page contents

Today in this world there are two types of employees – the Haves and Have-nots. Now I am not here following Marx, but rather I am following Peter Drucker. And this he predicted way back in the 1950s. Today knowledge workers are the core of modern day organizations. They “Have” the capacity to use technology to churn out actionable data from the vast ocean of information and make collective innovations and profitable decisions. On the other end there also the vast pool of Employees who are still reluctant or don’t have the capacity to use technology for data mining. These kinds of employees will soon find themselves into a part of an extinct race in future. As a human resource manager, you are facing a different challenge altogether.

Knowledge workers are different from workers of brick and mortar companies and they cannot be managed by traditional strategies of human resource management. How as a Human Resource Manager you should manage knowledge workers?

The nature of knowledge work varies with each profession. Knowledge workers can be nurses, engineers, and teachers, software developers to lawyers or pharmaceutical researchers. However, one characteristic is most common in knowledge workers. According to an article in MindTools : “Most knowledge workers like at least some level of autonomy. They usually don’t want someone closely overseeing and supervising their work. Instead, they probably prefer managers to clear the way for them to work productively.”

Managing knowledge workers thus needs a different set of managerial acumen. And one thing as a human resource manager you should keep in mind, if one of your seasoned knowledge workers jumps boat, there would be probably a heavy loss of learning curve in your organization – which in future you may fail to recover the loss.

I am sharing few tips which I came across an article in Harvard Business Review (What Peter Drucker Knew About 2020 by Rick Wartzman, OCT 16, 2014) which would help you understand “ How Human Resource Managers should manage Knowledge Workers?”

1. Encourage Employee Autonomy: Knowledge Workers don’t like traditional top-down autonomy. They like to work independently and are capable of handling autonomy. Instead of commanding them what they need to do managers should assign the project to capable employees and let them plan the execution plan. As an HR Manager ensure your organization gives enough leg space to these employees so that they can work independently.

As Knowledge work is mostly unseen, and therefore difficult to measure. You can’t watch knowledge being created in the same way as a physical, tangible product. Managers should accept it’s not the process or how the knowledge workers work but rather the final output that matters.

2. Tell your Managers to be a coach rather than supervisors: Though a manager him/herself is a knowledge worker in any learning organization, but they should also keep in mind the subordinates would not like too much of micromanagement. If you truly want your company to transform into a learning organization you should tell your manager, to impart learning attitude in employees. Managers should coach the mentees to seek and find what type of information is relevant towards the innovation within the organization and which ones are not.

3. Create a strong sense of purpose within employees: This is one of the major challenges the Human Resource Managers face while managing knowledge workers. They are by and large individualistic in nature. Thus to impart a strong sense of purpose within knowledge workers a team cohesion is necessary. Making the workplace informal where there is an open workstation, keeping no strict dress code, occasional parties, and outings; and adding a nice cafeteria in office premises may go a long way to building brotherhood among employees.

As a Human Resource Manager managing Knowledge Workers would be much easy if you encourage your managers to accept and appreciate open feedback from your employees. Long back Japanese car manufacturers became the leader in technology innovation because of this virtue and took over the challenges of American automobile companies efficiently.

Do you have any suggestion on how Human Resource Managers should manage Knowledge Workers? You can post your comment below on what you think. Let us know how we can transform any organization into a hub of seasoned knowledge workers.