Sharing Responsibility

Steinbeis student examines job sharing among managers

At the end of the 1990s, Julia K. Kuark and Hans Ulrich Locher delved into the issue of management-level job sharing in Switzerland. Their research objective was to help develop a management model based on partnership in the form of “job sharing”, and to incorporate it into relevant work and management tasks. The concept was successful on all levels at the time, though it didn’t result in widespread implementation in the German-speaking world. The shortage of skilled workers in the market today, however, is causing a paradigm change in human resources. Businesses are now introducing a number of part-time models in order to gain qualified management personnel. As part of her bachelor studies in Business Administration at the SHB School of Management and Technology, Susanne Broel looked at how managers use part-time employment models to strike the right balance between work and family life.

During her project competence degree, Broel worked as department head in a regional development bank, where she dealt with the issue of job sharing and whether this management model provided a reasonable balance between work and private life. This issue is frequently highlighted in the media as “top sharing”, and describes the sharing of management tasks between two people. In her project, Susanne Broel surveyed German companies on their familiarity with the model and their willingness to introduce it into their management strategies. She also interviewed “top sharing” pairs.

Broel was interested to see just how much a change in values within German society might affect a business’ notion of management. This change in values is reflected, for example, in a transition away from the traditional concept of a male provider and female household organizer, and a shift towards a cooperative educational model with professional and familial equality for men and women, in addition to a constantly growing demand for work-life balance across all demographics. Susanne Broel discovered that more and more human resources departments are giving serious thought to the possibility of part-time work conditions for managers, and are also evaluating how to apply the job sharing model more effectively.

Yet many managers are somewhat skeptical of this type of management model and question the ability to successfully fulfill the requirements of qualified positions at only part-time capacity. However, it is precisely their perceptions of their own roles in management which make job sharing a viable option in the first place. Conventional management concepts are based on power, clear hierarchical relationships, control, above vs. below, and the uninterrupted, indispensible availability of management personnel at the core of all work procedures. Top sharing would break this convention and replace it with a modern conception of management in which aspects of relative availability, trust among responsible employees, a delegation of decision-making authorities and responsibilities, management through goal setting and teamwork would play a significant role.

In addition to flexible work hours and increasing internationalization, this model can make a contribution to addressing employee needs, raising their motivation and securing their loyalty to the company in both the short and long term. As a result, this type of part-time structure can also have a positive impact on the business’ image. And the model can play an important part in overcoming the economic effects of aging within the German population, better integrating younger employees into a company, for example, when older employees move towards retirement.

In an economic landscape marked by intense competition and specialization, know-how, creativity and management performance levels will be decisive factors for a company’s success. Their greatest potential lies in their existing employees and managers. The idea of flexible work hours is simple enough; if businesses can develop a job sharing model, they grant employees more individual freedom and managers more time. In doing so, they create added value for themselves and their team: There is a noticeable increase in satisfaction and motivation among managers and specialists, and, in turn, they come to identify more strongly with their company with positive effects on their performance.

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