Breaking Down The Barriers Of Job Share Bias

Business WomanAs anyone involved in a job share will attest, it is hard work – opting to follow this employment route does not mean taking your foot off the gas, with many successful job sharers going the extra mile to ensure high performance.

The workers are expected to be able to mirror the behaviour of the company at all times, often working long hours and having to be available to consult with their fellow job sharer, even on non-work days.

And yet, to many businesses it is still seen as an unattractive model of employment, associated with ‘taking it easy’, while people who job share are sometimes seen as less committed than other workers.

The reason for this is unconscious bias on the part of the HR department or manager, or perhaps the culture of the company itself, where such ways of working are frowned upon simply because they are not perhaps ‘conventional’.

The fact is that job share roles are very popular among female workers, with the ability to offer a reduced-hour working week critical in retaining female talent progressing up into senior roles.

In spite of this, global corporations operating in a fast-paced international market are failing to agree practical reduced-hour working solutions that can be commercially viable for the business as well as feasible within the structure of the organisation.

While some will claim that the framework is not in place to make this happen, the truth in many cases is that these companies – and their leaders – are simply not willing to incorporate job share roles into the organisation.

According to Sara Hill, managing director of Capability Jane, and founder of the job share project (www.thejobshareproject.com) one of the main challenges to the wider adoption of job sharing is “a lack of awareness of job sharing as a commercially viable mechanism to work part-time in senior roles and a general misconception of what it is, how it works and the ‘gut’ reaction that there is no way it could feasibly work in key commercial roles”.

Supported by seven global organisations, The Job Share Project pioneered some ground breaking research that demonstrated how individuals are successfully job sharing in senior roles in global fast paced organisations. The research can be downloaded at: www.thejobshareproject.com.

The key aim of the project is to boost awareness of the feasibility of job sharing as a means of working part time in a senior role while still being able to provide round-the-clock cover, which is essential in global organisations and to dispel commonly held beliefs and myths surrounding the feasibility of job sharing in senior roles.

It found that major barriers to the adoption of job sharing are leadership attitudes and organisational culture, even though both job sharers and managers say that senior management being visibly supportive of new ways of working can encourage people to consider the option.

Overall, just 28 per cent of survey respondents felt that managers viewed job sharing positively and the majority felt that manager attitudes hindered the increased adoption of the model.

This is despite the ability to job share seen as an effective retention tool, with 87 per cent of respondents saying the option to job share meant the difference between staying with a company and leaving.

Furthermore, the appetite for job sharing was great, with 61 per cent of women across seven global organisations saying they would take the opportunity to job share part-time right now.

Among the benefits of job sharing cited by managers were enhanced productivity gained through two people doing the work, perks in having different styles and perspectives, and more engaged and committed employees.

Nevertheless, barriers remain to the adoption of job sharing, and until these are broken down, talented female employees will feel forced to leave organisations where they could have played a major part.

Angela Peacock, chair of The People Development Team, said the reasons for this are two-fold.

“In our experience, the barriers to creating job share roles are, firstly, misinformation where employers are simply seeing the cost and difficulties instead of the amazing benefits of having two additional pieces of senior leadership thinking in their organisations,” she explained.

“This combines with unconscious thinking, where although it appears that job sharing is being rejected for logical reasons the underlying decision is based on unconscious bias.”

These attitudes are set to be addressed at an upcoming conference hosted by Capability Jane and KPMG, a founding member of The Job Share Project.

Taking place on November 19th at 15 Canada Square in London, the conference will include a breakfast briefing on Job Sharing in Senior Roles, before a practitioner roundtable discussion will look at how job sharing can be implemented, with participants sharing insights and views on the practice.

The conference will feature a panel of senior job sharers and managers of job sharers from leading employers like Unilever, Vodafone, Ernst & Young and KPMG who will share their own real life experiences and be on hand to answer questions.

The conference will aim to identify and eliminate the barriers holding back global businesses from implementing job sharing. To register click here or contact [email protected].

It is another significant step on the road to ensuring that global organisations recognise and retain their top female talent, and benefit from the many tangible advantages of doing so.

Visit PDT at www.people-development-team.comPDT-Logo

Leonnie Turner-Bruce
About the author

Leonnie has worked with the WATC team for over 5 years. Leonnie also runs her own Design company www.destinydesigns.co.uk.

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