The Top 3 Ways To Attract, Engage and Retain Key Knowledge Workers
The late Peter Drucker was considered the greatest management thinker of the 20th Century. He observed in a 1992 essay for Harvard Business Review that every few hundred years throughout Western history, a sharp transformation has occurred.
A New World
Drucker commented, “In a matter of decades, society altogether rearranges itself – its worldview, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later a new world exists. And the people born into that world cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born.”
We are now living in such a period of transformation when workers are creating value with their minds more than with their muscle. For Drucker, the newest new world was marked, above all, by one dominant factor: “the shift to a knowledge society.” Indeed, Drucker had been anticipating this monumental leap since at least 1959 when he first described the rise of “knowledge work.” Not long before he died in 2005, Drucker declared that increasing the productivity of knowledge workers was “the most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century.”
New Management Style Required
We have had ample notice of the coming transformational shift which Drucker predicted would be completed between 2010 and 2020. It is now past time for business leaders to take action to alter their approaches to fit the times. Here are three strategies that must become a high priority for every professional service firm that is dependent upon knowledge workers:
1. Establish A Culture of Employee Autonomy and Accountability
When he introduced the concept of Management by Objectives in 1954, Drucker urged executives to push decision-making and accountability all the way down through the organization. “Knowledge workers have to manage themselves,” Drucker advised. “They have to have autonomy.” In a knowledge economy, top-down direction is particularly detrimental because employees are bound to know more than their supervisors do about the specialized fields in which they operate. And yet most organizations continue to utilize a command-and-control management style. A Coach-based management approach is the ideal solution.
2. Become A Purpose Driven Enterprise
For decades survey after survey has revealed that the vast majority of employees are not engaged in what they do. (Gallop currently reports as high as 71% disengagement). Workers must be aware of a meaningful link between their daily tasks and how that serves customer and makes a better society. No longer can organizations expect to inspire “by satisfying knowledge workers’ greed,” Drucker counseled. “It will have to be done by satisfying their values.” Remember the global financial collapse? Here again, a coach-based manager is the key.
3. Create A Continuous Learning Organization
John Hagel, co-chairman of Deloitte’s Center for the Edge, says that firms need “new architectures” designed to increase the flow of information and learning inside and outside the organization’s walls. Traditionally, the organizing principle for businesses was to achieve efficiencies of scale. Now, Hagel says, “scalable learning” must be the aim. Unfortunately, there’s an awfully long way to go. Asked how many corporations have implemented this vision, Hagel says: “The answer is zero.” The Millennials which make up the majority of the workforce today demand learning and development opportunities or they will quickly move on.
Where To Begin?
Begin By Developing Coach-Based Team Leaders Knowledge worker and Millennial in particular expect to be part of a high performing, cohesive team this is led by a coach-based leader.
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