Emma Wright has been an employee of the Ford Motor Company since 2001, but this year, after returning from maternity leave for a second time, she decided it was time to change how she worked.
Wright, a material cost finance manager, had gone part-time in 2021 after completing her first spell on maternity leave, but found that role less satisfying. It’s what prompted her to seek a job-sharing opportunity.
“People who come back part-time are sometimes allocated more of a project-based role, but that wasn’t something I relished. The work didn’t match my skills particularly well, so this time around I was really keen to job-share,” Wright says. “I’ve facilitated and managed job-shares before. That was a privilege, because I could see how valued people felt in such partnerships, rather than standalone part-time posts.”
How to go about sharing your job
Wright found her job-share partner, Jenan Alobaidi, through JobShare Connect, the matchmaking app that Ford had rolled out across its European operations in September 2022 to help formalise and popularise the practice throughout the organisation.
Once a user has entered details such as their location, skills and desired roles, the tool will find potential matches for them to connect with. Over a series of conversations, they’ll then establish whether they are, in fact, capable of working hand in glove.
Job-sharers are managed, developed and promoted as a single unit. Wright and her partner happen to have chosen to work three-and-a-half days a week each, so they are rewarded equally, but the business doesn’t prescribe how roles should be divided.
JobShare Connect users also have access to best-practice guidance and resources to help them create an operating framework for their partnership. This enables them to establish things such as who’s best placed to take the lead in various aspects of the job, based on their strengths, weaknesses and personality types.
Part-time work, full-on ambition
About 40 pairs of Ford employees are working in job-sharing partnerships across Europe. The company hopes that this way of working can offer more opportunities for advancement to those who don’t necessarily want a full-time position.
Gillian Humphries is one such employee. She has been sharing her job since 2016.
“It enables anyone to be unconstrained from realising their career ambitions by any responsibilities they may have outside work,” Humphries says. “Although men do enter such arrangements, many job-sharers here are mothers. When your child is sick and you’ve no choice but to drop a meeting, your partner can cover it. That takes a lot of stress from such situations, which enables you to function more positively. You feel more loyal to the company, because you’ve had the opportunity to be a good parent and the flexibility to be a good employee.”
Humphries and her long-standing job-share partner, Sian Hodgson-Wood, were recently promoted to the role of engineering director, consumer, at Ford Credit. They had originally been matched after they were both interviewed for the same vacancy.
The fact that their enduringly successful partnership started more by coincidence than by active management prompted Hodgson-Wood to lead the roll-out of JobShare Connect across Ford’s European operations after its launch in North America.
“Without this tool, you’re relying on your own network and that of your manager to find a partner. In an organisation of Ford’s size, it’s simply impossible to know about all of the available opportunities,” says Hodgson-Wood, who also founded an EU-wide employee interest group focused on job-sharing. “So the whole idea of using JobShare Connect is to open up the market of potential partners and put the power in the hands of the employee.”
Why job-sharing offers an important safety net
Like Wright, Humphries and Hodgson-Wood have thrived on their ability to raise families without sacrificing opportunities to advance their careers. As their children have grown, they have found the flexibility of job-sharing too desirable to relinquish. Moreover, they believe that working solo would never have offered them the same support and reassurance.
“To be working alongside someone who can coach you and help with your development is amazingly effective at bringing you up to speed quickly and giving you the confidence and the safety net to operate at a new level,” Hodgson-Wood says.
While they all credit Ford’s progressive approach in finding ways to help more people succeed, they agree that it can do more to raise awareness of job-sharing as an option and communicate its benefits throughout the business.
“Because we’re great believers in the value of job-sharing, we want everyone to have the opportunity. This is not just for women; it’s for everyone, so I’m on an educational push,” Hodgson-Wood says. “Now that we have JobShare Connect in place, this is a matter of getting more people’s profiles on there. The bigger the pool, the more opportunity there is for all.”