Focus: People Management - The big appointment - NSPCC decides that two heads are better than one

The children's charity has opted for a job share - two lots of ideas and energy - in a key policy role. Graham Willgoss reports.

Diana Sutton and Natalie Cronin have taken up the joint role of head of policy and public affairs at the NSPCC in a six-day week job share.

Sutton joins from Save the Children, where she was head of its Brussels office for eight years. She previously spent three years as a parliamentary lobbyist for Citizens Advice.

Cronin has been promoted from acting head of policy after a year in the post. She joined the NSPCC in 2001 as a policy adviser after three years as social policy officer at the Children's Society. Before that she was a consultant to Unicef and the European Commission.

Job share basis

"When I applied for the position I didn't realise the opportunity existed to do it as part of a job share, but I mentioned that I would like to do it on a part-time basis and that was how it was offered to me," says Cronin.

"We didn't apply together," says Sutton. "I applied on a job-share basis because the position I had come from was also three days a week."

Each of the pair has two young children, so they are eager to balance their office hours with time spent at home. Sutton works from Monday to Wednesday, with Cronin taking over from Wednesday to Friday.

"As the overlapping day, Wednesday is the most important - it's the day when we share all of the information we need to," says Cronin.

Sutton agrees. "We use it as a time to hand over and meet staff to ensure things run smoothly," she says. "It's crucial in terms of making the relationship work."

The duo are based in the NSPCC's London head office, but oversee a 25-strong policy and public affairs team that also covers offices in Wales and Northern Ireland. They both report to Philip Noyes, director of public policy at the NSPCC.

He says: "They have two big challenges. The first is to move more people to join the NSPCC's campaign to stop cruelty to children. The second is to build on our national presence, which is currently very good, and give us more of a presence in local areas, where we can develop a working model for safeguarding children."

Noyes says he was confident about employing Cronin and Sutton on a job-share basis because the charity already has a successful job share in its library and information service.

"They were the best two candidates for the position, so we thought 'let's give it a go'," he says. "But the test will be maintaining day-to-day continuity in their work and making sure it is well handled.

"We've paid for a six-day job share, giving them an overlapping day so they can ensure things run as they should. I hope that sharing the position means they will be doubly effective."

Cronin believes the duo's combined experience makes them a strong partnership.

"We have different strengths, and I think it's a combination of skills that you wouldn't normally find in one person," she says.

Sutton agrees. "You get two for the price of one," she argues. "Two sets of energy and two sets of ideas."

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