Development of Knowledge Worker

Recent report (published by The Work Foundation in March 2009) that ideally knowledge worker in your total workforce should consists by the following breakdown:

1. Many Knowledge Tasks (33%)
2. Some Knowledge Tasks (27%)
3. Few Knowledge Tasks (40%)

If you look carefully of the above and you take Some Knowledge Tasks as minimum requirement of the workforce, you will find your organization requires at least 60% of your workforce as knowledge worker. Now, how much percentage of knowledge worker do you have in your organization? It is normal to have much less; a common challenge in every organization big and small.

There are many ways to develop knowledge worker. Many organizations resort to training programs based on job profiles and departments through TNA. Rarely it is done based on business strategies (for practical reasons). Even if it is done ‘strategically’, most of these developments only addressing the operational needs of the department and organization (also for practical reasons). To my opinion it is an ongoing challenge for any organization development specialist dealing with talents to have a “balanced” organization. Some say “balanced” is BS, no such thing.

You sometimes underinvest or overinvest. Sometimes you end as benevolent organization only to become the talent supplier to your own industry. As I heard one Human Resource Director recently said his organization HR motto is “hire to churn”. Well for those who have “dha” money; yes you can! In fact his remark was quickly rebutted by another Human Resource Director from a smaller but thriving organization, saying “we don’t have deep pockets like you!”.

Energy of a Knowledge Worker needs to be self-sustaining and self-renewal.
Energy of a Knowledge Worker needs to be self-sustaining and self-renewal.

Knowledge worker takes time to develop; usually very long because knowledge accumulation requires experiences. Besides knowledge worker requires knowledge in various areas and ability to have energy that is self-sustaining. If it is not, it will very difficult to perform a knowledge worker job because the central focus of knowledge worker is to get things done.

I don’t quite remember where I develop this understanding of knowledge worker, but what I know I got it from various sources over the years. I stumbled upon it first by Peter Drucker, in fact it was Drucker who coined this word and defined knowledge worker as “one who works primarily with information or one who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace“. Over the years my understanding gets deeper, to the point it adds up to this understanding that the main objective of a knowledge worker is to get things done. Period. The only challenge is today’s business, as addressed by Ram Charan in his book (Execution), “Most often today the difference between a company and its competitor is the ability to execute. If your competitors are executing better than you are, they are beating you in the here and now. Execution is the great unaddressed issue in the business world today. Its absence is the single biggest obstacle to success.”

So to get things done, what are the skills needed? What to develop early and what can hold on? Are the skills can be used for long term or simply short term gap mitigation? Who can become knowledge worker? What about the development innovation?

There are many questions surrounding this thing call knowledge worker. I have take it upon myself to dwell this further and find some solution to this. It has to be 3D (deadly, doable, duplicable). I believe knowledge worker development is an important feature in any organization right now simply because we got stuck deeply right now for failing to execute. There are many people that can get things done. If at all they can, they will be in the high potential leadership group which only for the elitists (some say), or maybe this person is a loner stallion that is loaded with a lot of other things taking slack from his other 9 unproductive colleagues or he is simply has to conform to others lackadaisical attitudes so long that he becomes one of them.

Why it is important? I always shared with my conversation with my top clients, top management groups and recently from a group of business schools associates; what we need to tremendously improve productivity is to get things done and especially important things to get done. We need people that can work with others, possess high learning agility, self-educate to get updates, willing to take up difficult tasks, perform presentation to various levels, able to think critically and analytically, connect with other people, high integrity, show up and show leadership, accept mistakes and learn from it and so forth. It looks like we are looking for someone perfect, but I beg to disagree. We already have pockets of these requirements in our daily hiring and performance expectations. Soon this will become a standard in every body and we wont find any talent that fit the bill if we don’t develop them from their sources.

In conclusion, knowledge right now is no longer a concept or ideal talent but rather a function in a thriving organization. Perhaps one day there will be a title/position called ‘Knowledge Worker” to address the execution part. I believe there’s already some solutions underway for this, but I am pretty sure it hasn’t in my country. My discussions with the top management still about leadership leadership leadership. I hope i’ll be able to influence them with my next article.

In my next post, i’ll be discussing more on the skills needed as a functional knowledge worker. I believe many wants to know and I hope I can cover a good piece so it becomes my personal seminal content for future development and conquest!

Brickbats please send to donkhairul@gmail.com

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