" “We’ve made progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

By Joanna Argent, Writer, GENCFO

Laura Walker and Chloe Fletcher

Joint Senior Directors of Finance Transformation

Asda

Meet two real-life heroes of agile working, Laura Walker and Chloe Fletcher, who job share their Senior Director of Finance Transformation position at Asda.

Following successful individual careers in Finance, Laura and Chloe have come together to job share. They strongly believe in the positive impact this has had, for them and the business. They are also evangelists for flexible working in general.

Their passion for making flexible working more widely available has also led them to set up their own business, The Jobshare Revolution, which aims to bring the power of jobsharing to a much wider audience. 

We spoke to them to find out more…

Enabling people to be the best they can be

Initially training at Deloitte before starting at Asda, Laura has held various roles across traditional accounting and control, commercial finance and business partnering. Laura says she has worked various versions of flexibility along the way.

“I'm passionate about people and enabling them to be the best they can possibly be. I think flexible working helps to do that.”

Coming into finance via Cadbury's graduate scheme and working in Supply Chain Finance, Chloe shares similar values about empowering teams by providing them the flexibility they want and need.

“I've worked flexibly since 2014, when I had my first child,” she says. “I'm passionate about flexibility within the workplace, because it enables colleagues to get the best out of themselves. I truly believe that sitting at a desk nine to five, five days a week is not the best way to help all individuals to thrive.”

Laura explains that while she has worked a variety of flexible patterns in her career, the job sharing is the most transformational.

“Job-sharing feels very different to working 4 days where you miss one day of business." 

 "As a job share, we work together effectively as a team, ensure full time coverage to the business but are both able to have two days fully out of the business focussing on our other interests.  It’s not an understatement to say it has changed my life”

“When I'm not in, Chloe is, and we get things delivered,” she continues. “Plus, we force each other to think very, very differently. The diversity of thought that brings is really powerful.”

Significant transformation within Asda

Asda, previously owned by Walmart, has recently been taken over by entrepreneurs Zuber and Mohsin Issa, backed by TDR Capital. This means a complete transformation from the original Walmart systems to stand-alone, for the entire organisation.

The finance team has significant systems transformation work to land.

Chloe and Laura believe that, alongside systems transformation, you also need to land both process and people transformation.

“One thing we are really passionate about is the role of people in transformation." 

It is not just about automating systems; it is about how people drive that forward. Unlocking the power of your people, enabling them to be the best they can be is at the heart of landing a successful transformation programme.”

Understanding your team

In a recent GENCFO poll, across a range of employment levels, 100% agreed they were seeking flexibility of some kind. Whether this be hybrid working (a mix of home and office based), reduced days, varied hours or job share, that is a powerful message for leadership.

This demand is not just from working parents. It might be the end-of-career employee, who brings a wealth of experience, but wants to start to reduce their days of working, those with caring responsibilities, those wanting to develop themselves or those seeking variety to do other things such as volunteer or work a side-hustle.

“Gen-Z want to do things differently. Work is not the be-all-and-end-all for them."

"They want a variety of experiences in their week.  We have experienced that personally.  I am a charity trustee and have recently run a marathon, Chloe is training to be an exec coach, plus we’ve recently set up our business.  Job-sharing has facilitated that and it means we bring a vast array of different experiences and perspectives into the workplace.”

Asda’s Free Range Finance campaign

Back in 2017, Chloe spearheaded a campaign internally called ‘Free Range Finance’ to support a focus on output rather than being pinned to the desk. She uses the analogy of a caged hen to demonstrate that if you coop people up, their outputs are inferior – just like a free range egg is so much better than a battery one. 

“A free-range finance team is based on output rather than presentee-ism and has so many benefits.”

She explains that their campaign was really about being really clear on the expected deliverables with employees but then giving them control, so they can decide where and how they get their work done.

“It was a successful first step on a journey towards greater flexibility,” she says. “Now we have quite a number of colleagues who work flexibly within the finance team.”

They recognise that the pandemic also helped set certain practices, such as having Zoom set up on every call, to become the norm.

Anti-presentee-ism

“Ultimately, it’s allowing people to manage their own time – trusting them to get the work done in a way that work for them." 

"So, if a colleague wants to go to the gym at 10am instead of waiting until after work, that’s fine, so long as they got their job done.”

They explain that the logic of an employee can be seen in the office meaning that they are delivering their job, is flawed. They could be doing anything at their desk. They could be exhausted and not being productive but staying for the sake of being there and visible.

“It is important for leaders to move away from tracking their employees, even remotely." 

"For example, checking if they have logged into Teams. If you have an issue with an employees performance, you need to tackle that issue at the heart, not drag them into the office to watch over them”.

How to make flexibility work

Chloe and Laura note two ways that they make leadership of flexible teams work: trust and clarity. 

Trust 

It might be a shift in leadership mindset, but if you need to see your team to trust that they are working, then something is wrong. 

“Realise that actually, if you do not trust your employees, you probably need to change something about how you operate,” says Chloe.

“Actually, I work my best really early in the morning. So let me do that. And I will deliver for you.”

 Clarity

Having agile working practices means leaders do need to set expectations and clear responsibilities, then they can allow people to chart their own way getting there.  It needs to be a focus on outcomes rather than presenteeism.

“If you can change the narrative to be around really clear accountabilities and objectives, then you measure against those deliverables.”

Benefits of flexibility for the business 

As well as the ways they make it work, Chloe and Laura also shared the benefits the business received from this arrangement.

Increased productivity

Chloe is confident she is more productive since job sharing.

“Job-sharing has enabled me to be laser focussed on the outcomes we need to deliver as a partnership." 

"Sharing the work has forced me each week to be really clear on what we want to get to and how I am focussing on that in the three days I am working.”

“Plus, when I come in on a Wednesday to take over from Laura, having had two days ‘filling my bucket’ I’m refreshed and bring a new energy,” she continues. “Wednesday is my Monday”

Attracting under-represented groups

Citing the 14% gender pay gap and only 9 female CFOs on the FTSE 100, Laura feels that a lot of talent has been lost due to historically restrictive working practices.

“Flexibility opens up working opportunities to those people again, bringing a competitive advantage to businesses able to offer it.”

Different points of view 

Chloe explains that when employees return to the office from their other commitments, not only are they refreshed, but they can also bring a different, more considered point of view because they have the headspace to think differently.

“We talk about zestfulness in our job share; 2 days fully switched off from the day to day of the business allows you to distil things down and have a different perspective."

"It also allows you to manage the pressures of a senior role well. In the modern workplace, how often do you feel like you just don’t have time to clear your head, to think. Laura and I have that every single week!”

More work to be done

“There’s a lot of work to do in this area,” says Laura in summary. “At the current rate of progress, the gender pay gap will take over 100 years to close.  We absolutely need to change the system to see the change we need in this area and job-sharing is a massive enabler of this”

“We’ve made progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

The Jobshare Revolution

It is this belief that has led the pair to set up their own business.

“We have created the Jobshare Revolution to help simplify job-sharing for companies.  We offer practical support to help organisations understand how to spec roles to be shared, the tools to embed this successfully and ongoing coaching to ensure this is a sustainable way of working long term”

“We believe we need to change the system to allow women and those from other diverse groups to thrive in senior roles."

"With some practical help, this can be a game changing way of working for companies which will allow them to differentiate themselves from the market”

Their advice? If you are an individual who wants flexible working, be very clear on your expected deliverables and how you would shape this, build a business case around this, maybe even suggest a trial period, then be clear and celebrate when you have delivered those outputs in a non-traditional working pattern. 

If you’re a business and want to learn more about how job-sharing could help you increase diversity and retain talented individuals, check out their website and LinkedIn page.

Power Profile

What music inspires you, Chloe?

"I am a massive music fan and have really eclectic tastes but also love to listen to some power ballads to get me in the right headspace before a challenging day! Tina Turner is often on in my car."

What music inspires you, Laura?

"I’m a big runner and a Geordie in exile, so nothing can inspire me more than 'Going Home', the theme tune from Local Hero – which is played on a loop at the start of the Great North Run!"

Who is your hero, Chloe?

"I am an avid follower of Lauren Currie – the founder of Upfront Global, an organisation which has as its mission to change confidence for 1 million women. I met her at a conference 5 years ago and was so inspired by her work and have watched in awe as she has built a massively successful business. She’s a true example of believing in yourself, setting challenging goals and surrounding yourself with people who will be your cheerleaders. "

Who is your hero, Laura?

"This is a hard question to answer – given this is work related, I’m going to go with Judith McKenna, who was the CFO of Asda when I very first started. She’s now CEO of Walmart International. She’s always inspired me as she’s hugely authentic, never lost sight of who she is and what she stands for. She's incredibly down to earth."

Author

Joanna Argent, Writer, GENCFO
GENCFO Team

Joanna is an interviewer and writer at GENCFO. Read her finance leader and industry expert interviews for The Shift.

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