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Kathrin Ott from the Competence Centre for Diversity & Inclusion (CCDI) at the University of St. Gallen spoke with Daniel Eugster, CEO of CAP Rechtsschutz (legal protection). CAP currently has three Topsharing positions. As a supervisor, Daniel Eugster sees the advantages of the model while not glossing over the challenges it brings.
Ott: You are a strong proponent of Job- and Topsharing. Was this always the case?
Eugster: I am a proponent of part-time schemes as long as they are not restricted by daily business, client contacts or for organizational reasons. It is an opportunity to recruit suitable, qualified employees or simply retain them. The first Topsharing model at CAP was not initiated by me. In fact, it was proposed by two part-time legal practitioners.
Ott: CAP is a pioneer. The first Topsharing position was introduced in 2012, today there are three. How were the applicants able to convince you of the model at the time? Are you actively promoting Topsharing today? If yes, how do you go about it?
Eugster: We had a vacancy for a leadership position in 2012. Two long-serving employees who had started fulltime and later moved to part-time positions for family reasons, proposed the idea of Topsharing. I could imagine this option. As is standard during the recruiting process, I asked the employees to map out a concept addressing questions of leadership, decision making in the daily business or consequences of a possible departure of a co-leader. This was not only about the concrete recruitment situation at the time but further to develop guidelines for the new model and for future co-leadership positions. At the time we did not have any experience with shared leadership responsibilities. The concept was advanced and fine-tuned in the last years.
Generally, I believe, that employees themselves need to make the first step when it comes to training or other career steps. Only then can we ask the conceptual questions. Here at CAP, we are surely open to discuss various models.
Ott: What qualifications do people need to successfully share a position?
Eugster: It certainly requires a willingness to truly share leadership. This means much more coordination and communication. In addition, the chemistry should be right between the two people. This does not necessarily mean that they have similar personalities, but rather that they can work together successfully and are willing to make room for the other’s opinions.
Ott: Do you also have examples where Topharing was not successful?
Eugster: The first CAP Topsharing duo has been working successfully in the same composition for around 7 years. Another co-leadership team was working together in job sharing for years before the they took over a management position just over a year ago. This was a smooth transition. The most recent Topsharing has been in place for a few months, too short to draw any conclusions. But here, too, a positive story seems to be emerging. The answer is therefore: no, we have not yet had any negative experiences, quite to the contrary.
Ott: As a supervisor, which benefits do you see in shared positions?
Eugster: In my opinion, working full-time is not a necessary qualification for being a potentially suitable manager. Keeping this in mind, I see a great opportunity to hire good leaders who cannot or do not want to work 80%-100% due to their current life situation. On one hand, it is a chance for employees to reconcile career and family life. On the other hand, companies benefit from the know-how and future development potential of two employees. And it surely leads to employees identifying more strongly with the company.
Ott: What are the difficulties and disadvantages that you face with this model as a supervisor?
Eugster: The challenges and disadvantages were particularly apparent at the beginning, specifically with the first Topsharing team. There were smaller questions that we had to clarify, such as: do I always have to provide information to both sides? Does a person who is absent feel excluded if I have more conversations with the other person on daily business topics that simply cannot wait? How do we hold a year-end or interim meeting – one-on-one or two-on-one? Or one part separately and the rest together? We addressed these topics and found solutions for all questions accordingly. Open communication is certainly the key to success.
Ott: Are the managers able to stick to the shared workload or do they effectively work 100% in the end – simply spread across three or four days?
Eugster: Yes, in principle, they are able to comply with their intended work schedules. However, it requires good coordination, fixed working days, self-discipline and a lot of communication. So far, I have not heard any complaints.
Ott: What advice would you share with other companies that do not yet offer Topsharing?
Eugster: True to the Allianz motto: “Mut heisst machen!” („Courage means doing“)
About the Competence Centre for Diversity & Inclusion
The Competence Centre for Diversity and Inclusion (CCDI) is part of the Research Institute for International Management at the University of St.Gallen (FIM-HSG). It conducts cutting-edge research on diversity and inclusion (D&I) and provides guidance and training to companies on how to promote and manage D&I in their organisations.
Founded in Geneva in 1925, CAP Rechtsschutz-Versicherungsgesellschaft AG is the oldest legal expense insurance company in Switzerland. Today it is one of the three largest providers of legal expense insurance in the Swiss market. CAP offers modular legal insurance products for private individuals, companies, associations, and businesses. Competent legal services are offered to customers at eight locations throughout Switzerland to advise and support them in legal cases subject to insurance. The head office is located in Wallisellen. CAP Rechtsschutz-Versicherungsgesellschaft AG is a wholly owned subsidiary of Allianz Suisse Versicherungs-Gesellschaft AG.
About Daniel Eugster, CEO CAP Rechtsschutz
Since 1998, the lawyer Daniel Eugster has been with CAP Rechtsschutz in various functions, since 2008 as CEO. Prior to that, he worked in the legal department of a major bank. Eugster is married and has two children.