18 June 2024

How to make a senior-level job share work

We’re Neeta Major and Rachel Podolak, Co-CEOs of the British Medical Association, the trade union and professional association for doctors in the UK.

Flexible working is one of the most important tools available to employers who want to retain experienced staff and increase engagement and wellbeing – which is why the BMA wants more NHS employers and doctors to #TalkAboutFlex and reap the benefits.

Our experience has shown that with an open mind, it’s possible to make a success of flexible working, even for roles where it’s not been tried before.

We’ve been working in our flexible arrangement as Co-CEOs for the last two years. We have what is called a hybrid job share, which splits responsibilities across skill sets rather than a more typical time-based model. In simple terms, one of us looks after the corporate governance of the BMA Group* (Neeta) and the other, the political governance (Rachel).

Imagining a fresh approach

In 2022, when the CEO role first became available for application, neither of us considered applying for the role individually. However, as the deadline drew nearer, we began discussing what impact a new CEO may have for us as Senior Leadership Team members. The more we talked, the more we recognised, that together, we had the skills and ideas that could help the Association at what was a pivotal time; politically, financially and culturally.

Before we applied, we ensured our values and behaviours were aligned, as well as our vision to support the future of the Association. While we are different people and personalities, it was so important for us to be on the same page from the outset. We also looked for other examples of job sharing at CEO level, but are sad to say that there weren’t many available – Neflix had a job share CEO and there were a few shared senior roles in the civil service and charity sector. We’re glad to be able to add to this list now and have since provided advice to others considering similar applications.

Making the business case for a job share

Once we had decided to apply, the next hurdle was the interview process. The recruitment agency was initially surprised by our application and sought advice on how the process should work. We were interviewed and assessed separately to ensure we both met the requirements for the role. We then undertook the final stages of the process together – one of the tests was to devise a presentation for stakeholders within 30 minutes. This was definitely a challenge as a pair, having to navigate two sets of ideas and devise a script that ensured equal contribution! Looking back this was a great experience, as we now regularly co-host staff engagement events and this platform sharing has become second nature.

The final hurdle was to persuade the BMA Board that a co-arrangement could work. At this point, the BMA had never had a permanent female CEO, let alone two! We set out our pitch like a business case, explaining how the arrangement could work (objective setting, line management split, out of hours cover), what benefits the arrangement could offer (two expert skill sets, mutual support in a demanding role, internal promotion/retention), and addressed the tougher questions head on (what if it didn’t work? probation period, what would the salary be? cost neutral). Refreshingly, the Board had the confidence and openness to try something new and welcomed the opportunity to lead the way in flexible working practices and inclusive leadership.

Finding balance and inspiring change

We remain grateful for their ongoing support, along with the support of our colleagues and members, who (after a few questions!) have welcomed the forward-thinking arrangement too. It is satisfying to see that this has not only been a great opportunity to promote flexibility for our staff, but also for our elected members, with an increase in take up of co-chairing arrangements as well.

Our job share allows us to carry out a role that we both love AND to balance it with our other roles as Group Chief Financial Officer and National Director for Wales. It’s why we feel it’s so important that doctors are offered the same level of flexibility. Being more open to job sharing, part-time working, staggered hours etc could help organisations to create a better environment for both staff and patients. We know it’s a tough for so many doctors at all levels in the NHS – flexible working could be one way in which to help support them. While it may not be as easy to offer flexibility in clinical roles, it can work very well if it’s well supported.

We’d love to see the NHS #TalkAboutFlex and encourage more flexibility, the way the BMA has.

If you are considering offering flexible working arrangements, or applying for one, and have questions about the practicalities, benefits and things to be mindful of, please do get in touch with us – ceo@bma.org.uk


*Neeta and Rachel are Co-CEOs of the BMA Group, this includes the BMA, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) BMA Investments and BMA Law.