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Tel: 01227 639768

Seeing Job Shares as a positive, not a problem

I set up The Right Ethos recruitment consultants in 2007 after 13 years working for organisations including Shelter, Save the Children and PLAN International. I was invited to speak at the Jobsharing Network Meeting on 26th April 2017 by Katherine Nightingale and Alice Allan, who Jobshare the Head of Advocacy and Policy at CARE International. The audience was a mix of Job Sharers and HR managers from leading international NGOs in the UK.

In an increasingly competitive market for top talent, charities and campaigning organisations need to be more creative with their hiring strategies. Quite often recruiting managers and human resource teams see anything non-conventional as a problem, rather than seeing and understanding that it can be a real positive.

It is not only an issue for Job Share applications, but it also covers other non-conventional issues in recruiting. This includes older candidates, candidates moving from other sectors, and candidates with experience from other countries.

This reaction against non-conventional candidates creates conservatism, with a small “c” in the sector. Quite often this means that the candidates selected for interviews are just junior versions of the recruiting manager. Therefore, the sector generally ends up with Individual, rather than job share candidates; 2-5 years younger than the recruiting manager, with similar (but less) UK based experience.

All these restrictions act as negative filters that reduce the field of potential candidates whilst also damaging the opportunities for such applicants. However, what I really care about is that it damages the organisation as it reduces the chance of appointing the best people for the job. But to reduce this conservatism it needs to come from the top.

So it is truly great that the Chief Executive of CARE International, Laurie Lee is involved with this project. It says a lot to Laurie’s and CARE International’s progressive understanding of the issue that he is involved.

The conservatism in charity recruitment will be reduced if staff are positively encouraged by charity leaders to not discount non-conventional candidates too quickly.

In terms of Job Share candidates, positive policy statements need to be made. Then they need to be shared, by discussing them and regularly reinforced to get a common understanding of the benefits that a Job Share can offer.

Also externally, particularly for hard to recruit jobs, adverts could state that Job Share applications would be welcome.

Only 6.2% of quality job vacancies are advertised with options to work flexibly. This compares poorly with the high demand for flexible work – 47% of the workforce want to work flexibly in some way.

Additionally, there could be versions for job shares on application forms. Job Sharers could be rejected at application stage purely because an application form cannot accommodate the prospect of two people applying for one job.

The issue for Job Shares is not just in recruitment – but this is where the biggest challenge lies. There also needs to be a progressive approach to allow Job Shares to happen for an organisation’s existing staff.

The best route to working part-time in a job share is to go from full-time to part-time or to be in the right place for recruiting candidates for the other part of the job share. However, charity leaders need to be more open to this and appreciate the benefits.

Charities wanting to maintain their leadership pipeline can’t afford to lose strong talent, especially their women, who generally make up the majority of their workforce. But job shares are not exclusively women – they are also parents, carers and disabled people.

My main concern and the reason behind why I want to see change is that not maximising job sharing is bad for the organisations. But, having worked for Liberty and Amnesty International before starting The Right Ethos, I care about the rights of the individual too.

Lack of job shares is unfair on the individual. Part-time workers earn less per hour than their full-time counterparts at every level of qualification. Highly talented people who need to work flexibly cannot do so at their level so are taking jobs below their level in order to find work that matches their needs. Even worse there are highly talented people who are not working but seeking part-time work.

A progressive approach led by trustees and senior management is required – based on the primary, self-interested, motivation being the best talent available for the charity or campaigning organisation is maximised.

This proactive approach will make HR and recruiting managers feel comfortable about promoting Job Shares. And not feeling that Job Shares applications are causing problems for their bosses and colleagues.

And as you may be able to tell, I have my own personal agenda around Job Sharing. Most notably, with regards to the unfair treatment of highly talented individuals and the wasted opportunities that the campaigns I care about, don’t take in not being open to Job Shares.

However, as a recruitment consultant, I have to work to my client’s agendas, not my own. So The Right Ethos ends up having a more conservative attitude to recruitment than we would wish to have. We do try and slip in unconventional highly talented candidates – but more often than not they get caught in the net of conformity.

But there is some legislation that will hopefully focus the mind of senior management when it comes to flexible working.  From 6th April 2017, all businesses and charities with more than 250 employees are now legally required to collect data on the gap between the average hourly pay of the men and women who work there.

Closing the gender pay gap will have a positive effect on the workplace as a whole in many ways, from basic issues of fairness and the benefits of a diverse workforce to the importance of having pathways that support women into senior roles.

Here is an excerpt from the House of Common’s   Women and Equalities Committee’s 2016 report:

“Flexible working for all lies at the heart of addressing the gender pay gap… A large part of the gender pay gap is down to women’s concentration in part-time work that doesn’t make use of their skill…. Old-fashioned approaches to flexibility in the workplace and a lack of support for those wishing to re-enter the labour market are also stopping employers from making the most of women’s talent and experience.”

So for employers who are keen to address their gender pay gap, taking action to improve their flexible credentials is an excellent place to start.

People who work in a flexible way tend to outperform from a productivity point of view and tend to stay longer and are more loyal. It’s not just about attracting talent but retaining it.

It’s 2017 and things have got to change. Thus, I hope this group can play a major part in helping change things for fairness to individuals and for the good of the charity and campaigning sector.