Knowledge worker, Human Resource Management


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Knowledge worker, Human Resource Management

  2. 2. AbstractJames Madison said that “Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their owngovernors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives”. Knowledge is power according to SirFrancis Bacon. It is the most important resource for the organizations to grow. The knowledge resides in the headsof knowledge workers. Knowledgeable workers are the most precious resource organizations possess. They aredifferent from task workers and low skilled workers. Knowledge workers are selected, recruited and trained in aspecial manner than the non-knowledge workers. Improving the productivity of knowledge workers and retainingthem is a challenge for organizations today. The research paper focuses on all the mentioned aspects of knowledgeworkers. The paper is written with the help of available literature on knowledge workers (from year 1994 – 2010),newspaper articles, and web articles, my opinion and experience.IntroductionPeter Drucker was the first to coin the term, Knowledge Worker in his book “Landmarks of Tomorrow” in 1959.According to Drucker, “knowledge workers are the people who work differently from the people of industrial andagricultural age and use their head more than the muscle”. Knowledge workers are the people who are employedfor their knowledge rather than their ability to perform manual labor. They perform best when empowered toperform with the highest potential and deepest skills. They are an asset rather than a cost for an organization and anation. Knowledge is very valuable for organizational performance and by implementing human resource strategy todevelop and create the knowledge, knowledge worker and retain them; a firm can understand how to create,develop, transfer knowledge and use it effectively to develop a competitive advantage.Before jumping on the primary topic of this paper, several key definitions should be discussed to provide anappropriate foundation for the paper. The paper is divided into three sections. The first section defines the keyelements – knowledge, knowledge management and knowledge workers. This section explains the value ofknowledge for the growth and development of firms, knowledge management and its importance to disseminateknowledge. The paper defines knowledge workers, their characteristics and the difference between them and non-knowledge workers. The second section of the paper explains how the various aspects of human resource
  3. 3. management – selection, recruitment, and training and performance assessment of knowledge workers are differentfrom non-knowledge workers. The last section provides a summary of the paper and brings into light theimplications of future research.KnowledgeKnowledge is defined as the understanding, awareness, or familiarity acquired through study, investigation,observation or experience over the course of time. It is an individual’s interpretation of information and facts basedon personal experience, skills and competencies. It is characterized by information, capacity and aptitude. From theperspective of an organization, it is the amount of information about a customer, product, market, success, failureand processes. It is the amount of information required to function, progress and be accessible within anorganization. Knowledge is the pillar on which the whole organization stands. It is a crucial factor affecting anorganization’s ability to remain competitive and progressive in the global market. Today organizations considerknowledge as a precious resource and continually develop mechanisms to enhance it. Thus knowledge is definitely adriving force for the growth of business activities and the growth of nation as well. It is the basic factor required tobe in competition and survive in the global market. Knowledge as an intangible asset on the balance sheet accountsfor organization’s intellectual capital (Uwe M and Remo 1997, Information technology for knowledgeManagement).Where there is knowledge, there is a need to manage it. To disseminate this knowledge, there is a new term“Knowledge Management (KM)”.Knowledge ManagementAlthough, throughout history, we have always managed our knowledge as best we could, it was the introduction ofsome new tools, methods, technologies, processes and strategies that enabled us to think, for the first time,differently about knowledge, and how to make improvements in the way we manage knowledge, as individual, teamand organization. And then during the early 1990s we started to think more about the processes of identifying,creating, storing, sharing and applying knowledge. This process of identifying and managing knowledge is calledKnowledge Management.
  4. 4. Knowledge management comprises strategies and processes designed to identify, capture, value, leverage and sharean organization’s intellectual assets to enhance its performance and competitiveness. It is a discipline that enableindividuals, teams, organizations and communities to capture, store, share and apply their knowledge morecollectively and systematically, to achieve their objectives. It is a tool required to manage knowledge and transfer ofknowledge within an organization. Knowledge management is not only about managing the latest technology, toolor strategy but also managing the knowledge within the company and treating it as the most valuable asset for thesuccess of the company. Furthermore, knowledge is the driving force in today’s economy, it is very important forthe organizations to find a way to tap into this knowledge base in order to preserve and expand their corecompetencies.So where this knowledge does resides? Knowledge resides in the people working in the company. It is possessed bythe employees working in the company. Thus the employees with such assets should be valued as an asset. Thusknowledge management is managing the individual with skills, aptitude and knowledge and valuing them as themost precious asset (Norzanah Mat Nor, 2005).These individuals are called the “knowledge workers”.Knowledge WorkersWe have evolved from an industrial economy to an information economy. Information economy stands on the pillarcalled knowledge worker. Today, knowledge workers play a major role in the success of any organization andtherefore managing them has become as central as managing physical assets.There are many synonyms for the term “knowledge workers”. The definition of knowledge worker is different fromone author to another. According to Helton “a knowledge worker is somebody who does the non repetitive,challenging and non routine task and entails substantial levels of cognitive ability”. (Norzanah Mat Nor, 2005).Knowledge workers are the people who are highly qualified and highly educated. They are the individuals whopossess phenomenal skills and potential, which they acquire from investing time and money in education andtraining. They are creative and innovative people who bring novelty in organization. They are the inventor anddiscoverer of new technologies and strategies. They are recognized as the “problem identifiers” and “problemsolvers”. They are the people who think for living.The dictionary says that knowledge workers are those who are “primarily engaged in acquisition, analysis andmanipulation of information as opposed to in production of goods and services”. They are the people who develop
  5. 5. knowledge and make it readily available for others to use it. Knowledge worker may use knowledge to developknowledge. They are the products of the information age where the emphasis is on creativity and innovation ratherthan on maintaining the status quo. In the new economy every employee is becoming a knowledge worker.According to Peter Drucker “ Every knowledge worker in modern organization is an "executive" if, by virtue of hisposition or knowledge, he is responsible for a contribution that materially affects the capacity of the organization toperform and to obtain results” .This category of workers include people such as professor, students, scientist,programmer, engineers, doctors, lawyers. It also includes individuals in the creative field like fashion designers,musicians, singers, painters. People working in specialized jobs like airline pilot, government officials are alsoknowledge workers.Frances Horribe defined knowledge workers as the individuals who use their brains more than others do. They arethe people who use their heads more than using their hands to produce value. (Norzanah Mat Nor, 2005)Beaumont and Hunter (2002) categorized knowledge workers into two groups: technical or experts (e.g. scientist,law experts) and creative employees (e.g. advertising agencies). (Abdul Kadir Rosline, Norzanah Mat Nor, 2005).Knowledge workers are analytical in thinking. They always ask how, why, what if questions. They have a highdegree of absorption and interpretation of information and knowledge. These kinds of individuals are self reliant,independent in work and require less guidance and supervision.In the current economy, they are the horses that pull the plow of economic progress. So if our companies arebecoming more profitable, if our society is becoming more sophisticated and advanced, it is all because theseindividuals are working effectively and efficiently. Knowledge workers are the nation’s wealth (Tom .H. Davenport,2005). According to Drucker “knowledge workers are not labor, they are capital”. Without knowledge workersthere will be no products, no services and no growth.Alison Kidd in the paper Marks are on knowledge workers (1994) described some secondary characteristic ofknowledge workers other than their primary traits are:Diversity of output: Companies value knowledge workers for their diversity rather than consistency betweenindividual outputs. Each knowledge worker provides a different output and it is the variation which makes themvaluable to company. They solve the problems and generate the output largely by using their internal resourcesrather than by using external rule and procedures. Since each knowledgeable person has different skills andcreativity which are internal to them, therefore their outputs vary from one another.
  6. 6. Low dependence on filed information: Knowledge workers do not carry much written information with them whiletraveling. They have all the knowledge and information fed in their head. They do make notes of their ideas butmany of these notes are discarded one the ideas have been worked out.Importance of spatial layout and materials: Many Knowledge workers have cluttered desk and floor and then toothey can easily find whatever piece of information they need from the plies of papers. They are seriously disruptedby any changes made to this apparent “muddle”. Knowledge workers use the physical space like desk or floor as atemporary holding pattern for their ideas and inputs. It seems that they cannot decide or categorize how they mightuse those inputs. And therefore the filing of information is uncomfortable for them.Whenever knowledge workers return to their thoughts from a break or interruption like a phone call, the first thingwhich come in their mind is “where I was”? The layout of the papers and other physical materials on their desk givethem a powerful and immediate clue to return to the thoughts without any delays.Difference between Knowledge workers and Task workersTask workers are those who just make use of the information and data available but do not create new ideas andknowledge. They are the people who consume information but do not manage and transform it. They are the peoplewho do the routine and regular jobs and there is no space for creativity and newness in their job. Non –knowledgeworkers only make use of the existing information. They create files and documents, process data and edit data.Task workers do not produce knowledge. This category of workers includes clerks, bank clerk, call centre operator,nurse and people in supervisor roles: Shop Manager, Bank Manager.Knowledge workers are different from traditional structured task workers in a number of ways. Knowledge workersare the creative class whereas the non-knowledge workers are the non-creative class. Task workers have a structuredwork pattern. They work from 9 to 5 and perform the same kind of job almost every day. On the other hand, thework culture of knowledge workers is not so structured. It is rather flexible in nature. They do not follow a routine toshow up at 9 am, being creative and innovative for 8 hours and punch out at 5 pm. For example a software developermight work from 8 pm to 4am because he/she is most productive during that time slot. Knowledge workers do notrestrict creativity to time. The working habit of such workers is highly variable and flexible. Knowledge workers areself reliant and do not like to be told what to do. They enjoy a high degree of autonomy. (Davenport, 2005)
  7. 7. Knowledge workers can be differentiated from their structured task worker counterparts in that they are increasinglymobile in nature, freed by technology and thus location independent. Thus knowledge workers can choose where,when and especially for whom they work (Ware and Grantham 2007). On the other hand, work of non-knowledgeworkers is location dependent. They have to come every day to the work place to perform their duties. For examplea factory worker has to go to the factory to make gadgets or a clerk is bound to go to the office to file documents oredit documents. Task workers do not have the option of “where, when and for whom” to work.Specifying the detailed steps and flow of work for task workers is easy. Since they do the routine work, stepwiseexplanation of their work is feasible. Knowledge workers on other hand have a flexible work behavior. They do notperform the routine task. They are creative and innovative. They have an unstructured work pattern. Thus specifyingthe detailed steps and flow of knowledge-intensive processes are more difficult. The job of knowledge workerscannot be reduced to a series of boxes and arrows on a flow chart (Tom .H. Davenport, 2005).Structured task workers are those who have to perform their duty even if they do not like their job and areuninspired. For example, factory workers have to make a widget in factory even if they hate their jobs. But in caseof knowledge workers, commitment matters a lot. They have to give head, heart and hand to work. Knowledgeworkers have to stand behind what they work on and how they do it. Knowledge worker and Human Resource managementRecruiting Knowledge workersThe role of human resource recruitment is to build a supply of potential new hires that the organization can draw onif the need arises. Recruitment is a practice carried on by the organization with the primary purpose of identifyingand attracting potential employees. It is the process of identifying and hiring the best qualified candidate (fromoutside or within the organization) for a job vacancy, in a most timely and cost effective manner. It thus creates abuffer between planning and actual selection of new employee.Organizations use a number of methods to recruit knowledge workers. The corporations most likely use “internalcontacts” or “networking in order to hire new knowledge workers. It commonly happens that when these peoplehave worked for some time in one company, they are recognized and noticed for their quality of work by the top
  8. 8. management personnel of other company. And when there is a vacancy for such skills, invitation and negotiationprocess begins. Sometimes this is done through former bosses. But in most cases the former bosses don’t know. Theadvantage of networking or internal contact is that it is a fast process. Someone who has been hired through internalcontacts has gained a good reputation in the previous company and is renowned for his/her expertise within thecompany (Norzanah Mat Nor, 2005).Other recruitment method is advertising in newspaper. Companies also advertise on web called “e-recruitment”. E-recruitment is also known as internet recruitment. It is an online recruitment where the recruitment is done throughelectronic resources. When companies or organizations need people with certain skill, they make a job profile andadvertise that in the newspaper or on the internet. (M.S Rao, 2010)Organizations also go to the job centers or job agencies to find staff. They are the private employment agencies.These agencies are like an interface between the people looking for employers and companies looking for newemployees.Corporations also conduct “on the spot” skill test or unconventional interview methods like putting the person on adrive test for recruitment of knowledge workers. The way a person drives an automobile reflects a lot about person’spersonality.Recruitment of knowledge workers is like picking up gems. It is very crucial for a company to choose the rightpeople as employees. Recruiting new employees is an organizations most important investment decision and itsmost important strategic tool. A knowledge company recruiting new staff can be easily compared to an industrialcompany investing in new machinery. The problem of recruitment is that capable new recruits are so hard to find.Attracting and holding a qualified and skillful employee is most important and central task of the management. Thenature of work is constantly changing. Jobs are becoming more specialized and requiring highly educated, highlyinnovative staff to achieve the organization’s goal. The economy is moving constantly from an industrial era “labormindset” to a knowledge economy “talent mindset”.Earlier the employee condition was totally different as compared to the position and situation of employees today.The whole idea of corporation was coming into picture in the latter half of the 19th century. Earlier there was adivide between the employer and the employee. The employer was the master and the employee was the slave.People were more concerned for a good job rather than a good career. Focus was on getting a job and not on making
  9. 9. a good career. Employee was totally dependent on the employer for bread and butter. The employee needed thecorporation more than a corporation needed the employee. Today in the knowledge economy the picture has totallychanged. Now both the employee and the employer need each other almost equally. The workers of today are smart,knowledgeable and confident. The knowledge workers are more focused on making a good career rather than justgetting a job. They are more concerned for career security rather than job security. They are taking charge of theircareer as well as charge of their lives at the same time.Knowledge workers are the nation’s wealth. They are the irreplaceable resource for any organization. A corporationcannot afford to lose them. Today the global economy has become very aggressive and competitive. Thecorporations have to hold and retain their talented workers because there are competitors waiting to get that talent,absorb the knowledge from those people, and use it against (Schweyer 2005). According to Sveiby the competitionis so cut throat that wise knowledge organizations treat their skilled and talented staff as customer rather than asemployee sometimes so that they can hold them in their organization. (Abdul Kadir Rosline, Norzanah Mat Nor,2005).Selecting knowledge workersThere is a very thin line between the selection and recruitment. People often think that both are same. But there is adifference between selection and recruitment. Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, and Wright differentiate betweenrecruitment and selection. They contend that recruitment is the process an organization uses to search for jobhopefuls. Selection, by contrast, is the process an organization employs to determine if a job applicant’s skills willcomplement the organization’s needs and goals. Organizations use these processes to increase the probability ofhiring individuals who possess the right skills and potential to be successful at their jobs. Jack Welch, the legendaryformer CEO at General Electric says “What could possibly be more important than who gets hired? Business is agame, and as with all games, the team that puts the best people on the field and gets them playing together wins. It’sthat simple”. (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, Wright, 2006)The parameters taken into consideration for selecting knowledge workers differ from those for non-knowledgeworkers. For example, selection of a factory worker who has to lift heavy items depends on the physical fitnessrather than his educational qualification or the selection of a typist depends on the typing speed rather than his/her
  10. 10. creativity and innovation or the selection of a call centre depends on the communication skills rather than his/hertechnical skills. The process of selecting non-knowledge workers is more structured and predefined than knowledgeworkers.The first and central step which the selection team should take before hiring knowledge workers is to analyze thegoal of the firm. The selection team should know what the needs of position and business are; what theirorganization values; what constitute their ability. The selection of applicants should be based on the demand oforganization. The employers often make error at this crucial stage of selection. They select knowledge workerseither according to the future needs of organization or on the grounds of applicant’s technical expertise. The currentneed of the organization is left unrecognized. But looking to the past performance evaluations of the currentemployees can give the organizations an insight to the strengths and weaknesses of their staff and the type ofknowledge workers they are attempting to select (Bielski, 2007, Knowledge worker and human resourcemanagement).The second factor which the employers should keep in mind while selecting knowledge workers is the passion andcommitment of the selected worker towards the job. Task workers or non-knowledge workers have to perform theirduty even if they do not like the job and are uninspired. Dedication and devotion towards the job is not central incase of task worker. But for knowledge workers, commitment and passion towards job counts a lot. They have togive their head, heart and hand to the job. Individuals involved in the selection of knowledge worker should be veryalerts and attentive towards passionless and dull candidates. It is the devotion in the knowledge workers that propelsthe organizations towards growth and success.Individuals involved in the selection process should conduct “Comprehensive Structured interviews” in which thecandidates are asked job-related questions, situational question, job knowledge and job simulation questions underdifferent scenario. Such interviews focusing on the job knowledge in various situations provide an idea about thecandidate’s current level of tacit knowledge (personal knowledge embedded in individual experiences) as well asexplicit knowledge (formal knowledge packaged as information). Thus the selection team should focus on selectingapplicants who possess tacit knowledge and can use that effectively to generate explicit knowledge.
  11. 11. The selection team should not only focus on the job skills or intelligence but also on the persona of the candidates.An organization can grow and succeed only when its staff is not only technically skilled and highly educated butalso smart and passionate. When the selection team follows an intelligent selection process, the likelihood ofselecting the right candidate becomes very high.Training knowledge workersTraining is defined as an organized activity aimed at imparting information or instructions to improve the recipient’sperformance in the work or job and at the same time help him/her to attain a required level of knowledge and skill. Itconsists of the activities designed to facilitate the learning and development of new and existing skills, and toimprove the performance of specific tasks or roles.In the words of Hatten and Rosenthal “knowledge and technology is constantly changing. Knowledge is subject torapid and abrupt shifts” (Norzanah Mat Nor, 2005). Technology is advancing every day and therefore keeping theknowledge worker within the organization updated with the latest technology and advancement is a must.Corporations know it very well that if they do not periodically upgrade their employee’s skill and knowledge, theywill be out of the market. It is found that after recruiting the knowledge workers who know their job really well, it isvery important to train them periodically in order for them to adjust and cope with the needs of the company faster.As a continuous process, training is also important for worker’s career enhancement and development. When theemployees do not get an opportunity of self enhancement, they might leave the job. The company might encounter agreat loss of talent when such knowledgeable workers leave them. Thus training is considered as one of the keyfactors in the successful implementation of knowledge management, as well as a success factor for companies.Continual development of the knowledge workers is very important for the organizations if they hope to staycompetitive in the ever changing economy. This development of knowledge workers can be achieved througheffective training and developmental programs. (Olivier Serrate, 2008)The central issue is how to develop appropriate training and education program and strategies for these knowledgeworkers so as to attract and retain them, maximize their performance and thereby enhance the intellectual capital ofthe enterprises as a whole (APO,2004Training knowledge worker).
  12. 12. Traditionally, training programs were organized and implemented so that the employees could acquire the necessaryskills to do their jobs. These acquired skills were the possession of the people taking the training. Some of thetraditional training methods are job rotation, “in-basket” exercises and other task-oriented methods. But trainingbecomes successful only when individuals participating in it share the acquired knowledge and skills with eachother. According to Steyn the social nature of learning allows people to meet, interact and share information whichis very valuable for any organization. This kind of training is known as the informal training as individuals meeteach other, interact and share their ideas and knowledge. The informal nature of the training breaks the ice betweenthe trainees, speeds up the learning process and enhances the efficiency of the training method. Along with thetraining, the knowledge workers also need to have a continued education in order to be up on the latest advances intheir fields. According to Drucker “knowledge workers have two needs, formal education and continuing educationwhich are both designed to increase their skill sets”.Training becomes even more important during unstable economic time when companies try to gain ground whereverthey can. At this time the trained and well educated knowledge workers can help the organizations to survive as wellas stay competitive. Knowledge training of knowledge workers helps them develop a better understanding of certainjobs and strengthen their confidence. This high confidence pushes them to perform to their highest potential. Thelack of understanding resulting from lack of training is very costly for companies in terms of money, time, customerrelations and business reputation. (Mary Clarke. 2009)Training of task workers is different from the training of knowledge workers. Training of a non-knowledge workeris more of learning to operate a new machine or learning to use a new software or tool. Since there job is structuredand lacks newness, continual training is not so necessary. Formal education and continual education is a must forknowledge workers but not for non-knowledge workers. Training of knowledge workers bridges the gap betweenthe skill requirement and skill availability. The rapid innovation impacting the workplace makes it necessary for theknowledge workers to upgrade their knowledge and skills. Training motivates them and enhances their productivity.Retaining and holding knowledge workers “A challenge for organizations”Knowledge workers are the capital and the most precious resource for any organization. They are the backbone of anorganization. So a firm cannot afford to lose them. Today there is cut throat competition in the knowledge economy.
  13. 13. Every organization wants the best staff to be in the competition. There is a huge demand for such workers in everyorganization. (Richard Jayen, 2006). According to Drucker “performance of knowledge based industries depends onorganizations attracting, holding, and motivating knowledge workers”.Knowledge can be divided into two types: 1) Explicit knowledge and 2) Tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge isarticulated knowledge, expressed and recorded as words, numbers, and codes, mathematical and scientific formulae.It is easy to communicate, store and distribute. This knowledge is found in books, on the web and other visual andoral means. Tacit knowledge on the other hand resides in the brain of the people. Tacit knowledge is tied to anindividual and is very difficult if not impossible to articulate. In the words of Droege & Hoobler, “tacit knowledge isthe information about work processes and products that individuals hold above and beyond what the organizationhas documented”. The explicit knowledge can grow and sustain only through a rich background of tacit knowledge(Uwe Borghoff, 1997). Thus when employees leave the firm, explicit knowledge remains (to some extent), but thetacit knowledge associated with the employees is lost (Richard Jayen, 2006). Thus holding and retaining theseknowledge workers is the biggest and hardest challenge faced by the business firms today.A manager can use human resource practices such as developmental assignments and formal training opportunitiesto create new tacit and explicit knowledge, and to reduce tacit knowledge loss by reducing employee turnover. Theorganization can create an enclave within itself which is an independent section made up of knowledge team wherethe knowledge workers have a degree of interdependence. This section satisfies the knowledge worker desire towork in autonomy and interdependence allows these knowledge workers to interact with each other, supplementeach other’s expertise to analyze complex problem. (Richard Jayen, 2006). This interaction and socialization amongthe knowledge workers with different specialties prepares a platform for innovation and creation of new tacitknowledge and leads to reduced turnover of knowledge workers. This practice allows the organization to retain thetacit knowledge of the workers and to retain any related competitive advantage. It also leads to increasedproductivity and greater job satisfaction. Employers can also keep knowledge workers motivated by providing themtechnology and resources to perform cutting edge researches. It for this reason that Google give its employees 20%of their time to pursue ideas they believe are important; interact and socialize with each other and perform their ownresearches (Davenport, 2005).
  14. 14. Training and developmental programs can also help employers to retain knowledge workers. Continual training isvery necessary for knowledge workers to upgrade their skill and expertise. Training leads to career enhancement andskill development; which ultimately leads to job satisfaction and results in decreased job turnover.Improving Productivity/Performance of Knowledge WorkersCompanies that seek competitive advantage through employees must be able to manage the behavior and results ofall the employees (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, Wright, 2006). And managing the behavior and results of theemployees is framed as “Performance Management”. Noe and group defined performance management as “themeans through which managers ensure that employees’ activities and outputs are congruent with the organization’sgoal”. It is central to gaining competitive advantage. Performance measures help companies focus on operationalexcellence and development of employees. The effective measurement of performance of knowledge worker toimprove their productivity is a challenge to the human resource management. According to Drucker “Whatsmeasured improves”. Knowledge workers do not perform routine task. Their work behavior is flexible andunpredictable. The job of knowledge workers cannot be reduced to a series of boxes and arrows on a flow chart.Measuring knowledge workers’ performance is hard because they cannot be observed while performing. Managersmay not be able to determine whether or not they are working effectively. It is for this reason that performancemeasurement for this class of workers is difficult. Traditional workers on the other hand have a routine job and havea definite work pattern. So their performance is measurable. For example, a factory worker who made maximumnumber of widget with minimum defects is considered an excellent performer.Creativity and innovation, the biggest asset of knowledge workers cannot be quantified into units. One of thecharacteristics of knowledge workers mentioned above is “diversity of output”. Each knowledge worker provides adifferent output. Each person accomplishes the work in his or her own way. It becomes difficult for the managers tojudge as whose work is right and whose not, further complicating the process. Comparative approach ofperformance measurement cannot be used in this case as it compares one knowledge worker with the other and lacksfeedback mechanism.Davenport in “Mysterious art and science of knowledge worker performance” brought the five issues related to theperformance of knowledge workers as 1) Determinants of knowledge worker performance are unclear. 2) Many
  15. 15. organizations resist that the idea of segmentation of knowledge workers is necessary to improve performance. 3) Noone seems to own the problem of performance of knowledge worker 4) Companies are experimenting heavily withthe workplace redesign but they are not learning much 5) There is great reluctance to alter knowledge worker. Theknowledge workers themselves resist changing, as there is no sure-fire formula of success in the creative processes.Davenport suggested to segment knowledge workers according to the complexity of their work and level ofinterdependence to enhance their productivity.Making knowledgeable workers perform is not a matter to encourage them to perform harder or more skillfully.They are dedicated and devoted towards their job. Thus the objective of the managers/supervisors should be toremove the obstacles to performance and streamline efforts into the areas which contribute to the growth ofknowledge workers. To accomplish this there is a need to bring a change in the culture, structure and style ofmanagement of organizations so that talent of knowledge workers can flourish. In this way the knowledgeableemployees understand, identify with and learn how their performance can be enhanced (Olivier Serrat, 2008).The organizations must improve their processes to improve the performance of knowledge workers. The role of thesupervisors and managers should be molded in order to maximize the productivity of knowledge workers. Therelationship between the manager and worker should be changed from boss-employee to coach-trainee relationship.Knowledge workers require knowledge trainers/managers not bosses. Managers should emphasis more on thetraining, learning and development of knowledge worker. This would help those workers learn new skills andsharpen the existing capabilities. It is very important for the knowledge workers to understand their company’sspecific performance goals, industry direction and how their performance relates to those factors. It is theresponsibility of the managers to clarify these factors to the workers. Therefore the better the managers perform theirjob, the greater is the performance of the employees.The managers should evaluate their knowledge worker’s performance based on the results and output i.e. “resultapproach”. The result approach focuses on managing the objective, measurable results of job or work group. Thisapproach assumes that subjectivity can be eliminated from the measurement process and that results are the closestindicator of one’s performance and contribution to organizational effectiveness (Noe,2006).Under the resultapproach come MBO (Management by objective). In the MBO system, the top management team first defines thecompany’s strategic goals and objectives and passes on the strategy to the next layer of management. This goal
  16. 16. setting process cascades down the organization so that all the managers and employees set the goals and the timelineto achieve it. The objectives in MBO are clearly defined and sometimes difficult to achieve. When a goal becomeschallenging, it motivates the knowledge workers to work harder and try harder to enhance their productivity. MBOalso includes ongoing tracking and feedback in the process to reach objectives (Noe, Hollenbeck, Gerhart, WrightHuman resource management). Thus MBO aims to enhance the productivity by aligning the objective of theknowledge workers with the goals of organization.Another appropriate and feasible method to measure and improve the performance of the knowledge workers is 360degree feedback system. Through this process employees receive confidential and anonymous feedback from thepeople who work around them. This group of people includes the manager, peer, subordinate and sometimescustomers. The results of this process show that self-evaluation is different from evaluation by others. Thus the 360degree survey provides the knowledge workers a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. Theseperformance measurement process/methods are appropriate for measuring and improving the productivity ofknowledge workers which in turn helps the organization in achieving its strategic goals.Performance assessment is beneficial for both - organizations and knowledge workers. The advantage for theknowledge workers is that they become aware of their level of performance, their strengths and weaknesses andsometime passion. For the firms, these assessments help in identifying the top employees of the company. The topemployees are the knowledgeable employees i.e. people who have mastered in their work, are consistent and reliableand source of motivation and knowledge for other employees. The discovery of these knowledgeable employees isvital for the employers especially when they have to take difficult lay-off decisions. It helps employers to retain thecream layer of the organization. Identifying knowledge workers is also important because they are the people whopass the knowledge and experience to the new employees when the company hire again. (Mary Clarke. 2009)The other benefit of performance assessment is that it helps organizations to improve, redesign and rebuild theirexisting training programs for the knowledge workers. The results of performance appraisal reveal the weaknessesof the staff, which can be due to a poor training program and so executives can shape the training programs andmake them more specific and effective in future.
  17. 17. Performance measurement of task workers or non knowledge workers is easier compared to that of knowledgeworkers, as the performance of task workers can be quantified to some extent. Since all the work of knowledgeworkers usually takes place in their heads and cannot be seen, it becomes difficult to measure their creativity andinnovation. But it does not mean that performance assessment cannot be done for the knowledge workers. Theperformance measurement of knowledge workers is difficult but not impossible. But this could be made possible bydeveloping innovative measurement techniques. Developing an accurate method to measure the performance ofknowledge with accuracy is a challenge today for organizations.ConclusionIn the words of Mary Clarke, CEO Cognisco “In today’s world where knowledge is power, it should come as nosurprise that the most valuable asset for any business is the knowledge of its employees. And within our currentknowledge –based economy, competent and confident employees are the foundation for a successful business”.Knowledge workers are the irreplaceable assets for organizations. They are the catalysts speeding up the growthprocess. Knowledge workers possess the wealth of knowledge and experience. They are skilled, highly educated,smart, confident, creative and innovative. They are the people who think outside the box. Knowledge workers can bemore valuable to an organization than its CEO.This paper brings into light the value and necessity of knowledge workers for organizations. It represents thecharacteristics of knowledge workers and differentiates them from non-knowledge workers. Non-knowledgeworkers were the past; knowledge workers are the present of the knowledge economy. This paper represents anoverview of how the practice of human resource management is altered when dealing with a special class ofemployees i.e. knowledge workers. The human resource practices of recruitment, selection, retention, training,performance assessment are now changing in nature according to the demand of economy. The knowledge workersare recruited and selected differently from task workers. The training and performance appraisal methods are alsodifferent from non-knowledge workers. The paper focuses on different ways of recruiting and selecting knowledgeworkers; different methods of training and performance assessments and their importance.Improving the productivity of knowledge workers is a challenge for organizations today. Since their work is locationindependent, intangible, creative and innovative; it cannot be quantified and hence difficult to measure. Although
  18. 18. this paper provides some solutions to this problem but a lot more has to be done in this field. Therefore performanceassessment of knowledge workers is a subject of further research. Another big challenge for the organizations isretaining knowledge workers. Organizations always try hard to hold knowledge workers as there are competitors inthe market waiting for a chance to grab this special class of workers. Because of this aggressive competition outside,employers treat these workers in special ways like high salary and special reward. They are sometimes valued morethan customers and CEO. The paper proposes some solutions to retain these special employees. But it is still a topicof deep research. Therefore future researches might propose more profitable and meaningful solutions to thechallenges posed.In the words of Peter Drucker “"We know now that the source of wealth is something specifically human:knowledge. If we apply knowledge to tasks we already know how to do, we call it productivity. If we applyknowledge to tasks that are new and different we call it innovation." Only knowledge allows us to achieve these twogoals”. Thus the true winners in the present world are the people who win knowledge over ignorance, applyknowledge to create knowledge and spread knowledge i.e. Knowledge Workers.Further ResearchThe research paper raises a number of questions for further research. Some of them are as follows: 1) How should the human resource managers develop tools and techniques to assess the performance of knowledge workers? 2) With the changing nature of jobs today and need of information, data and knowledge in almost every job, is everyone is a knowledge worker today?
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