actually greater than the two of us, we made a greater whole as such. It definitely worked, having a handover, having a physical day. Initially it was face to face when we were both in the office.

And we shared an office. But then, when Covid came and we were all working from home, we still needed that day. And also, I got to work with her one day a week, which is great cause like, otherwise you wouldn't get the benefit. The real benefit of that relationship.

It would literally just be a, I do half the week, she does half the week but we don't collaborate. And it was that collaboration, I think that meeting of mind, that knowledge sharing, that two heads are better than one, that really gave it the edge.

Sophie Smallwood: What were some of your favorite tools to help create transparency within the pair?

Liz Morgan: I suppose it was email, , because it could be quite quick, just this is where I face this document, or, I've got this far with something.

Didn't have time to finish it. It's six o'clock Friday night. I wanna log off, have a glass of wine, so we'd have some humor in there too. If possible can you carry on or, we might have got a request for some quite urgent information come through from the HR director, when she's not working.

So I would do as much as I could, but say, Really sorry, you're gonna have to pick this up on Monday, or but we didn't, we tried to be equal with how we shared the work. Equally she might be better at some things than me.

So we also tried to place for our strengths. And we kept an establishment spreadsheet up to date and that was just really more her thing cuz she'd set it up. So she generally continued to do that. And I might continue, I did a bit more project work cause I had more capacity, whatever. So it was being equal, but also playing to our strengths.

Sophie Smallwood: Of course.

And how did you keep stakeholders, people across the matrix abreast of your arrangements? So they knew who to contact when? So there wasn't confusion for those other team players .

Liz Morgan: When I first started, because managers just got used to dealing with her, I had to work quite hard to get them to phone. They might wait until Dawn was working. So I had to prove that I was equally as good and it was gonna work. I did do an out of office on my Friday saying, I'll be back on Wednesday and Dawn would do one.

So people generally knew. On the out of office who was around and how they could speak, who they could speak to.

Sophie Smallwood: It's so simple if you think about it.

Liz Morgan: It is, it wasn't rocket science in, at all.

Sophie Smallwood: People get so stuck on the "how" the practical, but you just exemplified how simple it is.

Liz Morgan: I'm advocate of it. if this can make people think, actually "yes, I'll give it a go from the organization." I think there's a real benefit to it.

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