Knowledge worker — an individual that has perceived valued for her/his ability and willingness to process and interpret information in a strategic subject area.
- They advance the applicability of that subject through focused analysis, design and/or development.
- They use action-research skills to define problems and to identify and try out alternatives.
- Inspired by their experience, expertise and insight, they work at solving those problems, as a way to influence company decisions, priorities and strategies.
So I ask: “Would you – Mr. or Ms. Zoomer or Super Zoomer — meet the definition of a knowledge worker as based on the above definition?”
According to Peter Drucker, six factors are used to gauge knowledge-worker productivity. So, if 50 plus employees – Zoomers — or 60 plus employees – Super Zoomers — work as knowledge workers, how productive are we?
1. What is the task? — Is it to instruct? Is it to judge? Is it to give perspective? Is it all of them?
Drucker asks, “What do I get paid to do?” and “What should I get paid to do?”
Does the typical Zoomer really know what we get paid for? Would our answer match the CEO’s, the V-P of HR’s?, the employees’ response?
2. In the knowledge economy, productivity is the responsibility of the individual. This turns the productivity equation on its head. Zoomers knowledge acquisition and competence was judged by teachers. Now we are judges of productivity and competence. In order to do that we have to communicate the applied knowledge and “sell” what it can do for the company.
And because we have both time and knowledge autonomy, we have to manage ourselves. This is another “turn-on-its-head” concept for those of us raised in the era of “father knows best.”
However, many Zoomers protest that we do not have the individual autonomy we seek in the areas of time, pacing, innovation, etc.
This in a time when Millennial’s, Gen Y’s, Gen X’s and young Boomers are asserting their autonomy. Zoomers and Super Zoomers should be cheering as the youngsters use their power to open the doors for us — just slide in behind them.
3. Continuing innovation, not so much continuing education, has to be part of the process, the task, and the responsibility of Zoomer knowledge workers.
Many Super Zoomers carry on innovating and taking responsibility for coming up with new ideas, techniques, methods, practices, etc. into the workplace.
However, some Zoomers do not. Unions make sure that 50 plus’ers are protected whether or not we innovate or not. Gives the rest of us a bad rap.
Older managers, in many cases, do not see innovation as an organizational goal because it is a mission that’s not easy to measure.
4. Knowledge work is continuous learning in the action-research continuum. No action without research. No research without action.
There are conflicting realities. Many Zoomers are continuously learning and increasing our knowledge. Innovative companies provide people with on-going development.
However, Zoomers may not be required to continuously learn and increase their knowledge. Unions often give unwarranted and misinformed protection to Zoomers. This is a great disservice to people as it encourages “psychosclerosis” — hardening of the mind!
In this scenario few Zoomers take the time to formally train their peers or protégés. Fewer managers ask for, or provide, opportunities for Zoomers – and particularly Super Zoomers — to train people.
5. Quality and applicability is the measure of productivity of a knowledge worker. Not necessarily applicable to the market place today either, but applicability to the learning process.
6. Zoomers and Super Zoomers as knowledge-workers require that we be perceived and recognized as a valuable competitive intelligence rather than as a depreciating asset. It is up to us to create that perception by “marketing” our value to the company. It requires that older knowledge workers be inspired to work for the organization in preference to all other opportunities.
Peter Drucker was fully active into his 90’s. Clinton is still going strong as is Nelson Mandela and Betty White, the 87 year old actress.
In difficult financial times, companies will view their Zoomers and Super Zoomers as expendable cost saving objects. It is a financial “reality” fuelled by age biases.
We should be viewed as a viable competitive intelligence. But older workers ourselves are as much to blame for companies failing to do so. We can fizzle into mediocrity rather than keep our saw sharp.
While the company should view Zoomers through the lens of “quality” or competitive intelligence “assets”, they may want the Super Zoomer to be viewed through the lens of “quantity” which is a cost. An older, exceptional employee can lose out to an average younger worker who is less costly.