All entries for Tuesday 03 June 2014

June 03, 2014

The Knowledge Worker

The knowledge worker is a concept developed by Peter Drucker concerning the employee in the 21st Century. Drucker argues that the knowledge worker must be treated as an organisation's most important asset, and that six factors determine whether a knowledge worker is productive or not. These consist of:


  • Knowing what the task is
  • Granting knowledge workers autonomy
  • Allowing innovation
  • Creating continuous learning and teaching
  • Measuring quality as opposed to quantity when looking at output
  • Treating the worker as an asset, not a cost


These concepts differ from the traditional viewpoints of a workforce. Consider Taylor and Scientific Management. Taylor would most likely be horrified at the thought of granting workers autonomy and treating them as an asset. This differs from Taylor's views that workers would systematically soldier i.e. do the minimum amount of work possible to get by where he viewed employees as a cost. This concept is not considered when looking at knowledge workers, as knowledge workers are intrinsically motivated by the task at hand, and granting workers autonomy, allowing innovation, training and investing in, increases the knowledge worker's desire and motivation to do well.


People will always be a cost on a balance sheet. Any additional training costs money, any time off work costs money, allowing people freedom in the workplace to innovate new ideas may reduce productivity in the short-term and cost money. The normally intangible benefits provided from investing in these factors (such as future sales) do not directly appear and correlate with the original investment in training, or time allowed to innovate a new idea. Therefore, many organisations, or at least accountants, may loathe to invest in these factors. However in reality, the investment will bring about long-term gain.


It is to an extent like my MSC. I have invested over ten thousand pounds (and always think how stupid I am that I chose to write all these essays, do a dissertation and PAY for the priviledge of doing it...) whilst I could have got a job and begun to earn money. However, in the long-term, I should theoretically earn more money or have more opportunity than if I had begun working with just my BA. You could compare this to my friends who graduated at the same time as me from Undergrad and begun working. In the longer-term will I have more career success because I took additional cost and time investing in my skills? This is the argument that Drucker puts forward. Whilst it would be difficiult to measure and predict the difference in earnings I recieve as a result of my MSC due to variables, like knowledge workers, investing in my skills should bring about benefit in the long-term.


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