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Job-sharing in marcomms. How on earth does that work?

24 June 2014

A job-share in marcomms? Really?! What about the lack of continuity? More like: what about having two sets of complementary skills covering one post and no need for temp cover, ever. Yes, it can really work and the result can be a stronger comms team and better outcomes, as Fiona Hurst, freelance Public Relations Consultant, tells us.

“After the birth of my first child, I was keen to return to work in corporate communications. When an opportunity came up to job share at Fortescue Metals Group, an ASX-100 mining company, I jumped at it.  I could continue to work in a corporate environment for two and a half days a week and had the opportunity to work on a high profile project that demanded a full time presence. I knew that my work would be handled by my job share partner, Nicole, when I was not in the office, and vice-versa.

Nicole and I delivered the internal communications programme for the construction of a major new iron ore mine site located in the resource rich Pilbara region of Western Australia. It was an ambitious project with highly accelerated timelines and ambitious targets. Staff morale was key to the project’s success and, therefore, a key component of our role. There were 2,500 personnel and 20 contract partner companies working in Perth and on the mine site, who required frequent updates on project achievements and milestones to meet their own targets. We worked with project directors to ensure we were up to date with site progression and advised them how to integrate communications into their planning. We communicated through bi-monthly newsletters, company videos shown on huge screens, and ‘town hall’ meetings at the office and on the mine site. Our job was to make staff feel proud of what they had achieved and knowledgeable about what was still to do. We communicated lots of ‘firsts’ – such as the opening of the mine site’s airstrip and the largest ever concrete pour to take place in the Pilbara region.

Nicole and I came to the role with different skillsets and our personalities and past experiences complemented each other. My media relations experience was valuable in preparing project directors to speak to 100 plus workers on site or to appear on camera for the latest in-house video. I have a passion for writing and was happy to interview staff for newsletter features. Nicole had previously devised strategic internal comms plans for 1000+ staff and was fantastic at planning the long term comms strategy for the mine site. She’d also produced in-house videos before and was able to effortlessly advise the external video producer on shots required while I was able to use my writing skills to put together the script.

Job sharing means that you spend the evening before you start preparing for what’s to come and that you have to provide a very thorough handover. Nicole and I took time to get to know each other so we could play to each other’s strengths but we only occasionally did a day in the office together.

Things to watch out for in job sharing:

Take joint ownership of all work. If Nicole did the majority of work on comms plan at the beginning of the week, but I presented it at the end of the week, I ensured we both received the credit for it. We passed on feedback and ensured our managers did too.

Handover effectively at the end of your half of the week.

Be transparent with your job share partner. Present yourselves as a team at all times.

Always be available for your job share partner to contact you to query something.

Positive outcomes:

Our boss had a range of complementary skills to draw on. It was like having two comms people not one and, overall, the comms function was far stronger.

A one person comms position had become a team, which led to more creativity in the role. It was very easy for us to bounce ideas off each other.

As a team we were more efficient than one full time person. Just like part time people find – there was simply no time to be unproductive and you always push to finish a task before you hand it over to your job share.

There was always someone in the office. We took holidays at different times. We never needed cover.

I learned a lot from dovetailing with someone else’s style of working, their comms, etc. It was very insightful and I hope she’d say the same about working with me.

 

When the Fortescue Metals role ended, I decided to move the family back to the UK.  If I hadn’t, Nicole and I would be looking for a job share together again. It’s an inspired idea – to find a “buddy” and bring two sets of complementary skills, and a track record of success and productivity, to a demanding comms role.

My top tip for a successful job share is: to act as a team. Take time to get to know each other extremely well – your strengths and how you work. The partnership is golden.”