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Talent development reform needed

To develop talent in the face of change, law firms should simplify structures, recognise potential and embrace leaders at all levels, according to the head of organisational development at PwC.

PwC’s director of organisational development and Asia-Pacific talent pillar lead, Samantha Fernando, spoke at the Janders Dean Horizons Conference last week about identifying talent for NewLaw.

Ms Fernando, who has previously worked for Clayton Utz, MinterEllison and Freehills, rejected the idea of NewLaw, saying instead that it is simply a new world.

“The world is changing, organisations are shifting for the future. This is happening in every single industry in every single place in the world right now,” she said.

In order to attract, retain and develop the best talent for the new world, Ms Fernando said law firms must first simplify their structures and prioritise talent development.

“Our role is to make this simplistic, so not bamboozle with process. Process is killing our organisations and we need to cut it out,” she said.

“It is people that are going to be driving our strategy, so we need to be investing in them as if it was a manufacturing organisation, for example. We shouldn't be fighting for the resources to develop and build our capability and our talented people. It shouldn't be an argument; it should be the first cab off the rank.”

Secondly, she said, firms must get better at recognising potential.

“Potential isn't static, it doesn't mean that you’ve be labelled potential one year and that you'll be that forever, or vice versa,” she said.

“The concept of potential varies by individual and at different times as well. We need to not see these things, that we're labelled as one day, as where we stay and remain.”

While admitting that potential is subjective, Ms Fernando said this can be overcome by having strong relationships and open conversations with staff.

“This requires us to have strong RQ with our people and have strong relationships to be able to know what's going on for them at any time in their life as well, and it’s about the conversations that we're having in the organisation,” she said.

“It’s just about having really good, rich conversations with our people to know where they're at, know where they're tracking and know where they want to go, and opening up this concept of a career.”

Thirdly, law firms must throw away traditional hierarchies by embracing leadership at all levels and create a learning culture, she said.

“The big business acumen and technical capabilities [are] a given; we know that we've got these talented people that have those capabilities. What we need is whole leadership and leaders at all levels,” she said.

“So how are we going to liberate the system, break down hierarchies so that we're not always looking to the people at the top for the answers, realise that we actually have the answers? The wisdom is always in the room, you just need to find out how to liberate that wisdom and break down the system and the structures to ensure that that is open and available for us.”

 

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