Job sharing is a powerful tool in promoting diversity, inclusivity and better collaboration.
This National Inclusion Week we share a standout example – the groundbreaking job share by Fiona Taylor and Adrian Hanstock. They jointly held the Kent route director position in our Southern region for a year.
It’s the first job share at executive level at Network Rail – something Fiona hopes will lead to more opportunities for others.
The pair demonstrated how combined experience, leadership styles and complementary strengths could drive success during a 10-month period.
Ellie Burrows, regional managing director for the Southern region, said: “Fiona has been a trail blazer as Network Rail’s first executive-level job share with Adrian Hanstock after going part-time last year.
“This move was a huge milestone and has not only been a clear demonstration of our commitment to creating a diverse, inclusive, and flexible workplace, it will, no doubt, pave the way for future senior roles nationwide. We are committed to exploring further opportunities for job shares throughout Southern region.”
Dual tracks to success
Fiona and Adrian each worked three days a week each, navigating the complexity of the role by drawing upon and complementing each other’s perspectives and leadership styles.
Fiona said working with Adrian was a pleasure, with trust established from the outset, highlighting his pragmatism and measured approach. Adrian applauded Fiona’s extensive rail and transport industry expertise. Together, they faced the 24/7 challenges of overseeing a critical section of the railway nationally.
Their partnership went beyond simple delegation, strategically scheduling governance meetings on their overlap day to ensure seamless continuity.
They distributed responsibilities according to their strengths, fostering efficiency and expertise-driven decision-making. This approach kept the operation running smoothly and set a precedent for effective job sharing.
Adrian said: “It was very useful to be able to bounce options and ideas around, particularly in those fast time situations when our respective leadership experiences over many years helped contribute to finding solutions.”
Fiona and Adrian recounted the proudest moments from their tenure. Fiona reflected on her pride in the team in successfully managing the sensitive challenges during industrial action – ensuring the safety and reliability of train services while keeping positive employee relations.
Fiona said she was also proud to be part of the first executive job share at Network Rail, which she hopes has opened a door for others. She said: “I’m proud of the way the Kent team managed the sensitive challenges of industrial action, providing safe, consistent and reliable train services whilst maintaining constructive employee relations.”
Adrian reflected on how much he has learned about the complexities of railway construction and operations. He took particular pride in his role during a major renewals program at Lewisham – the highly successful and safe delivery of work involving many Network Rail disciplines and external contractors. The renewal needed coordination of a complex project at a critical junction in Kent during a period of intense industrial action.
The experience underscored the importance of effective communication and handovers in job sharing. Fiona admitted to underestimating the logistics of a 24/7 role shared by two individuals. Adrian said he would have benefitted perhaps from a more comprehensive induction process – a lesson for newcomers for the challenges that come up in critical roles.
Meanwhile, their team’s support was vital to their success – especially from their PA Jan Bolton – as was Network Rail’s commitment to flexibility and inclusivity.
The future of job shares
Job shares encourage experienced professionals to re-enter the work place but also enhance diversity and alternative thinking. This diversity of thought – stemming from two individuals’ unique experiences – improves decision-making and leads to better business outcomes.
The job share has ended for Fiona and Adrian. Fiona has since retired and Adrian has moved to a new role, with David Davidson replacing them as Kent route director in June.
Ellie said in a statement on David’s appointment: “I’d also like to thank Fiona and Adrian, who have seen us through the challenges of covid and industrial action, while overseeing billions of pounds of investment throughout CP6 [Network Rail’s current five-year budgeting and planning period] to make the railway safer and more reliable for our passengers.”
But their experience speaks volumes about the positive impact the arrangements can have on businesses and employees.