The concept of topsharing is particularly suitable for men and women who decide to work part-time for family or other reasons, but who do not want to miss out on a management role. Cornelia Oppliger and Andrea Bircher, as well as Anne-Käthi Leuenberger and Miriam Wälti decided to try the joint management arrangement. We talk to the four women about why they chose the solution and how topsharing works in practice.
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Topsharing: joint management, twice as effective
Topsharing means that two people share a specialist or management position. But how does that work in practice? We talk with two pairs of topsharing partners at PostFinance.
Topsharing Heads of Digital Sales: Cornelia Oppliger and Andrea Bircher
Cornelia Oppliger and Andrea Bircher (no longer employed by PostFinance) share the head position in the Digital Sales unit. They both work at a 70-percent employment level on fixed days.
We knew each other from working at PostFinance, but not privately. In conversation, we noticed that we were both reaching our limits in terms of professional development when working part-time. We also realised that our varied professional experience and competencies combined well to make us an interesting “package deal”. So we applied together for the Head of Digital Sales position. It wasn’t advertised as a topsharing position.
We haven’t been working in tandem for all that long. Officially, we’ve been working together in this role since 1 March 2021 – effectively, we’ve been working like this since early December 2020. The beginning of March was also when we did our first retrospective assessment together. We think things have worked out well so far! We divide responsibilities as primary contact persons for team members – extending this approach across the different areas. But we make core and long-term decisions such as personnel-related decisions together. In the development phase in particular, it’s important to us that we discuss the most fundamental issues together.
Neither our team nor the other stakeholders should be able to tell from the way we perform our tasks that we’re job sharing. And if they do, then only in a positive sense, because we combine more expertise and greater experience in a single role. In this regard, we’ll continuously improve over time.
In general, it’s important for us to emphasize that topsharing – or job sharing – is not a women’s issue, but a social issue. So our answers are generally aimed at all interested persons.
- The prerequisite is, of course, that a suitable topsharing partner can be found. You have to keep your eyes open and communicate with potential topsharing partners. Then it’s just a matter of trying to apply for a job together – even if it’s not advertised that way.
- When applying internally, an existing track record creates the necessary trust in the potential candidate to ensure that the position will be assigned with a topsharing solution. With a new, external employer who doesn’t know you yet, topsharing may be a bit more difficult to achieve.
- Without mutual transparency, trust, appreciation, openness, shared core values, the ability to criticize and the courage to address conflicts directly and immediately, it’ll not be possible to share a task. You may also have to place less value on your own “status”, because personal success is always the success of the team.
Absolutely, provided you have a partner and your core values match.
Topsharing the position of Head of Corporate Responsibility: Anne-Käthi Leuenberger and Miriam Wälti*
Anne-Käthi Leuenberger and Miriam Wälti share the position of Head of Corporate Responsibility. They both work at a 70-percent employment level on fixed days with one overlapping day.
*No longer employed by PostFinance
Working together with two other people, we were able to develop PostFinance’s corporate responsibility strategy and had it confirmed by the Board of Directors, including the creation of the new Corporate Responsibility team. Based on our experiences during this six-month period, and because we both work part-time, it soon became clear that we wanted to take on the topic of corporate responsibility and its implementation together. We then submitted the proposal to our line manager, Gabriela Länger. She got to know us even better as we worked in tandem to develop the corporate responsibility strategy. After a short period of consideration, we were then given the green light.
We’d known each other for about a year and a half because we were on the same team. However, we had been working in proximity rather than together. That’s because we took turns with our maternity leave, so to speak, and only had one working day together per week. So we didn’t know exactly what we were getting into when we decided to work together on the corporate responsibility strategy in the summer. We quickly realized that we complement each other’s skill sets while also sharing the same values when it came to working methods.
We both have children and want to find the best way to balance our jobs and our families. Topsharing makes it possible to take on a challenging, responsible position even on a part-time basis. We’re also very good at pushing each other forward or even putting the brakes on occasionally. You always have a sparring partner: quick access to a different perspective on a challenging decision is very valuable. In leadership positions, you’re sometimes on your own: it helped a lot to be able to celebrate our successes together or overcome periods of low motivation. It’s an advantage we wouldn’t want to be without. We also both come from an innovation background and enjoy new challenges and just trying new things.
Above all, we’re able to cover different areas. Käthi: strategy, finance and investment topics, Miriam: HR, branding, marketing and communication. We also both have our own networks, giving us access to many different people. We also get our dual power from our shared business mindset. We’re very enterprising and passionate about our issues.
We only started recently and can’t draw any final conclusions yet. But the first few weeks have been great, and we are fans of the model. Two people simply have more brain power and different perspectives. This also benefits our many different areas of responsibility and our team.
Topsharing as a win-win situation – not just for the topsharing partners
Topsharing is a concept that can be used to promote the compatibility of family and professional life. Employees who cannot or do not want to work at a high employment level for family or other reasons can take advantage of topsharing to assume management responsibilities on a part-time basis. This is also very much in the interests of the employer: for PostFinance, for example, it is an opportunity to retain well-trained employees. This means that topsharing is also a solution that mitigates the shortage of skilled workers in a competitive labour market.