How we make it work: Job sharing at EY

EY JobShareLucy Carter and Debra Dean share the role of Senior HR Business Partners in EY’s UK & Ireland’s Advisory Business. Here, they explain why they believe two heads really are better than one, and share insights and advice on how to find, get and keep a successful job share partnership.

“Our experience shows that a job share partnership is a fantastic working pattern. It has allowed us to balance our family responsibilities with a full-on, high-powered role working with the firm’s leadership team, and to feel like we’re succeeding at both.

“But this kind of working relationship doesn’t happen by accident; you have to invest time and energy into getting it right. Here are our four top tips for creating and delivering a sustainable job share partnership.”

  1. Be clear about whether you’re really suited to job sharing

“It’s not something people tend to think about, but job sharing isn’t for everyone. You have to be prepared to give over some of the decision-making, and trust your partner’s judgement. You also have to be willing to share the limelight, hand over control and accept that you’re interchangeable. None of this is a problem for us, but it isn’t right for some.”

  1. Don’t wait for a job share to come along

“Job share partnerships are rarely advertised up front, and a lot of recruitment agencies find it hard to get their heads around the concept. However firms like EY, that are really open to flexible working, will welcome an approach from a team for a full-time role.

“EY is also open to hiring jobs shares into roles advertised as full-time, and to recruiting one half of a job share to partner with an existing employee, which is what happened in our case. So it’s worth targeting jobs that appeal to you on a full-time basis and then negotiating how it could work as a job share.”

  1. Choose your job share partner carefully

“We can’t overstate the importance of having the right chemistry with your job share partner. You need to have great rapport, a similar approach to responsibility and ownership, and to be able to trust each other to deliver.

“It’s also helpful if you’re at a similar point in your careers, with similar goals; that way you’ll work as, and be treated as, equals rather than as a senior and junior partner.”

  1. Share everything – and agree the best way to do so

“Shared technology allows us to operate as a seamless whole. We have a joint email account with a joint signature, so all emails come from us both, whoever actually writes them. We also have a joint OneNote account so we can access any meeting notes or other work in progress that the other has made.

“We also have a shared understanding of how things should be done. For example, it may sound like a small detail, but agreeing on how to file emails is actually really important. If one of you wants a tidy inbox and the other is happy to have it overflowing, that’s a flashpoint waiting to happen.”

Lucy and Debra are also in full agreement about the positive impact that their arrangement has on the business – and are keen that others benefit from what they’ve learned.

“We all know how important it is to present the business case when you’re negotiating a flexible working arrangement. Job shares, and other forms of flexible working, offer employers strategic benefits such as, improving employee retention and progression, and helping to increase the representation of women at all levels, which in turn can contribute to reducing the gender pay gap.

“But our experience has also brought home some more practical, less obvious benefits which could also help build a case. So if you’re looking to negotiate a job share, here are four things we’ve shown we can deliver that a single employee couldn’t.”

  1. More robust decision making

“Although we have a similar approach to the way we work, we each bring our own perspective to the work itself. That gives us a really well-rounded view of a given situation, and makes it easy for us to explore all the angles.

“We also tend to discuss important issues before coming to a decision, which makes us more confident that we’ve made the right one. We can then present our approach to the senior leadership team knowing that it will stand up to their questioning, because we’ve already questioned each other. It tends to be quicker than mulling it over alone, too.”

  1. Peak performance, all week long

“Our job is pretty intense; anyone might find it challenging to maintain their performance throughout the week. But because we work three days each, there’s no dip in performance or enthusiasm.”

  1. No holiday gaps

“When one of us is on leave, the role is still delivered for three days of the week; it’s another plus point for the business of employing a job share. Our role is covered all year round, and our projects don’t get put on hold, or handed over to someone else.”

  1. Support, coaching and feedback

“We agreed early on that we would be honest with each other about what we’re doing well and what could be better. So if something hasn’t gone as well as we had hoped, we talk it over and find the best way forward.

“We’re equally open about any feedback that either of us are given from other colleagues or clients; we sit down and review it together and then agree any next steps. It means we’re getting more regular input into our work than an individual employee might – and progressing more quickly as a result. It’s like having a personal coach.”

And their line manager, Natasha Holland, heartily agrees:

“Lucy and Debra bring so much to the business, and are a fantastic example of job sharing in practice. I have never been told ‘No sorry, it’s not me who is dealing with that’ and the value of having someone at peak performance, particularly at busy times of the year, can’t be underestimated.

“If you are keen to follow a similar path, I’d advise you to seek out employers like EY who are open-minded about different flexible working, take Lucy and Debra’s advice on board and go for it. You’ll never look back.”

This article has been written in association with EY, one of our Timewise partners.

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