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Becoming attractive through flexibility – job sharing in the IT industry

IT specialists are in greater demand today than ever before. A study by BITKOM states that 41,000 IT experts are needed in Germany – that means that two thirds (71%) of industry representatives are currently searching for software developers. The nascent digitization of the business world can be seen as a possible reason for the need for skilled IT specialists. And the demand is outpacing the supply, which must mean that an interesting change has taken place. The employers are no longer the ones who set requirements and can look for their candidate from a pool of hopefuls. Today the IT experts have the power, they are the ones choosing the most attractive employer.

Another problem in the IT industry, compared with the general economy, is that these kinds of employees are highly likely to change jobs frequently: 27 percent of survey respondents said they would be willing to change jobs while 17 percent declined to comment on the question. There is obviously a clear connection between longevity and the perceived quality in working conditions. This is confirmed in a poll by ver.de, the IT service industry union.

The current situation on the job market, the change among the job seekers’ requirements as well as the perceived problems with working conditions all point to the fact that IT companies need to change their thinking.

Becoming attractive through flexibility

Companies need to introduce flexibility into their daily work in order to react to the described transition and usher in the change in thinking that is required. Only companies that are flexible when it comes to responding to the employees’ needs will be able to become more attractive to those employees.

A study looking into the lack of skilled labor on the job market shows that work-life balance is becoming more and more important a factor in job-seekers’ deliberations. It is often a deciding factor in the job selection. Remuneration plays a comparatively small role. Furthermore, family is not the only aspect that is gaining in prominence – employees now want to realize their own projects during their working hours or engage in charitable volunteering.

Companies can react to these requests and create free space and new opportunities through flexible models such as job sharing, job rotation or (reverse) mentoring. Companies are also equipping themselves for the “future of work” which has actually already begun, and are trying to position themselves as attractive employers on the market.

The job sharing model

Job sharing as a concrete way of making company structures more flexible is gaining in prominence. Job sharing is classically a situation in which two people share a single job. Both of them share the responsibility and have a single goal. They decide which of them will take on particular tasks and on how to arrange their shifts. Job sharing makes it possible to complete tasks on a part time basis, tasks which previously were not believed to be suitable for such a division, even in IT. Areas that contain closely coordinated tasks lend themselves particularly well to job sharing. Job sharing makes it possible for two IT professionals to divide their labor according to their strengths and inform themselves about important developments. The widely practiced activity of pair programming has already shown the potential of close cooperation.

With job sharing companies are not only capable of adequately reacting to their staff’s individual needs, they are better able to improve the general working conditions and to reduce the perceived stress levels at work, and to make working hours more flexible.

Successful together with job sharing

More efficiency through job sharing

Flexibility is more than just a model

Companies that think in terms of areas and not 40 hour/week jobs find it easier to offer their employees flexible working models. A single area in IT could require more than 40 hours of work a week. That’s why it’s useful that tandem job sharing allows you to create a position that includes two 30 hour contributions, i.e. 60 hours a week. Beyond working from home and part time work, truly being flexible requires that we question the classic 40 hour position and create a meaningful company structure.

IT businesses profit from flexibility

First of all flexible employers in the IT industry are better at responding flexibly to IT experts’ requirements. Second of all, they are better at increasing job satisfaction. This is one of the key ways of winning highly-sought after IT specialists for your company, people who might otherwise choose a different employer. The possibility of working in a flexible model is attractive to the kinds of people who don’t want a typical 9-5 job. People who are looking for an exciting job and who are, from the employers’ perspective, much too important to live without. Flexible companies are therefore capable of reaching a new target group that would otherwise be lost.

Knowledge transfer as a bonus

Knowledge transfer is an advantage that businesses – particularly IT businesses with a lot of specialized workers – have in embracing job sharing. It eliminates the problem of stress caused by the having specialized knowledge concentrated in a single person. If employees are sick it is possible to avoid the knowledge silos that so often otherwise develop and which, in the worst cases, lead to stagnation or bad decision making due to the lack of adequate back-up staff. Similarly, employees who retire from a company after many years of service take important knowledge with them. In job sharing this loss of knowledge is avoided because a good knowledge transfer system is already required for the arrangement to work and as a result it is pre-built in to the company’s DNA.

Obstacles are okay, but they need to be questioned

Job sharing brings with it innovations but also new leadership methods and unfamiliar models which means they will inevitably come up against opposition. You will hear many “buts” when talking about job sharing as a potential model. The three most frequently cited objections need to be mentioned and debunked:

1. “No-one would work for half a salary.”

Job sharing is an interesting model for the jobs that are generally not considered suitable for part-time shifts. Job sharing (or topsharing) is also possible in the upper echelons of management and is great for making a stressful job more doable. Depending on their personal standard of living and individual priorities, many people are willing to live on less money. It must be noted that many jobsharers use their hard-won time to pursue their own projects and have other sources of income. In other words, job sharers generally earn more than half a salary.

2. “Companies won’t adopt job sharing because it’s too expensive.”

Every fifth company in Germany already offers job sharing. Those are the companies that have begun to understand what their employees want and have identified entrepreneurial opportunities. Besides the above mentioned advantages it is misleading to believe that two employees are necessarily more expensive than one. True, this model leads to more expenses when it comes to insurance policies that need to be paid for employees, but these losses are recovered through the perfect vacation arrangement made possible by job sharing. Contracts can be structured in such a way that vacations are always covered, but even if they aren’t, job responsibilities can still be covered better than would be possible with a single employee. Things can keep moving forward – and total stagnation is avoided. The cost of absenteeism can be minimized, which is not insignificant, especially when it comes to top tier employees.

3. “The communication required in tandem arrangements is too cumbersome.”

Yes, communication is an important part of team work and, yes, at the beginning the communication level required for tandem arrangement will be higher; the job sharers need to get to know each other and sync up. But over time the cooperation will become ever smoother and the amount of communication required will decrease. The tandem pair will begin to gel and they will get a better sense of how to run their communication. This kind of engaged communication has all kinds of advantages: It encourages reflection, mutual learning and it eventually improves the quality of decision making. It also leads to ideas arising faster. Employers who have tried out job sharing brag of having achieved a “new level of quality in their work.”

Okay, since this model is relatively unknown it is understandable for you to be skeptical. But when it comes to innovation we need to be particular open and reflect on what it can do. “Buts” and objections tend to suffocate good ideas and models before they have the chance to unfold their potential.

Living flexibility – with tandemploy

Tandemploy supports people and companies not only in talking about the “future of work” but also the implementation. At tandemploy.com people get access to the special matching-algorithms that help job sharing partners find each other and the right company. The SaaS solution flex:workz goes one step further and supports companies in making their internal structures more flexible. Colleagues who in particular phases of life are interested in job sharing, a job rotation or reverse mentoring can find each other within a single organization in closed cloud-based spaces. They can arrange their own solutions and can be the architects of more harmony in their lives. Try it out yourself – as a jobsharer or as an employer.

 

Note

You can meet tandemploy live at: https://www.tandemploy.com/en/events

“Work life harmony” is important to Marion Hellebrandt. She has been part of the tandemploy team since September 2015 and writes for the blog zweiteilen. Her master’s degree in economic psychology helps her to tackle economic challenges. Questions like motivation, and improving productivity are often the topics of discussion. Marion is convinced that job sharing has a positive effect on the productivity and efficiency in businesses. Her purpose in life is to do something that has meaning beyond her, something that creates value for society. The job sharing model achieves that ideal – both for employers and employees.

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