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Sara Horsfall, Founder & Director of Ginibee

Job-sharing is one of the fastest-growing models of flexible working, yet perhaps the least understood. As one of the stars of this summer’s Cambridge Judge Business School Social Venture Weekend, Sara Horsfall is looking to change all that.

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Sara Horsfall

Sara Horsfall

Everyone has a view on job-sharing – good and bad. For some it’s the best of both worlds, retaining, recruiting and motivating great people while getting twice as much return on your money. For others it’s a process nightmare, a confusing system that creates problems rather than solves them.

Since the introduction of new legislation giving everyone the right to request flexible working, the job-sharing market has come seriously into focus. But for one working mum, it seemed the workplace just wasn’t keeping pace with the increase in popularity of flexible working.

Back in 2013, Sara Horsfall was looking for a new job after having her two children, and was eager to embrace flexible working. “I wanted a role where I could make a real difference within a company,” she says. “But I also didn’t want to miss out on the early years with my children.”

Yet Sara couldn’t find any part-time roles, despite an MBA and 15 years’ experience in commercial management at senior level across sales, marketing, bid management and product development in both the financial services and energy sectors. She got to the final stage for several full-time roles and requested flexible working, but found that her application was then taken no further.

Job-sharing seemed like the best option. She asked her recruitment company if they could pair her up with a job-share partner, and realised that such a service simply did not exist. So she decided to create her own – and in July 2013, job-share network Ginibee was born.

There’s a lot of pressure on organisations to help their workforce achieve a better work-life balance,” says Sara. “Job-sharing is great for that – it can improve productivity, reduce presenteeism, bridge the skills gap and attract better candidates; the company still benefits from having a full-time role but is able offer part-time careers to the right individuals. So why is there not more take up of it? I’m on a mission to change that!

Anyone interested in job-sharing can sign up to Ginibee’s network for free, giving details such as their geographical area, their sector and their level. They will then receive potential matches, and can also attend a Ginibee workshop with fellow job-share seekers, aimed at getting them thinking about their motivations for job-sharing and how it might work in practice.

Other sites for job-sharers do exist but, says Sara, they are more for companies looking to redesign full-time jobs as part-time jobs. Ginibee’s vital difference, she says, is that it puts the onus on the candidates rather than the companies. They can then go into interview with ready-made solutions and suggestions as to how a job-share could work.

“For example, I might just want to put out there that I am up for meeting someone who lives near me, who’s had a background in any of my areas, getting to know them – then we’ll both go to interview together,” she says. “We’ll think about how we would plan to job-share, how we’d ensure continuity and how we’d hand over before we even interview.”

The first version of the Ginibee website is now live and initial workshops are being piloted. In June, she took Ginibee to the Cambridge Judge Business School Social Venture Weekend, where it was picked as one of just 11 social change organisations that show the most potential, out of 60 businesses that attended the weekend. “That has really speeded things up,” she says. “I now get mentoring, use of the Future Business Centre and I’ve got an increased awareness of all the grants and funding that might be available. I might never have come across this information if I’d been on my own.”

Sara is currently in talks with various organisations with a view to finding out their awareness of job-sharing as a flexible option. She’s also looking to offer her workshops to larger employers to help with employee retention, matching employees who want to reduce their hours and teaching them how to successfully job-share within their current company. It is, she says, the future, and she’s eager to use her own experience to help others in the same situation.

“I know there are so many well-qualified, professional women who don’t go back to work full-time after having children,” she says. “That’s a huge pool of talent. If you’ve got a good career behind you and you’ve had your children in your 30s, you don’t always want to give it up. But your children are too important to sacrifice, so you end up sacrificing your career. I really believe that is just so wrong and the world has changed enough now for us to rectify that and make a difference.”

Sara is interested in hearing from …

… organisations in both the private and public sector which want better flexible working solutions or employee retention strategies at senior level, and people who would like a job-share partner.