Jeannette and Katharine have been sharing various HR roles as part of a job share since 2005. 

Here, the seasoned job-share partners tell us about their experiences with this working model.

What are your most important reasons for job sharing?
We previously both worked part time and had become familiar with the advantages and disadvantages of a part-time mandate. In 2005, we applied together for a job share of a 100% HR team head position. We both wanted to continue working part time (not more than 60 percent), but also wanted to take on a demanding, exciting role.

What elements of the job share would you not want to do without?
We are no longer working as team heads but as HR Business Partners, and our children are now eleven years older. We are still very satisfied with our job-sharing position. On each of our free days the work isn’t left to build up and one of us is always reachable for our partners in the business. We are very flexible and if the situation demands it, we can work more and in parallel. What we really appreciate is the mutual exchange and the possibility of discussing difficult topics with a person who knows the circumstances equally well.

And what can be annoying?
There’s actually nothing annoying about it. There are certain limitations in job sharing that you need to be aware of. You have to be prepared to share responsibility, authority, praise and blame. And neither one of us can be the boss. In the job share we function as equal partners. We do not divide up the work; we both do everything.

Are restrictions imposed by supervisors?
Not in that sense. Our partners in business certainly appreciate the fact that we cover the whole week together. Our supervisors expect us to fulfil our mandate as HR Business Partners successfully together. What is key here, of course, is that our supervisors fundamentally support job sharing as a model. Without this support there would be no job share.

What’s your view of the effort required for synchronization in handing over work?
We don’t actually have a regular coordination meeting on our shared day. We generally block an hour on Tuesday to talk about the ongoing activities. Of course today’s technical tools make job sharing a lot easier.

Thanks to our BlackBerrys and laptops we can keep abreast of what’s going on even on our days off. We often have a quick chat over the phone. The form of handover or exchange, however, depends on the relevant role taken on in the job share.

Do job-sharing partners have to “tick” the same way or can there be differences in your styles of work?
The basic attitude to work and the demands in terms of the quality of one’s own work must be similar. What’s needed is mutual trust that both parties will engage equally and are 100 percent willing to take on responsibility.

When it comes to the competences or the personality of the job-sharing partner, however, differences are OK. That also represents an opportunity, because that way we are able to cover a much broader spectrum of competences. You also need to be a well-practiced team. Both sides need to be able to (and want to) communicate well and readily.

Do you have any regrets about starting a job share?
The fact that we have been working successfully together in a job share for 11 years now says it all. The model still suits us brilliantly. We might not be a pair of millennials, but the balance between career, family and leisure time is crucial to us. And our job sharing supports this “balancing act” positively.

What would your desk head say if I were to ask her about job sharing?
Andrea’s decision back then to appoint us to her team as a job-sharing duo shows that she supports this way of working. We think she would say she is very happy with the experiences she has had so far.

Question to Bruno, partner in business to Katharine and Jeannette: What is the benefit of a job-sharing team as HR Business Partners?
Thanks to the job-share I can get two different perspectives on HR related matters, two sets of feedback and ideas for solutions – which is very enriching. Aside from that, Jeannette and Katharine can decide which of them will take on which topic or hold which discussion (e.g. senior development discussions). I’d like to mention that Jeannette and Katharine always communicate very well, so the coverage of the role always functions seamlessly.

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