Tandem at the top: Is job sharing only for management duos?

If two people share a job, this is called job sharing.

Tandem at the top: Is job sharing only for management duos?

If two people share a job, this is called job sharing. Well-known companies like to put their tandems on the marketing flag. Do individual cases remain in top positions?

Working less, but retaining responsibility: Many still consider this to be difficult or even unthinkable. The solution can be that two share a position. In theory it sounds simple. In practice, however, there are many questions behind the job sharing working model that need to be clarified.

Janina Marks and Michael Hedinger, for example, have shared the position of Head of Global Trade Management Europe in sea freight at DB Schenker for some time. Janina Marks was offered the position after her parental leave, but she also wanted to have more time for her son.

That's why she started looking for a tandem partner in consultation with her supervisor. Michael Hedinger, whom she already knew as a business partner, answered the search query. "We just met without obligation, talked about it and found each other that way," says Marks.

Michael Hedinger was not only convinced of the position and the sharing model from a professional point of view. His role as a father also played a part in the decision-making process. "During Corona, I clearly noticed that there is something else to do than just being in the office from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.."

It is still relatively unusual for a management duo to find one another when an external applicant comes along. "It's definitely easier from the inside," says Svenja Christen, organizational psychologist and managing director of the consulting firm The Jobsharing-Hub.

However, there are already some large companies that advertise positions as job sharing positions. And The Jobsharing-Hub is also working on a digital recruiting solution to bring companies and applicants together in the best possible way.

If you are interested in job sharing, you need a lot of initiative. From Janina Marks' point of view, for example, it makes sense to find a suitable tandem partner before approaching management or pushing your superiors.

In addition, good arguments and a sophisticated strategy are important. Marks recommends a plan that is as specific as possible to show where the benefits lie: "For example, we both have experience in different areas in the past. This concentrated competence is our selling point."

Outside of specialist or managerial positions, persuasion can be much more difficult. "The more extensive a role is - for example because it is even global or international - the more interesting job sharing is from a company perspective," says Michael Hedinger.

According to Svenja Christen, there are good reasons why the model often stays at management level. According to her research together with the WZB (Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung), three quarters of job sharing takes place at managerial level and one quarter at specialist level.

It makes sense when a job involves complexity. Where tasks can be clearly defined and are not very intertwined, jobs can also be divided up in terms of time. "But I wouldn't call that job sharing. It's quite simply two part-time jobs next to each other."

Job sharing is needed where the workload and task intensification are high and employees have responsibility for other employees. "That's usually the case in management positions. But they can also be complex specialist positions."

With job sharing, companies would usually pay for 1.2 to 1.5 positions, says Christen. Because it is precisely the collaboration between the tandems that "pushes up" the quality of the position, overlapping and sparring times are needed for this.

"I believe that there is great added value in management due to the different professional skills - two brains, four eyes, four ears," says Michael Hedinger. A lot can be achieved where two people with different backgrounds and knowledge work together.

Another reason why job sharing is cultivated above all in top positions: management positions are often positions where it is better to forego part of the salary. "You have to be honest about that," says Christen. In the case of well-paid positions, it is more attractive to reduce to around 65 percent than where you earn very little anyway.

If the model is implemented well, both sides usually benefit. According to DB Schenker HR director Katharina Rath, companies do not have to find one candidate who fulfills everything, but could divide the requirements of a position. It is important to find people with skills that complement each other perfectly "like two pieces of a puzzle".

For Janina Marks, job sharing is a basic requirement so that she can work part-time and thus balance family and career. "For me, the model also has the clear advantage that Michael is at my side every day as a sparring partner." It's not just about exchanging ideas about decisions. "I also get ad hoc criticism from him, which I gladly accept - you can only grow from that."

As a newcomer, Michael Hedinger especially appreciates the "soft landing". "Of course, with Janina by my side, it was very easy to gain a foothold and integrate myself." For example, he was able to benefit from her large network.

On the other hand, a shared job brings challenges - such as establishing oneself. According to Christen, the following applies particularly to the first four to six months: "You have to grow together, you have to find processes, you have to invest a great deal in improving efficiency." Anyone who masters this well will gain enormously from the model. Even compared to a single full-time employee.

"There are decisions that are simply too important to make alone. And there is a risk that it will just take a little bit longer for two," says Hedinger from the experience of the tandem.

In addition, it is not always immediately understandable for everyone how the duo is set up in terms of time and when both can be reached together. Good solutions are needed for such questions, especially when there are more tandems working in the company.

In order to master the challenges of everyday life, it is important to self-critically examine early on whether shared work suits you at all. "The most important point is that you want to work collaboratively," says Svenja Christen.

Janina Marks and Michael Hedinger first had to learn to trust each other and relinquish control. What counts for her is the ability to work in a team, transparency and a willingness to compromise. "Anyone who notoriously needs attention and has to reap all the successes for themselves is wrong in the model," says Hedinger.

But that doesn't mean that a career and success shouldn't be important. "For me, being career-oriented and being part of a job tandem is not contradictory. For me, the change to this position was definitely a career leap." Hedinger would particularly like to encourage more men to try job sharing. They could "still do a lot of catching up".

Organizational psychologist Christen believes that the topic of job sharing will continue to grow in the future. As a result of the pandemic, companies have learned a lot. At the same time, many people have thought about how they actually want to work.

Christen notes that a lot more people are now dealing with the topic. "In companies, job sharing is then often an organically growing, agile topic. And I expect the same for the market as a whole."

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