Series on Work-Life Balance – Job-Sharing

Motorola, founded in 1928 in the U.S., currently employs more than 100,000 people worldwide. A variety of work-life balance arrangements are offered, many of which are long established throughout the company. One such unique measure is that of ‘job-sharing’. Read on to see how this has benefited scores of people with special working needs.

Motorola offers all kinds of work arrangements that include part-time work; dependency leave; an employee assistance program (EAP); job sharing; health care; special shift arrangements (non-standard shifts); study leave (time off work to complete sections for formal qualifications); and emergency holidays (when annual leave needs to be taken for non-holiday time). Moyra Withycombe, the human resource operations manager at the East Kilbride location, explains that they are offered as part of being a premier employer and to attract high-caliber people, then recognize and reward them. This fits with Motorola’s philosophy of balancing life and work, which has contributed to the company’s high rating in America’s 100 Best Corporate Citizen award lists for environment, community and employment practices.

In 2000, there was a major change in work hours at the East Kilbride plant. The change was intended to standardize shifts throughout the whole organization. Today, full-time Motorola operators work seven 12-hour shifts over a two-week period, on the basis of four days one week, and three days the next. When the work hours were changed, employees were offered job sharing, either on the day or night shifts. Job sharing means that two people share a full-time job between them, splitting equally the number of hours worked. Though not commonplace, it has been an occasional practice in the U.K. for some years, mainly in the public-service sector.

Mary McDonald, a single parent with two children, applied for a job-share on the day shift. She felt the full-time shift pattern was too onerous given her family situation. In making her written application to the Human Resource department, she gave her personal and operational reasons. Her application was successful and, matched with her job partner, Heather Chalmers, she works in the wafer fabrication production area. McDonald says this system “has worked very well” for her. “I’m full of energy for the days I work — Motorola gets 100 percent from me.” She is extremely positive about job sharing, “especially for people with families…it is very good for family life.”

Alistair Reid, a manufacturing section manager, concurs. He also highlights that Motorola East Kilbride hosts 120 job sharers and explains that they are all included in feedback sessions and the annual reviews conducted to assess the effectiveness of partnerships. He stresses that “the transition to new shift patterns, including job share, allowed us to retain key skills and avoid external recruitment.”

Neil McKinven, a senior line manager, believes that job share plays a high-profile role for the East Kilbride Motorola plant to remain competitive and to meet their performance metrics in the face of stiff global competition. In particular, he notes that “job share allowed us to retain our pool of highly qualified and well-trained talent.” Job share, McKinven explains, “created a different management dimension in developing supporting procedures, such as procedures for holiday and absence cover.” These procedures have been refined over time and now function smoothly.

Motorola plans to have ongoing reviews of job-sharing practices, together with evaluation of the business effects.