12 October 2010

Did you ever learn to be a knowledge worker?

One day you became an employee in your organization. Let’s assume you have an international office job. In order for you to be effective, it might come in handy if you start communicating and collaborating with other people both within your organization and with external contacts. Your organization will most probably also expect you to gain knowledge and to share that knowledge.

They gave you a computer with, of course, the possibility to send and receive emails. You were given internet access, you may have received access to some more tools, like SharePoint, FTPservers, you name it. If this sounds like your job, it is fair to say that you are a knowledge worker.

Now, how many of you were ever taught to be knowledge workers? Is there any department in your organization that teaches you how to find, share, document, archive information?

Did anyone tell you how to use a RSS reader to stay up to date? Did anyone give you guidelines for effective Email use? Did someone take the time to explain the main features of your intranet, and were you taught to use a Wiki? Did anybody point out to you that you need to store your documents safely, and accessible to the right people?

In our organization we would never let a factory worker work without safety instructions, yet I have to admit that in some department we allow our knowledge workers to do their job without proper knowledge of their basic tools. I have seen the same approach in other companies that I worked for.

I think organization should put an effort in educating their knowledge workers to use their tools. It would probably take on or two hours of training, and the benefits are huge.

Let me know what you think. Do you have programs in your organization? And do you recognize this need?


  1. Training is a vital point. Also when introducing new tools or new ways of working, train people in advance, instead of release a new tool and then start training people.

    By educating in advance you can also learn from the way people look at these tools (or new way of working). Essentially, education is a very underestimated part of changing the way the organisation can work.

    I'm currently in the process to explain a new internal social tool and for some co-workers I really need a good story to explain them what the benefits are.

  2. Excellent point, and a burning need: how to find, share, document, archive information? A big portion of working days is lost in searching. It's a shame!

    How much is it really a problem of "outsourcing"? We are constantly looking for spots to cut expenses, and support functions are an easy target. After all, these are the basic office tools, everybody should know these, anyway.

  3. I certainly recognise the need for training - just like you mention. All too often you build big-budget solutions and in order to keep cost down you skip the training part because "Project XYZ is going to be so intuitive and user-friendly that people don't need training"

    That couldn't be further from the truth and actually it's not about training, but about changing people's habits! Even if the "how" is obvious to the end user you still need to explain (and repeat) the "Why".

  4. Tim, Johanna, Martin, thank you very much for your comments. I was really curious to know how other professionals feel about this. Martin, I think your last remark hits the nail on the head. There seems to be a taboo, though. We all assume that people know how to use these tools. I think we only have to look at email to know that that is not the case.