Over the course of 10 years, Céline Barral and Hervé Chastel shared a variety of Finance leadership roles at Hewlett-Packard (HP). Together they managed teams up to 120 people in Europe, Middle East and Africa and were praised for their high employee satisfaction scores and team spiritedness. Barral and Chastel were initially colleagues at HP, who understanding each other’s motivations, decided to co-apply for a role. “We both had excellent performance for many years and we highlighted all the benefits this setup could bring the company. They trusted us. We worked full-time for one month to speed up onboarding and training. After which point, we were up and running and moved to part time” say Barral and Chastel.
People often want or need more flexibility at transition points in life.
Their motivations to job share were genuine and unique in their own right. “People often want or need more flexibility at transition points in life” says Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare – a platform matching professionals to co-apply for jobs. “Those transition points can be aligned to Maslow’s pyramid of needs,” she explains. “At the most basic level we have physiological needs, the need for safety, followed by the need for belonging/love, esteem, and then self-actualization. If these needs aren’t met hierarchically, employees aren’t able to achieve high engagement and may be at risk of churn” says Smallwood.
I could achieve one of my dreams, to be a science-fiction writer.
So what does that have to do with co-leaders? “Many professionals who job share are motivated by the need for self-actualization, not driven by ego, but rather a need to do more.” Smallwood explains. In Barral’s case then it seems the need was and motivation was self-actualization. As a high achiever at work, she wanted to explore unmet dreams. “At work, I always felt full of energy and motivation because I was able to get enough re-energizing time. In my personal life, I could achieve one of my dreams, to be a science-fiction writer” says Barral.
For Chastal, his motivations seemed to be a combination of love and esteem. He explains, “On the personal side it enabled me to spend more time with my daughters and be fully involved in their education. I was also able to better help my father in taking care of my mother who was very ill at the time. At work my energy and focus were always at the highest levels, thanks to the balance I had in my life overall.”
Job share means more quality and more quantity. It improves strategic thinking and reduces risk.
But why should a business offer job share? For companies like HP supporting employees through transitions is, perhaps unobviously, mutually beneficial. “Job share means more quality and more quantity. More quality, as you have two brains and two sets of skills instead of one. It improves strategic thinking and reduces risk. Obviously, you can still make mistakes but it is less likely!” explain Barral and Chastel. “More quality. More quantity. More insurance. More diversity of thought. All in what historically has been seen as a benefit for employees. But we all know, what’s good for employees is equally, if not more, advantageous to companies” says Smallwood. This advantage is quantifiable as Barral and Chastel further explain “we worked 6 days a week, 3 for each of us, and it meant 120% for our company, access to all our knowledge and experience. Also, there is always a back-up in case of vacations, sick leave, etc.”
Their joint strategy as co-leaders was to be seamless and trusting of each other. “Stakeholders should not notice any additional complexity due to the setup” Barral explains. The pair kept each other aware of all topics and established a handover process with a joint inbox and calendar. “People never had to repeat anything and we stuck with the decisions made by each other” say Barral and Chastel. The individual success of job sharing is inherently tied to that of the pair. “Team ahead of me” says Smallwood. “We always had our year-end review with our manager together. Our performance could not be evaluated in isolation” say Barral and Chastel.
After 10 successful years in partnership, Barral and Chastel moved to separate endeavors. Looking back, Chastel says job sharing enabled him and Barral to make “better contributions to the success of the organization than if we had not been in job share.” Barral is proud she and Chastel took job sharing at HP from “the employee and management level to the executive suite.” Today, Barral is the founder of a financial consultancy, and she also coaches co-leaders who, like herself, see the value and business opportunity gain of being in a job share.
Where and when people work has changed dramatically the last year and half. More companies are learning about how to implement hybrid, evaluating four-day work weeks whilst meeting 24/7 consumer expectations. Being creative and ingenious with work design, “how” people work, stands as a solution for enterprises. “Many jobs don’t fit in four-day work weeks. Job share ensures the work is really done with the level of quality needed” say Barral and Chastel, “job share is a win/win. Win for the company, win for the employees.”