Knowledge workers use analytical tools and scientific concepts to guide and communicate with knowledge within a specific subject area. They will often advance the overall understanding of that subject through focused analysis, design and/or development. They use research skills to define problems and to identify alternatives. Fueled by their expertise and insight, they work to solve those problems, in an effort to influence company decisions, priorities and strategies.
Knowledge workers may be found across a variety of information technology roles, but also among professionals like teachers, librarians, lawyers, architects, physicians, nurses, engineers and scientists. As businesses increase their dependence on information technology, the number of fields in which knowledge workers must operate has expanded dramatically.
Knowledge worker roles
Knowledge workers bring benefits to organizations in a variety of important ways. These include:
- analyzing data to establish relationships
- assessing input in order to evaluate complex or conflicting priorities
- identifying and understanding trends
- making connections
- understanding cause and effect
- ability to brainstorm, thinking broadly (divergent thinking)
- ability to drill down, creating more focus (convergent thinking)
- producing a new capability
- creating or modifying a strategy
Knowledge work may be understood in contrast with activities that they would typically not be asked to perform, including:
- transaction processing
- routine tasks
- simple prioritization of work
Low-level knowledge workers perform functions that are routine, such as
- providing technical or customer support,
- handling unique customer issues, or
- addressing open-ended inquiries;
but nevertheless require deep technology, product, or customer knowledge to fulfill the function.
Although knowledge worker roles overlap heavily with professions that require college degrees, the comprehensive nature of knowledge work in today's connected workplace is requiring virtually all workers to obtain these skills at some level. To that end, the public education and community college systems have become increasingly focused on lifelong learning to ensure students receive skills necessary to be productive knowledge workers.
Higher level knowledge workers advance the overall understanding of their subject through focused analysis, design and/or development. They use research skills to define problems and to identify alternatives. Fueled by their expertise and insight, they work to solve those problems, in an effort to influence company decisions, priorities and strategies.
Higher level knowledge workers become authoritative when they make otherwise tacit knowledge explicit and generalize otherwise localized knowledge.
- How to think like a knowledge worker (UNPAN) (pdf file)
- Personal knowledge balance sheets for knowledge workers