Many workplace attributes have changed dramatically as the result of Knowledge Work becoming the dominant driver of progress and profits. Today’s Knowledge Economy, as it’s often called, is one in which growth is dependent not on the means of production, but rather on the quantity, quality, and accessibility of information.
Put simply: the more an organization shares knowledge, the more likely they are to continue growing.
In my humble opinion, the area that has changed the most is professional development – the ongoing process someone goes through during their careers, whether at one company or multiple, in which they continuously improve and adapt the skills they need to do their job at a high level.
What’s changed? The need for training. Or, more accurately, the lack of a need for training.
Training, by definition, refers to teaching someone a type of behavior that they are then expected to replicate, practice, and perfect. Training worked great in production and manufacturing environments, when knowledge was concentrated; everyone knew how to do their part, and work was linear; the steps to accomplish the working goal were well-defined, repeatable, and didn’t change.
Knowledge Workers find themselves in the exact opposite situation in the modern workplace: information is distributed and their work is largely non-linear. Of course, road maps and project plans are used to guide individuals and teams, but the steps in launching a successful marketing campaign are much less defined than the steps for laying a brick.
Neither type of work is superior over the other – they are just fundamentally different. This means that the methods used to teach and develop people, from their first to last day on the job, need to fundamentally change.
Knowledge work, and whether it’s being done correctly and efficiently, can rarely be observed. The results are also indirect and typically delayed, making anything that resembles “real-time” performance analysis nearly impossible. The top-level measure of performance, which in previous economies was often compliance, has also changed. Knowledge workers need to be evaluated based on their contributions – a much more difficult measure to understand.
We contribute in lots of ways in the workplace these days. Sometimes it’s obvious – a written article or graphic design, for example. However, sometimes it’s not so clear. Maybe a project involved a hefty amount of research. While this would have certainly contributed to any success, it’s not always going to be obvious and readily observable. Then there are even less tangible forms of contribution, such as promoting and facilitating communication, or leadership qualities that affect a team’s overall focus and morale.
Everything I described above requires what THRIVE refers to as Continuous Improvement. This means ongoing knowledge sharing throughout an entire organization – not just top down training.
Knowledge sharing is the first step in creating an organization that never stops learning, and this is what Knowledge Workers desire most – ongoing learning and development.
The second step is giving everyone the chance to provide honest feedback to the organization. People need to feel comfortable and confident to say what’s working, what isn’t, and what could work better.
The final step is a way to use that knowledge sharing and feedback to drive towards more open, collaborative, and efficient organizations. When used correctly, an organization can remain agile, from top to bottom, willing to try new things and change old things, as needed, based on the most current feedback people have to offer.
THRIVE is a new way for employees to communicate, collaborate, and learn, and a more transparent and efficient way for management to make decisions and implement business changes and solutions.
Thanks for reading!