Mar 16, 2023

Job Sharing: Your Key to Professional Growth on Your Own Terms

Don’t let part-time work stifle your career growth. Instead look into job sharing to suit your individual needs.
by Michelle Robertsonstaff

Sometimes you find a job opportunity that speaks to you. The excitement at the prospect of being a part of a company, doing something you love seems too good to be true. You go down the list of bulleted requirements for the role and think, “Easy peasy, I’ve done all of that before.”

Then comes the crushing blow: you see the roll requires a full-time commitment and you can only work part-time. Don’t let that stop you!


A shared path to growth

Enter job sharing into the arena. Job sharing is when two employees join forces and intertwine their skillsets to perform a single role. It’s really a part-timer’s delight and I’m a major proponent of this working style for anyone that wants to further their career, in alignment with their individual needs.

"At adidas, we have a few duos who job share and it’s working wonders not only for our job sharers, but also for the company’s working culture."

Michelle RobertsonSVP Workplaces & HR Global Functions

In one instance, two of our colleagues, Lisa Breinig and Lisa Kuhr were both pondering their next career steps. They were both looking for a new, exciting opportunity and it was also important that they find something with a flexible set-up.

They soon found a role within HR that sounded like a challenge where they could work together. After reaching out to the hiring manager of the role, they discovered that it was amendable to job sharing and shortly thereafter, they were working in tandem.

Here are our ‘Lisas’ (Lisa Breinig, on the left, and Lisa Kuhr to the right), who embarked on an exciting professional adventure together.Here are our ‘Lisas’ (Lisa Breinig, on the left, and Lisa Kuhr to the right), who embarked on an exciting professional adventure together.

When I’ve asked both Lisas what their biggest takeaway from their job sharing experience has been so far, they said, “The knowledge and trust that someone is able to cover for you during those times when one of us is not working because we are spending time with family or pursuing other personal matters—while the other is available for our stakeholders—is a true enabler for a more flexible set-up, which leads to finding a good balance between work and our private lives.” And I can vouch for them on that note.

What I noticed was that Lisa and Lisa’s skillsets meshed so well with one another. Sometimes when you’re interviewing candidates, you think, “If I could only combine this person’s experiences of a, b, and c, with another person’s talent for x, y, and z, we would have the dream candidate.” And that’s what the Lisas show in their work.


Breaking down stereotypes

While job sharing isn’t meant for every role, it is open for all genders. I think there’s still a little stigma attached to this way of working which reminds me of when fathers – not too long ago – were under the impression that paternity leave wasn’t something they could do. Then we started to see a shift. As one proud dad took time off to spend with their newborn, not wanting to miss those first steps, first words, and all of the other ‘firsts’, another dad decided to do the same.

Since then, more and more men have talked more openly about going on leave. There was a sort of role-modeling going on and now it’s not so uncommon. I would love to see more of this role-modeling behavior for job sharing.

"And the biggest indicator of whether a job sharing set-up is successful depends on the two individuals sharing the tasks and their line-manager’s attitude towards it."

Michelle RobertsonSVP Workplaces & HR Global Functions

Two halves from different job sharing partnerships (Tina Messerer on the left and Lisa Kuhr on the right) come together to share their positive experiences with me.Two halves from different job sharing partnerships (Tina Messerer on the left and Lisa Kuhr on the right) come together to share their positive experiences with me.

Plan things out and reap the rewards

So first off, job sharing can take many different shapes and sizes. It’s not a one-size fits all type of thing. At the core of job sharing, we have a role that requires a certain number of hours. It’s on the prospective job sharers’ shoulders to come together and figure out how they’ll split those hours, the workload, and tasks, and when they’ll come together every now and then to align with project updates. Somedays they’re in the office at the same time. And on other days, they might decide to alternate who’s on call.

Nina Sacoto and Tina Messerer, another job-sharing duo responsible for HR initiatives for our Distribution Centers worldwide, had this to say how they coordinated a job-sharing framework: “We looked at our area of responsibility and considered how we can divide and conquer based on our previous experiences, and existing network & contacts—as well as taking into account our interests. This way, each of us can focus on certain topics; and the organization around us has one point of contact depending on the topic.” And they attribute their job-sharing success as a product of the trust and support they’ve received from their line manager Dagmar Daubner-Siva, who is a vice president of HR supporting our Global Supply Chain Management function.

By partnering up on their own terms – with their manager’s sign-off – they also brought new sense of agility into the mold. There are no more dead ends or slowdowns.

"When one part of the duo thinks they’ve hit a brick wall, the other is quick to bust that wall down with a wrecking ball of ideas and new insights from past experiences."

Michelle RobertsonSVP Workplaces & HR Global Functions

Tina Messerer (on the left) and Nina Sacoto (on the right) bringing a multitude of skillsets to the job sharing table.Tina Messerer (on the left) and Nina Sacoto (on the right) bringing a multitude of skillsets to the job sharing table.

Enjoy newfound flexibility

The flexibility of this working style boasts engagement, gives managers a team construct that has an even wider array of skills that they can play around with in their back pockets, and cultivates a pervasive growth mindset. The onus on the managers is to make sure that the setup syncs up with their objectives and to approach job sharing with an open mind.

"The onus on the managers is to make sure that the setup syncs up with their objectives and to approach job sharing with an open mind."

Michelle RobertsonSVP Workplaces & HR Global Functions

I’ve had a few coffee check-ins with one of our VPs of HR Michael Bussler and he’s said to me, “They [Lisa and Lisa] work seamlessly together and speak with one voice toward their business stakeholders and myself. The key to making job sharing work is that there is an alignment on long-term priorities and there’s a close communication between the job sharers. In addition to their different skillsets which are combined in such a setup, I would also highlight that they can back each other up anytime and cover for each other in periods of absence.”

Life’s bag of surprises carries us through many different stages where, for one reason or another, we need to juggle commitments. You might find yourself responsible for taking care of a family member, have an urge to enroll in a graduate program to upskill, would like to train for a sport on a semi-professionally basis, or you might even want to spend more time out in nature with your four-legged furry friend. And the pandemic changed the antiquated landscape of working and brought existing – but not so widely used or talked about – working styles to the top of the minds and in vogue; job sharing being one of them.

A roundtable discussion with our job sharers always shows one of its most valuable attributes: teamwork!A roundtable discussion with our job sharers always shows one of its most valuable attributes: teamwork!

It’s a win-win situation

I’ve taken great pleasure in seeing how teams have benefited from job sharing. It’s something I’ve found is advantageous for everybody involved. You get a broader mix and breadth of talents in teams. And it’s truly rewarding seeing how each job sharer ends up being partly responsible for the other’s growth. adidas has been on the winning side of job sharing. It has enhanced our culture inside the 3-Stripes and I’ve seen the positive influence it’s had on our Lisas, Nina and Tina, and many others at our company – along with their extended working network.

I would encourage anyone to consider job sharing as an option when pondering their next career move. Don’t let your professional growth stall because of life’s unexpected twists and turns.

"Find a job that speaks to you and ask the hiring manager if it’s possible. Or find your job sharing counterpart beforehand and figure out how you can make job sharing work for the both of you."

Michelle RobertsonSVP Workplaces & HR Global Functions
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