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BROOKE BLACK & SONIA DAMETTO

Role Sharing an executive level position with the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet.

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Brooke Black & Sonia Dametto, Joint Directors, People & Culture — Department of Premier and Cabinet NSW

How did the opportunity to role share eventuate for you both?
The Director role became vacant as the incumbent in the role took an extra 6 months of maternity leave.

Sonia was returning from maternity leave at the time and was included in a Band 1 talent pool within the NSW Government agencies. Brooke wanted to continue her part time arrangements and was an looking for her next career advancement opportunity, also at this Director level.

What do you love most about your role and your industry ?
o The diversity of the role
o Working in such a challenging, ever-changing environment within the public sector
o Enhancing the employee experience for the people of the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC)
o The contribution of the DPC to the people of NSW
o Being constantly challenged with new and unique issues and situations
o Working with a fantastic team

How do you feel your teams and the Agency have adapted to working more flexibly in 2020?
o Flexible working was already part of the DNA at DPC and has been so for about 5 years. This ethos and culture allowed the agency to pivot quickly to the challenges posed in 2020 to continue and increase the productivity of the Department for the people of NSW. As a result of this, we felt pretty prepared when we needed to tilt.

What are the biggest barriers or challenges you have both overcome in advancing your career so far ?
o Timing of opportunities
o Challenges after returning from maternity leave
o Flexibility required to balance family and work responsibilities
o We felt the opportunity to job share within the agency we were already established in was an advantage. The business knew what we were capable of individually and the step to a job share made sense to those who knew us.

The issue would be applying to other agencies or organisations who don’t know us. Needing to prove ourselves and the benefits of the job share is often difficult in a competitive environment.

It’s been a very challenging year for many, how have you personally worked to change the conversation and support initiatives within your team around flexibility and areas such as wellness / health and productivity for staff ?
o The DPC relies on the mantra of ongoing conversations which has been a significant enabler to increase productivity

o We have introduced more virtual catch ups with our direct reports to not only ensure outcomes are achieved, but also to ensure health and wellbeing of our staff and connectivity within the team

o We also introduced whole team huddles 3 times a week (15 minutes in length) where we share information and run a connected activity for the group — it has been a huge success

o Wellness and health vs productivity has been a tough one. We know people are working longer and harder from home and are not taking the breaks that they would usually have taken due to restrictions on travel. We are changing the conversation from holidays being about going somewhere to holidays being about unplugging, centring and self-care

Role share has been often discounted for consideration at senior and executive levels due to perceived ‘risk’ or an idea that a pair are unable to manage a team or contribute to strategic decisions or manage leadership collectively. What advice or feedback could you give around this ?
An effective job share can provide a wealth of experience and knowledge that is hard to find in one person.

The different perspectives, experience and knowledge allow for better solutions and more well-rounded strategic decisions. A job share can be hugely effective in the management of staff when they ensure they are both on the same page.

It can also increase engagement from staff in having two different points of view and two separate people to talk to if required. A good matching job share can be the perfect Unicorn!

How do you currently manage your handover and communication seamlessly ?
This is a constant work in progress. All job shares share the work differently. In our role we felt it is important for both of us to be across everything to ensure the seamless delivery of the service and advice to our team and the business.

Communication is key. We provide detailed written and verbal (if required) handover. We copy each other in every email and have taught the team and business to follow this practice. We are always available to each other if required but make a conscious effort to not disturb the other unless absolutely necessary.

We handover on Tuesday nights and Friday nights and work together on a Wednesday where we attend the exec meetings, team meetings and work on strategic projects together.

We’re at a true turning point in the future of work. Could your share your top 2 or 3 predictions for what the new future may hold in your sector.
1. Extreme mobility — tearing the walls down between agencies — people moving between projects depending on surge responses and requirements of government rather than static structures.

2. Radical flexibility — remote working to continue indefinitely — talent pool expanding past those that can travel into the office.

Brooke Black and Sonia Dametto shared their insights with Puffling’s Lija Wilson.

If you are interested in sharing your thoughts and story around executive level flex, get in touch.

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