BusinessDictionary.com defines knowledge workers as “employees such as data analysts, product developers, planners, programmers and researchers who are engaged primarily in acquisition, analysis and manipulation of information as opposed to in production of goods or services.” The term, first coined in 1969 by management authority Peter Drucker, originally illustrated the difference between manual workers—the bulk of the workforce at the time— and those who work primarily with knowledge.
However, over the course of more than four decades, in many companies—including Dow Chemical—the line between manual and knowledge workers has blurred. Increasingly more corporate leaders recognize that every worker in an organization can potentially contribute knowledge at any point in the work process. The once rigid divide between those on the floor and those in the offices is crumbling under the overwhelming evidence that front-line workers possess valuable, practical know-how about how their organizations function—insights that their knowledge worker counterparts might not have. And when broad input is encouraged across all departments and levels of an organization, corporate leaders have more data on which to base decisions.
It’s clear that decisions and policies that are founded on accurate and comprehensive data can positively affect performance, workflow, productivity, strategy and most importantly, the bottom line. And while collaboration and communication are key to sharing data, the truth is that there are still organizations that practice a strict division between knowledge workers and the rest. So what can corporate leaders do to implement the necessary changes to include every worker’s knowledge?
Six Steps to Creating an Organization of Knowledge Workers
The process of desegregating the workforce and actively fostering a culture of knowledge workers can be a long one, and there may be employees in an organization who are slow, or even resistant, to change. Especially senior workers may find it difficult to either adopt new technologies or break down the barriers between different levels. However, patience and persistence are likely to pay off. The following six steps are suggestions for those business leaders who truly want to capitalize on the knowledge of their entire workforce.
Fostering a culture in which every worker is a knowledge worker is an essential aspect of corporate leadership and business success. Understanding and implementing the necessary steps can not only lead to better business performance, but also to a more unified workforce.
Source: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/knowledge-worker.html; http://www.businessweek.com/managing/content/jan2011/ca20110110_985915.htm; http://hbr.org/2013/09/make-time-for-the-work-that-matters
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