How does a boardroom job share become a reality?

Laura Smith and Jenny Allen

Jenny Allen and Laura Smith job share the role of director of workforce at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, the first job share partnership in that role at the trust. In this blog for the Health & Care Women Leaders Network, Jenny and Laura explain how job sharing has helped them maintain a strong work/life balance and realise their ambitions to step into the boardroom.

Creating the future you want to see

In late 2017, we decided to apply for a director of workforce role as a job share partnership.

No NHS organisation had advertised a job share director of workforce role; or indeed had ever appointed a job share partnership to a director of workforce role. But convention need not stand in the way of invention.

Both of us were experienced deputy directors, but had individually steered clear of attempting the big next step into the boardroom.

We were both keen to maintain a strong work / life balance for us and our young families; and because of that the timing had never seemed right.

Talking together one day we agreed that, contrary to some outdated beliefs, an aspiration to work part time does not equate to a lack of ambition. And our partnership was born.

Recipe for success

Before applying, we spent a long time satisfying ourselves that our partnership could work: discussing our individual career drivers, preferred styles of working, strengths and weaknesses.

Our chosen organisation, Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust (LCH) hadn’t come across an application from a job share partnership for a director role before.

Fortunately for us, LCH’s chief executive Thea Stein and LCH as an organisation are not shy about innovating, and we were appointed after a gruelling shortlisting and selection process.

Making it work “in real life”

We hold to a core principle that our partnership must be seamless from the outside. We have a single email address, a single diary, and we share the entirety of our portfolio between us.

Last month marked the six month anniversary of us commencing in post.

Anniversary is an appropriate word – we often remark that our partnership is like a marriage in many ways. Just like a marriage, trust, mutual support and shared values are vital.

The pay off

We work alongside amazing people who deliver or support frontline NHS services. The opportunities we have to enable those people and those services to be the best they can be is a fantastic motivator.

And when we’re in work, we are even more resilient and more full of energy for having four days a week outside of work.

Each of us is grateful for the opportunity we’ve been given – that we created – to fulfil our career aspirations at the same time as fulfilling aspirations in our personal lives. We feel that gratitude each time one of us picks our children up from school; or heads out hiking in the dales on a weekday.

Since starting in post, we are aware of at least one more job share partnership application that has been made as in our organisation.

To anybody reading this who is considering making a similar step to ours, we would say – choose your partner wisely; tailor your proposition rigorously; and have faith that it is possible to carve out new opportunities. The sky is the limit!

Thea Stein, chief executive at Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust, added:

"When Jenny and Laura approached me asking if I would be open to a job share application for our HR director role I immediately said “yes of course” but thought “I’ve no idea at all how that would work!”. My instinct to say yes, however, was based on a strong view that job share roles was consistent with our values and ethos as an organisation and, that as a modern 21st century organisation, it was inconceivable that we wouldn’t consider two women who wished to combine a good work life balance with their ambition to continue to advance their careers.

"I, and our board, have never regretted opening the process up and indeed then appointing them to the post. We have all learnt as we have gone along but their promise to me that I would never have to work harder by having a job share director has been absolutely fulfilled by their hard work and commitment. They provide a great pair of role models in an organisation that knows it is creating health care for the future and has an increasingly millennial workforce looking to work in different ways. It seems strange, looking back, that I was ever worried."


Follow Jenny and Laura on Twitter @HRD_Jenny_Laura

The Health & Care Women Leaders Network is a free network for women working across health and care. The network connects through events and shares learning through blogs and key reports and has a focus on flexible working. If you are a woman working in health and care, find out more about the network, including how to join on the website, follow them on Twitter @hcwomenleaders or email women.leaders@nhsemployers.org


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