HR as Knowledge Work

Yesterday I talked about knowledge workers and knowledge work. Today I want to to talk about defining the task and defining the results in knowledge work and how that applies to the field of human resources. According to Drucker the task is always a “given” in manual work. However, in knowledge work he says that “what to do” becomes the first and most important question.  A knowledge worker must control their own tasks because they are in control of the biggest part of their production.. their education. They may use tools, according to Drucker, but they decide how these tools are to be used and for what. So for Drucker the first question to ask any knowledge worker is “What is your task?” followed by “What should it be?”
Once you know the task then the next important step is determining what the results for that task should be. This is where the worker’s task converges with the organization’s mission. Without this convergence and harmonization the task the worker is engaging in may be useless and potentially damaging to the organization’s mission. In the new world of work as we are trying to change the way people are engaged and motivated the knowledge worker should have a great deal of input into what the task and results are supposed to be.
In the SHRM learning system, which I have taught for over 13 years, we discuss the importance HR supporting the mission of the organization and having its strategic goals directly in line with strategic goals of the organization. If this is indeed the way things are structured then the tasks for HR become more straight forward. However, if HR is not tied to the company strategy then the task of HR become less clear. And perhaps without this tie this takes HR out of the realm of knowledge work and the HR employee out of the realm of knowledge worker. When this happens tasks and results become entirely management’s perogative and the HR worker does not participate in determining the output of their work. This will certainly make for a less than satisfying job.

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