Knowledge-Based Worker

What is required in a peak-performance organisation is a corporate culture that releases and catalyses human energy to cultivate purpose, daring, innovation and creativity. Putting these back into the workforce is difficult to implement when power has been based on retaining hierarchical "command and control" systems rather than on the motivation and fulfillment of workers.

Furthermore, aim to develop an organisational culture

"...where values, spirit, cultural capital and meaning are important to the bottom-line. Cultural capital (refers) to liberating the personal enabling people to be themselves at work..."

Helen Trinca, 2001

This emphasises the need for integration of the "hard" and 'soft/intangible' components. Too often, in the pursuit of success within an organisation, stress and tension are created in the workplace, rather than building trust and empowerment.

The basic employment unit is not "organisational man" (who is stripped of individuality and initiative) but that of "individualised corporations" in an environment that encourages diversity of views and empowers staff to develop their own ideas, ie the knowledge worker. In the current climate, the individual needs the organisation much less than the organisation needs the individual. It can be summarized as

"...a move from one-size-fits-all to my-size-fits-me and it's being fashioned and refashioned..."

Dan Pink as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2007i

This is the era of the knowledge workers who

"...see the organisation as the tool for their accomplishment of their own purposes and, therefore resent......any attempt to subject them to the organisation as a community, that is, to the control of the organisation; to the demand of the organisation that they commit themselves to lifetime membership; and to the demand that they subordinate their aspirations to the goals and values of the organisation..."


"...workers are likely to outlive organisations, and the knowledge worker has mobility..."

Peter Drucker, 2001

Yet most people still believe that organisations outlive workers and most workers stay put in one organisation, ie lifetime employment. However, learning and re-learning will be a continuous process throughout everyone's life; with more focus on lifetime employability than lifetime employment

Tomorrow's knowledge worker

"...will have to be prepared for life in a global world. This will be a westernised world, but also increasingly a tribalised world. He or she must become a citizen of the world - in vision, horizon, information. But he or she will also have to draw nourishment from their local roots and, in turn, enrich and nourish their own local culture..."

Peter Drucker, 2001

It has been suggested that the most desirable, knowledge-oriented culture is characterized by the Five Fs, ie

", flexible, focused, friendly and fun..."

Thomas Davenport as quoted by Catherine Fox, 2006g

Furthermore, to link a knowledge-based culture with high trust requires training and motivation.

At one end of the spectrum of the knowledge workers is the "extreme jobs" that have arisen out of the global economic development and technological changes that make communications easier and flatten organisational structures. People in extreme jobs have at least 7 of the following 12 characteristics (Sylvia Ann Hewlett et al, 2007):

i. *work more than 60 hours per week

ii. *earn high income

iii. *have unpredictable flow work

iv. *fast-based work with tight deadlines

v. *works outside regular work hours

vi. *available 24/7

vii. inordinate scope of responsibility that amounts to more than one job

viii. responsibility for profit and loss

ix. responsibility for mentoring and recruiting

x. large amounts of travel

xi. large number of direct reports

xii. physical presence at workplace of at least 10 hours a day

NB The characteristics marked with * are the ones that create the most intensity and pressure.

It is interesting to note that many

"...of extreme workers admit that the pressure and pace are self-inflicted, but they don't feel exploited, but feel exalted. Many people love the intellectual challenge and the thrill of achieving something big. Others are turned on by the oversize compensation packages, brilliant colleagues and the recognition and respect that come from the territory. For men, compensation comes in third on the list of motivators, after stimulation/challenge and high-quality colleagues. For women, compensation was fifth or last......perhaps the most profound amongst the cultural the fact that the workplace is now the center and source of many people's social lives......for so many professionals, home and work have reversed roles - home is the source of stress and guilt, and work is a place where successful professionals get strokes, admiration and respect..."

Sylvia Ann Hewlett et al, 2007

Those entering the workforce today are more likely to have more career changes and a longer working life than any previous generation of workers. Their awareness of the necessity for life-time learning and employability gained by increasing levels of skills and expertise will result in more career changes, and less automatic loyalty to an organisation. Furthermore, it is no longer expected that the organisation that you started your working career with will be in existence when you are due to retire. In fact, the whole concept of retirement is changing, ie people will just change direction by starting new careers at different stages of their lives. Usually the next career will be run in parallel with the current career until it is time to completely focus on the new career

A peak-performance organisation has facilitated the shift from systems-driven to people-orientated management: ie from "form-function-fit" or 'strategy-structure-systems' to "purpose-process-people". As Peter Drucker (2001) states,

"...Organisations are no longer built on force. They are built on trust..."

Rob Goffee (2008) asserts that organisation do not behave, people in organisations behave as individuals, teams, networks, etc

Peter Drucker (2001) states that most personality conflicts arise because someone does not know what the other person does, or how their work is done, or its contribution, or the expected results. Managers owe relationship responsibility to everyone with whom they work and on whose work they depend.

Generally people like to work for organisations with the following characteristics:

- have a clear focus and direction

- offer some job security

- have preference for team players and people with high EQ; keep out narcissistic personalities

- pay fairly, ie on merit

- family friendly

- good staff morale (includes caring about staff's personal problems)

- decentralised decision-making

- everybody listened to, irrespective of position in the organisation (make staff's opinion count)

- all issues are discussable

- excellent implementation and execution

- encourage good communication channels including providing feedback (positive and negative) at all levels of the organisation

- senior executives are positive role models (walk the talk and lead by example)

- mentoring by senior executives

- encouragement of a learning environment

- identifiable career development, ie personal and professional growth with stretch goals

- practise succession planning

- possess a strong cohesive culture that creates an egalitarian environment

In other words,

"...have a sense of enjoyment, a sense of community and sense of meaning..."

Manfred Kets de Vries, 2006


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