Creative Ways to Grow Your Business: Job Sharing

by | Small Business Consulting

A job sharing arrangement can help you retain valuable employees, and that can be good for your company and help it grow. But make sure it turns into a win/win.

It seems like the workplace environment is always changing.

A lot of this is due to technology, but don’t ignore the human element. The evolving needs of current and potential workers have employers reconsidering some of the old rules about how positions are filled.

In particular, many companies are experimenting with “job share” arrangements. Job sharing works for thousands of companies in hundreds of industries, so maybe it can work for you.

How Job Sharing Works

Job sharing is an employment arrangement where two people share a full-time position, with each taking a reduced, usually half-time, role along with reduced pay and benefits.  Workers typically cite personal reasons (young children at home, or caring for aging parents) for preferring a shared job situation to full-time status.

Certain industries, like banking and insurance, as well as the education and not-for-profit sectors, have historically taken an active role in accepting job sharing arrangements.

Today, this arrangement is common in many industries. There are pros and cons to consider when deciding if it might work at your company. Here are some points to consider.

The Upside of Job Sharing

  • Degree of commitment. Generally, workers fortunate enough to find this kind of situation are highly motivated to prove that the unusual arrangement can work. They bring a level of commitment to their positions that at least equals that of their peers working in more conventional schedules.
  • High energy level. Working half-time can mean that the employee shows up less tired and more alert, and can often perform his or her tasks at a more efficient pace. The absence of the “Monday to Friday grind” can be a good change of pace for a lot of workers.
  • Creativity. Two heads really can be better than one. When it comes to problem-solving or dealing with a unique challenge, having two competent employees approach the task can be a great advantage.
  • Complementary strengths. You won’t always be able to pull this off, but having two people share a position whose strengths help shore up the other’s weaknesses – he’s a numbers guy, she’s a “people person,” for instance – can make the position a stronger company asset than it might have been with just one employee in the role.
  • Personnel matters. Not every person gets along equally well with everyone they encounter on the job, be it other employees, customers, suppliers, etc. Having two people share a role doubles the chances that good relations are maintained on behalf of the job role and the company.

What to Watch Out For When Job Sharing

  • Who does what? Communication is vital; both between the job sharers and their supervisor need to ensure that all the tasks associated with the position are completed. Some confusion – duplication of effort, a missed message, and the like – might happen at first. But, for the situation to work out for everyone, responsibilities should be made clear as soon as possible.
  • Dropping the ball. Important tasks can fall between the cracks if you’re not careful. Don’t let this happen! Consider implementing the “handoff” model used by TV newsrooms, where the producer/director of the 6 pm newscast leaves updates on developing stories and sources to follow-up with for the 11 pm team. The final thing your job sharers should do before leaving for the day is to create a list of priorities and outstanding tasks for his or her counterpart.
  • Other employees. Make sure other employees understand the roles and work schedules of the job sharers. If it helps prevent confusion, consider making the job sharers’ supervisor the “gatekeeper” for approving potential tasks assigned to the shared role.
  • Emergencies. They happen. Make sure there’s a backup or contingency plan to cope with unexpected complications. This is especially important if the job sharers are involved in deadline-related matters. (Deliveries, graphic design work, etc.) It might be necessary to arrange for both partners to agree to be called on their “off days” when emergencies arise.

This type of arrangement can be a great way to obtain and keep valuable talent, build employee loyalty and even expand the scope of a particular position. But make sure it makes sense for your company.

Finding the right people for the job can make or break the arrangement.

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