Job sharing: insights from Germany with Esther, a job sharing specialist
I had the great pleasure of meeting Esther, the founder of JOYntLEADING, a consulting firm focused on job sharing and top sharing.
💡 What is job sharing ? It is an incredible concept: two people share the same job. To make it simple, the tandems can both work part-time while sharing the same position or even full time.
Esther is 46 years old, she lives in Germany and her job title is “organizational developer” (how cool is that?!). When her younger son turned 2, she decided she wanted to work part-time in order to have time for her children and free space in her mind. However, it quickly became clear that, on many job boards, she couldn’t find jobs according to her work experience and qualification.
She remembers thinking “It’s not possible that highly qualified part-time jobs don’t exist, I must not be the only one”. As she continued on searching, she found job sharing and top sharing. She immediately thought it was a brilliant idea. Then, she found a partner to job share with, and became quickly so thrilled with the idea that, as she was doing a Master of Science to match her experience, she wrote her Masters’ Thesis on job sharing.
The surveys she conducted for the occasion were so interesting that she had the opportunity to have her thesis “Top Sharing : A study on executive interest in job sharing” published by the German editor SpringerGabler.
Esther used the results of the quantitative survey measuring the interest of top sharing as a basis for her own business on job sharing. With her job sharing partner, they decided to conduct another survey, this time qualitative, on the practical application of top sharing. They studied 59 people who work in 30 different job tandems, asking questions to their bosses, pairs and subordinates in order to have a 360 view. In total, 17 companies were involved in the survey that spread over the span of two years.
When promoting their knowledge on Linkedin and on their blog, interest from companies grew. Many companies contact them wanting to implement job sharing.
Now, along with Esther, is a team of 7 people that accompany companies that want to implement job sharing all over Germany (and more!) through webinars, seminars for top management and HR as well as coaching for the tandem.
I asked Esther a few questions. Keep on reading, it’s fascinating!
What kind of companies are on board for job sharing? What companies are you working with to implement it?
What is funny is that sometimes small companies sometimes say “it’s possible for bigger companies” and big companies say “i’m sure this works better for smaller companies”. But the reality is that, at JOYntLEADING, we mainly work with medium sized companies (100+ people) up to very big companies. We also sometimes work with small companies (9 people for instance).
Some companies are interested because the pain points they are experiencing now are worsening:
Recruiting, they are faced with a lack of qualified people and qualified leadership
The pressure for innovation
These are the most convincing points leading people to become open to new ways of working and new solutions. I cannot give a profile but what I can say is that the companies that contact us really want to find solutions for their problems. They think “maybe we haven’t thought of every solution”
Why is job sharing interesting?
Job sharing can be the answer to many problems:
It enables knowledge transfer. When soon-to-retire employees job share with younger people, it passes along knowledge that otherwise would be lost. Baby boomers are now leaving companies and if we don’t enable knowledge transfer, companies may end up losing competitiveness.
War for talent: with job sharing you have the opportunity to fill full time jobs with people who are interested in part time so you enlarge the recruiting pool.
Innovation booster: two brains have more ideas, they bring collaboration, thus being more innovative.
The traditional issues of part-time jobs such as not having someone full time for instance.
As an employee, who is interested in job sharing?
We realized that 80% of the 30-40 years old age range were the most interested, for family reasons but not only, they also want time to pursue hobbies.
Then, the second most interested age range are the 20-30 years old. They want to job share for many reasons:
Build a business
Starting to think about having kids.
Older people can also be interested because they no longer want to work 60 hours a week but they still want an interesting job.
Top sharing is great because we also got to know people that wanted to develop themselves but didn’t want to work more.
Is job sharing for everyone?
With a little creativity, any position can actually be filled with a job sharing tandem.
But not every personality is suitable for this. You should enjoy working intensively with your tandem partner, share your knowledge, communicate without restrictions and learn from each other.
What conditions are important for job sharing to work?
On the organization side :
When the organization is open to implementing job sharing, they often want it as a career option, not as a single solution.
Management should be supportive and committed so that the tandems won’t feel observed.
Within the company, it should also be communicated in non-gendered way. Not just, « job sharing is great for women », it should be said that it’s great for everyone transparent. Actually, there is often a gap between the percentage of companies that offer job sharing and the percentage of employees that know about it.
There should be practical support for the tandem. For instance they could have a specific person designated to solve tandem-specific issues.
On the tandem side :
Values: they have to share common values and leadership thinking (similar mindset when it comes to leading people) and it has to be combined with good chemistry, it’s important that they like each other. It’s a no brainer but I also found companies that combine people who do not know each other. It has to be part of the recruiting.
Similar and different competencies, similar to represent each other when the other is not working but different so that they complement each other and bring more together.
Empathy and social skills are important as well.
Conclusion: Time VS Money?
💡Esther mentioned something interesting. If you climb up the hierarchy ladder, you will earn more. Sometimes, with a new step up you will earn more and then if you cut half you will still earn what you had right before!
She told me that people, when moving up the corporate ladder, realized that more time was more valuable than more money.
Thank you so much Esther for answering our questions!