|With the increasing use of technology, the amount of information that is available in order to make a decision has increased dramatically. In order to make informed decisions and to operate smoothly, a company must have knowledge workers in their employee pool.
What exactly is a knowledge worker and why should you care?
The knowledge worker is important to you, as a manager, because the current business environment depends on them. The need for a knowledge worker has grown as the use of information technology has grown. What is information technology you ask? Information technology [ICT] is: email; the internet; computer information systems (such as SAP for those accountants out there); and any other type of technology that helps our businesses operate. So why am I discussing ICT when you want to know what a knowledge worker is?
A knowledge worker is an employee who uses ICT to be more productive.
It is more than likely that you have two different types of workers in your business: a knowledge worker and a task worker.
We all know who the task workers are. They are the employees who clock in and out and do the exact same repeated tasks every day. They are like a cog in the machine that is your business; although important to the operations they only know what their part in the entire machine is and serve only one function.
Knowledge workers, however, are similar to a repairman to the machine. They are essential to the smooth running of the machine, but unlike the cog task worker, they understand the big picture of the business and what it's trying to do and how it's doing it. Why does a knowledge worker need to understand what's going on in the entire company? That is because knowledge workers often perform non-routine tasks. These tasks often include decisions that will effect the entire company, so it is essential for a knowledge worker to have a broad understanding of the entire company.
A knowledge worker works with information that is both structured (the information that is needed is clearly known and the worker knows where to find it) and unstructured (the worker does not know what information is needed or where to find it). This presents a problem, however. Because a knowledge worker needs to have a broad understanding of the company to make a decision, and the information to make a decision is more than likely unstructured; and because your company has more information than any person can handle, how do you process the information?
This brings us to another characteristic of the knowledge worker. The knowledge worker is able to find the answers needed.
The knowledge worker does this by:
Being Self Motivated:
If you presented a task worker with the task of finding the needed information, it will not be before to long that they quickly become de-motivated, which will negatively effect their performance. A knowledge worker is able to remain self motivated throughout the entire process.
Having The Ability To Do Research:
Surprisingly, you may learn that many of your employees are not able to research. They perform fine when the needed information is given to them, but fall apart when they need to find the information. A knowledge worker has the ability to do research to find the answers.
Working Well With Others:
One of the best sources of information are the employees themselves. A knowledge worker is able to work with other employees productively and efficiently.
Processing Information Overload:
It is almost a guarantee that all the information found while doing research will not be relevant towards the decision. A knowledge worker is able to find the information needed, and disregard all of the other information. The knowledge worker is able to distinguish between useful and useless information.
Being Able To Synthesize An Answer:
The best information in the world is useless unless the employee knows what to do with it. The knowledge worker is able to find all of the useful information, and is able to analyze the information examining the pro's and con's of various decisions and is able to decide on an answer.
So ask yourself, who are the knowledge workers in your company and do they have the ability to best perform their job? And if not, what can you as a manager do in order to enable your knowledge workers?