A marriage of equals

Jane Clark-Hutchison and Alison Nicolson from Scottish Widows talk about their senior job share and why it’s like a work marriage.

Two cut-out heads sharing ideas

 

Jane Clark-Hutchison and Alison Nicolson describe their job share as a ‘work marriage’ and that marriage has worked really well over a 12-year period with a slight break in the middle. The two who currently share the role of Head of Client Relationships in the Workplace Savings team at Scottish Widows have been together since their children were small.

Both women wanted to reduce their hours for different reasons. Alison [pictured below right] had two disabled children one year apart. She was head of commercial banking in the West of Scotland and was trying to balance a full-time role with frequent visits to A & E. “It was unsustainable,” she says.

The managing director of commercial banking recognised the challenges Alison was facing and the risk that he could lose her. He was mentoring Jane at the time, whose background was also similar to Alison’s in supporting private equity firms in mergers and acquisitions. He knew she was looking to reduce her hours so he suggested the two women get together. “We never thought back in 2010 that two heads of function could have job shared,” adds Alison. “He had great foresight and he trusted us to do a good job.”

Alison and Jane say they were incentivised to make their role as regional sales director for commercial banking at Bank of Scotland work because it was unusual at the time to have a job share in such a senior, client-facing role. That meant going the extra mile to ensure it was a seamless experience for colleagues and clients.

After three and a half years, in 2013, the partnership broke up, if only temporarily. Jane took up the full-time role of Senior Director Commercial Banking Scotland & Head of Managed Assets at Bank of Scotland and progressed up to Head of Mid Markets for Scotland before taking the role of Head of Large Corporates, Scotland and Managing Director Healthcare and Consumer Goods at Lloyds Banking Group, which owns Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows.

Meanwhile, Alison continued to job share in the regional sales director role before moving on to Head of Proposition Development, Corporate Pensions, at Scottish Widows. Throughout this Alison was keen to support others and was also Chair of the East of Scotland Executive Committee at Lloyds Banking Group. The two women came back together in 2019 in the client relationships role. Jane was looking to go part time so that she could share her business knowledge outwith the Group through her role as President of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce and Alison was also seeking to return to a role with reduced hours having come through an intensive period being involved in the acquisition of the Zurich workplace pensions business by Scottish Widows.

Alison jokes: “We loved our ‘marriage’ so much that we got back together.” Jane adds: “It’s such a good partnership that it has worked twice. The chemistry is there and also we are incentivised to make it work for everyone around us.”

She says the two just “slotted back” together. “We have found a rhythm that works. It is different for every job share partner,” she adds.

Why does it work?

The reason their job share works, say Jane [pictured below left] and Alison, is because they operate at the same level but have different but complementary skills and have a mutual respect for each other.

The first time around there was no budget for a crossover day so Jane and Alison each did 2.5 days. Now they each work three days a week, with a crossover day on Wednesdays. They cc each other on email and only do a formal written handover if one of the pair has been on holiday. Otherwise the handover consists of a quick summary of the key issues because of the pace of the job.

Alison and Jane initially ensured they were both up to speed on all aspects of the role. However, their role now is much faster paced and it is now even bigger. “We started trying to do it in the same way as before, but it was never going to be sustainable,” says Alison.

Asked what their employer gets from the job share, they say that there are two different perspectives for the price of one. “We have similar backgrounds, but different types of experience,” says Jane. “It’s a partnership of equals.” Both had experience of working with corporate clients in a corporate setting. Jane had done a number of risk roles. Alison has significant experience of running large-scale teams.

There are challenges and Alison and Jane acknowledge that there will always be line managers and others who are sceptical and who job share partners will need to win over by understanding what their scepticism stems from. However, they say that since they started there is more acceptance of different ways of working.

Role models

The two feel very much a responsibility to act as role models and advocate for job share partnerships in all their different forms throughout their organisation and beyond. They have written blogs and articles for internal and external readers and are members of Lloyds’ Breakthrough network that supports women at all stages of their career. They are keen to say that they don’t feel working part time has hindered their careers and to acknowledge the support they have received from their employer.

They have been sought out by others who want to job share and need advice. Alison and Jane say they can point them to resources and tell them about their partnership, but they say that each pair needs to find out for themselves how they work together best.

The most important thing is to get the match right – Lloyds, of which Scottish Widows is part, has a job share register where those seeking a partner can look for a person who they can gel with. “It’s down to the dynamics of the individuals,” says Alison. “We were lucky that our manager knew us and knew we would work well together.”



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