Professor Janet Walsh
Professor of Human Resource Management & Employment Relations
Deputy Head of Department
Date started at King’s
Challenges and achievements
When and what was responsible for you becoming interested in your academic discipline?
My undergraduate degree was in Economics and I chose subsequently to specialise at postgraduate level in the study of Labour Markets and Employment Relations. The catalyst for my academic interest in the nature of work and labour markets was essentially the experience I gained from working in a variety of different (mainly office) jobs before my undergraduate degree. My early work experiences enabled me to gain insight into people’s working lives and stimulated my interest in both the economics and sociology of labour markets.
What are your research interests, and what drew you to this area?
My distinctive research contribution has been as a labour market and human resource management specialist. Recently my research has examined part-time employment; the careers of female lawyers and their attitudes to flexible working and work-life balance; gender, the work-family/life interface and well-being, including a study of hospital doctors; employee stress and well-being in customer service work and presenteeism and absenteeism. My research interests reflect my desire to examine important labour market and employment changes and their consequences for employees and organisations.
What if any support has most benefited you in your career?
The type of support that I consider to have been most beneficial in my career is that from academic colleagues in my own research area. Since joining King’s in 2003, I have had valuable opportunities to discuss my research work with colleagues in the human resource management/organisational behaviour group in the Department of Management. Having colleagues read your work and offer insightful comments is vital particularly when you are at an early career stage. It is also important to be get feedback on your research papers especially if you are seeking to publish in top level journals in your field.
What do you feel is the most enjoyable/rewarding aspect of your job at King’s?
At King’s College I have especially enjoyed teaching Masters students in my specialist field of human resource management, as well as supervising their dissertations on contemporary employment and human resource issues. Many of these students have moved subsequently to high level positions in the human resource management field and have developed very successful careers. I have also been lucky to have had a succession of extremely able PhD students who have become accomplished academics in their own right.
How do you balance the various demands of a career in academia: research, teaching/learning, administration?
The ability to manage effectively the different demands of research, teaching/learning and administration is an important part of a career in academia. It is essential that there is a reasonably balanced coordination of these activities and a coordination that does not sacrifice the quality of research output. We perhaps need to look more closely at the administrative side of academia and evaluate whether some administrative tasks really do ‘add value’ or whether they simply contribute unnecessarily to organisational complexity.
How do you balance an academic career with life outside the workplace?
An academic career gives you a degree of autonomy and flexibility that is less common in other professional work contexts. Having said that when I had my son the duration of paid maternity leave was less than three months and that was too short. Fortunately there have been improvements in leave entitlements and flexible working which potentially benefit both female and male academics. Support is also vital. When I had a young child I had no family living close by but I did have a very supportive partner and this was vital in me being able to continue my career.
What have you learnt from your experiences that you would like to share with others?
Balancing an academic career with life outside the workplace is possible. I also consider it desirable as I think that work and non-work can be mutually enriching. However, this type of balancing exercise is not necessarily easy and often it feels as if you are just muddling through. Moreover, superwomen role models can often be intimidating rather than helpful. In the work domain I would emphasise the importance of developing relationships with a small number of colleagues who are able and willing to provide both academic research and career advice.