Drucker on HR: The Knowledge Worker

by Michael Haberman on January 7, 2008 · 0 comments


This past weekend I happend upon a book called The Daliy Drucker: 366 Days of Insight and Motivation for Getting the Right Things Done. It is chocked full of quotes, insights and action items from the most prolific and most respected of management writers and consultants. If you don’t know who Peter F. Drucker is you need to click on his name and read about the man. If you had nothing but Drucker books in your library you would not be short anything. Although he has passed away The Drucker Institute at Clairmont College continues his work.

I bring this up because the entry in the book for January 7th is “Knowledge Workers: Asset Not Cost,” which comes from his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century. He starts off with the statement “Knowledge workers OWN the means of production.” (My emphasis.) He states further “It is the knowledge between their ears. And it is a totally portable and enormous capital asset. Because knowledge workers own their means of production, they are mobile. Manual workers need the job much more than the job needs them. It may still not be true for all knowledge workers that the organization needs them more than they need the organization. But for most of them it is a symbiotic relationship in which the two need each other in equal measure.”

Drucker then argues that “Management’s duty is to preserve the assets of the institution in its care. What does this mean when the knowledge of the individual knowledge worker becomes an asset and, in more and more cases, the main asset of an institution?” For him and for me there are alot of human resources implications to that question. How do you attract and hold on to these workers? What policies are necessary to change or impliment to hold on to the highest producing knowledge workers? Do you have the appropriate compensation system in place? How do we increase their productivity and how is this converted into organizational performance?

I think in many organizations one of the first hurdles HR has to get over in dealing with knowledge workers is convincing management that they are indeed an asset and that the company needs them on the job much more than they need to have that particular job. Perhaps one good way would be to educate them through the use of Peter Drucker and his writings. So all HR professionals should have a good dose of Drucker on their bookshelf and should be well versed in the use of Drucker wisdom. You will be a better HR pro and you will have a better management team as a result.

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