Selecting, Developing, Managing and Retaining Knowledge Workers

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Do HR departments have the right strategies to select, develop, manage and retain knowledge workers?

As Peter Drucker recently quoted, the new knowledge economy will rely heavily on knowledge workers who are not, as a rule, much better paid than traditional skilled workers but also see themselves as professionals. Knowledge technologists are likely to become the dominant social and perhaps, political force over the next decades. Thus, it is very important to have the right strategies in place to select, develop, manage and retain knowledge workers. But before we proceed to analyze if HR departments do have these strategies, we need to understand what the term ‘knowledge workers’ means. A knowledge worker is one who works primarily with information or one who develops and uses knowledge in the workplace. In a knowledge-driven economy, a knowledge worker is oriented more towards research, analysis and manipulation of the symbols, as in information, rather than the mechanical tools. These individuals have domain knowledge expertise and may include broadly: architects, finance experts, graphic designers, fashion designers, pharmaceutical scientists, researchers, teachers, and policy analysts, to name but a few.

In order to focus on strategically critical knowledge workers, it is necessary to move beyond merely creating a supportive culture or a best place to work. Top innovators understand their worth. These workers are independent and entrepreneurial, for instance like the originators of eBay, Google and Facebook. To keep such people, it is necessary to make them feel like they are building their own businesses within the larger organization. This can be achieved partly by recognizing their status as thought leaders but it is also important to give them a stake in the new lines of business they develop. The bottom line is that organizations need to view key talent as partners, rather than as employees or “resources”. The balance of power has shifted such that...
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