Charity Digital – Topics – How job sharing can recruit better leaders

Charities are beginning to take the phrase “two heads are better than one”, as they increasingly look at hiring two candidates to share senior roles, including chief executive posts. 


Opening up roles to job-sharing applicants gives charities the chance to hire high-calibre candidates, who are only available on a part-time basis. The role will still be covered for all working days and part-time arrangements are no longer a barrier to career progression or excellent leadership.  


With job sharing already embedded across several sectors, charities can also look to recruit candidates with experience of already working together in this arrangement. 


Here, we explore some of the benefits of offering senior roles to candidates on a job share basis and look at some of the charities already doing so. 



Benefits of job sharing 


By failing to accommodate part-time workers in roles with more responsibility, organisations are missing out on talented leaders. 


Sometimes high-quality candidates looking for part-time roles, such as parents of young children or people with long term health issues, find that they are offered less responsibility than their colleagues in full-time positions.  


Due to their personal circumstances, they might accept more junior roles to achieve a better work life balance or be overlooked for promotion because of proximity bias (when people working more often in the office are prioritised over those who are not as visible or near).  


But by adopting flexible working arrangements like job shares, employees working on a part-time basis can be given equal opportunity to progress in their career and charities can ensure they have the best leaders in their organisation, regardless of their situation.  


Offering positions on a job share basis means charities can benefit from two highly-skilled candidates, who may have expertise in different areas. For example, one may have excellent organisational skills, while another’s talent could be in presentation and communicating with stakeholders. 



How to make job sharing a success 


With two people in the same position there is a risk that roles and responsibilities become blurred and confused.  Therefore, all job sharing should be based on clear guidelines, with the workloads and responsibilities of each carefully assigned.  


These lines of responsibility should also clearly define who is taking the lead on specific tasks. Charities should ensure different skillsets are complimentary and offer the organisation the widest array of skills.  


Internship sharing in leadership roles will be a working culture shift that some staff are unfamiliar with. Charities need to ensure the roles and responsibilities of job-sharing candidates are communicated across the organisation. This needs to including the times each is available during the week.  



Internship sharing in action 





Human rights charity Birthrights has recruited two senior local government executives, who have already worked together on a job share basis, to be the charity’s next Joint Chief Executives. 


Greater London Authority (GLA) policy executives Shanthi Gunesekera and Janaki Mahadevan have been recruited jointly to share the role as part of the charity’s flexible working agenda for staff. They replace Amy Gibbs, who stepped down in July 2022. 

At the GLA, they have shared roles delivering policy and programmes under the Mayor of London’s Social Integration Strategy to tackle inequality in the labour market and boost active citizenship. 
“They bring fantastic leadership experience from the GLA and passion for our cause. We are also excited to model job sharing at a senior level in the charity sector, reflecting Birthrights’ strong commitment to inclusion,” said the charity’s Chair Elizabeth Prochaska.



Leukaemia UK 


Another charity to recruit workers at a high level with experience of job sharing is Leukaemia UK. 


In 2022, it hired Lizzie Afonso and Anna Wilson on a job share basis to take up the newly-created role of Director of Communications. The pair have already worked together on a similar basis, leading media, communications, and marketing at homelessness charity Shelter for several years.   


“The easier we make it for people to work for us, the happier and more productive they will be, so we’re delighted to be able to put this into action by enabling our director of communications role to be one that is to be job-shared between two outstanding candidates,” said Leukaemia UK Chief Executive Fiona Hazell. 

Wilson and Afonso added: “The opportunity to continue with our successful job-share model means that we can take this next step in our careers whilst maintaining a flexible working pattern, and we are grateful to Fiona for seeing the advantages of this set-up. 
“We believe that two brains can be even better than one, and hope that job-sharing will soon become much more common across the sector and beyond.”