Knowledge workers can't be supervised: New Economy knowledge workers - Part 3
The evolution of the “knowledge worker” to the “learning worker”.
October 10, 2017 - Author: Crystal Wilson, Michigan State University Extension
As stated in my article, The evolution of the new economy: the digital economy, “The principles of the New Economy are not static but are very dynamic and constantly evolving to meet the ever changing demands of the global economy”. Forbes article “Say goodbye to knowledge worker and hello to the learning workers” provides an overview of the difference between knowledge workers in the old economy and the new economy. More important, the article describes how the concept of the “knowledge worker” has evolved to create the new concept of a “learning worker”. Forbes states:
“One major difference in today’s modern work place is that we can instantly learn anything, anywhere. All it takes is a smartphone. Knowledge used to be a commodity that only a few people had and that was passed down through specific channels. Today, knowledge on just about anything is available on the internet.”
Forbes also states, “This new movement is the age of the “learning workers”:
“These people largely have college degrees and advanced training, but what sets them apart is their knowledge of how to learn. Instead of having a set of specific skills, learning workers have the skills to learn as they go, adapt, and apply their learning to new situations and issues. They are taught to think for themselves and apply the principles they learned to a variety of situations, continuing to adapt and learn as they go.”
Based on Forbes, if learning workers have the skills and access to information that will allow them to learn as they go, adapt, and apply their learning to new situations and issues, how should the work environment be structure support the needs of learning workers? What resources do learning workers need to produce the goods or services which will allow them to be successful, and their employers to be profitable?
The answer to these questions could be found in the article, What’s so new about the new economy, which provides an overview of Peter Ferdinand Drucker analysis of knowledge workers in the new economy. Drucker was an Austrian-born American management consultant, educator, and author, whose writings contributed to the philosophical and practical foundations of the modern business corporation. Drucker stated, “Knowledge employees cannot…be supervised” and his premise is based on his belief that:
“Organizations have to invest in the necessary information tools to support their knowledge workers and make them productive, and these investments generally cost far more than those for the capital goods that support productivity in a traditional manufacturing economy. At the same time, that capital investment is worthless unless and until knowledge workers apply their knowledge. Drucker also states that even though knowledge workers cannot be supervised, they need organizations in order to do their work, because organizations provide a structure and an order in which knowledge workers can apply their knowledge. In particular, they provide contact with other knowledge workers and the dialogue that knowledge workers need to refine and improve their ideas. Managers cannot force knowledge workers to be productive. Therefore knowledge employees cannot be supervised.”
The new economy is driven by “learning workers” who need access to information to both learn and apply knowledge. Work teams allow the sharing of knowledge, and the dialogue and synergy necessary for creativity and innovation. Dialogue and synergy contributes to the success of the employee and employer. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines synergy as “the benefit that results when two or more agents work together to achieve something either one couldn’t have achieved on its own. It’s the concept of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.”
Related articles in this series:
- Are all workers “knowledge workers”? New Economy knowledge workers - Part 1
- Knowledge workers can not be supervised: New Economy knowledge workers - Part 2