The wisdom of human resources …

HumanResourcesI recently dined with a number of colleagues who work, or had worked, in legal knowledge management at various firms, and their partners. It was a lovely dinner topped off by engaging conversations. As you would expect, the changing nature of legal knowledge management was the main topic of the night, coupled with inevitable references to global and domestic economic conditions and the rapid structural changes in law firms over the last couple of years. Someone may have mentioned Eurovision 2013 once or twice, but I digress …

I won’t bore you with details of my views on the evolution of legal knowledge management again, as you can read about that in the various pieces I wrote on the subject for The Vue Post over the years. Rather, I would like to share with you the most brilliant question (and consequent explanation) of the night, which came from the partner of a fellow knowledge worker, who works in human resources and recruitment. As my colleagues were discussing how the nature and scope of their roles have changed over the last couple of years, it became clear that while some enjoyed the new challenges, others are starting to feel that their roles are no longer a good professional fit for them.

At this stage in the conversation the human resources and recruitment professional partner, let’s call her Lily, made an interesting contribution by turning to one of my colleagues, who was expressing a reasonably high level of dissatisfaction with the extent of the changes to her role, and asking: ‘If you were in the market for a new role and you saw the job you are currently doing advertised, would you apply for it?’

There was a considerable period of silence as everyone in the room pondered the question. My colleague eventually responded with a resounding ‘no’.

Lily then proceeded to explain that this is a question she poses to all of her clients who have been in the same job for more than five years. She noted that, in her experience, these days most roles evolve over a period of years as a consequence of changing business needs prompted by competition and economic circumstances. And of course there is also the culture ‘wildcard’, because culture is not static. A firm which was the perfect cultural fit for you when you started, may have undergone a transformation that makes it less compatible with your own values. Consequently, if you have been in your role for a few years, today you may be doing something that’s significantly different from what you were doing when you started and your cultural environment may have transformed as well.

In Lily’s view, the best method of evaluating your ongoing compatibility with your role at any given time is to ask yourself the question whether you would apply for your current job if you were in the market for a new role today (and be honest with yourself). If your answer is yes, than you are clearly happy with your role and there are no issues. However, if your answer is no, this is likely to be an indication that your role has evolved beyond your comfort zone and it may be the perfect time to start considering other options.

So goes the wisdom of human resources …

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