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What Are The Innovative HR Practices That Knowledge Workers Want?

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With the increasing interconnectedness in today's global economy, labor mobility is increasingly an available option. As such, today's businesses are increasingly realizing that to remain competitive, they need to re-develop HR practices from the traditional industrial practices to ones that align with the needs and wants of 21st-century knowledge workers.

As workers demand changes to HR practices, businesses are struggling with what exactly are the transformed HR practices being demanded. There are five critical elements to implementing a truly transformative knowledge based culture which are:

(1) One Culture & Values: Many workers have seen it all too often. From the executive perspective, the vision and ideals of the business are clear. However, as one moves further down the organizational hierarchy, they discover many distinctive sub-cultures, some of which are radically different from the "formal" business culture.

Businesses need to work continuously to minimize cultural silos that may appear. Not only does it prevent the business from fragmenting and falling prey to infighting but it ensures that the business is better able to withstand external pressures.

(2) Don't Play Politics: It is increasingly hard to spin individuals, particularly those employed by the business in question. No matter how many meetings, the viral power of personal and professional relationships will overpower official messaging.

Even if the business were to somehow minimize the ability of workers to network, the reality is that most workers are very good at reading through BS particularly if it clashes with common sense. Most workers don't want to be sold as if they were a sales target but they want the unvarnished truth.

(3) Transparent, Open Door Policy: While there are some limited reasons for certain discussions to be held confidentially, workers are increasingly looking for open and honest discussions. In many respects, having a transparent, open door policy is an extension of the "Don't Play Politics" concept.

Not only will secret information inevitability leak out thanks to the usual elements but unnecessarily keeping information secret could damage business culture over time. The reality is that too much secrecy can lead to wild rumors and rampant speculation, damaging morale and leading to negative business culture deviations.

The benefits of transparency and an open door culture are numerous. Not only do they help maintain the vision and values by preventing unhealthy divergent cultures from forming but they encourage positive business culture evolution.

Encouraging workers to openly discuss new ideas, not only improves morale but it also expands avenues of worker growth as well. The business benefits due to the fact that openly encouraging workers to bring up their new ideas could potentially improve overall efficiency and speed innovation.

(4) Command & Control Doesn't Work Anymore: One of the biggest hurdles for established businesses is the need to transition from a command and control management style to one that relies on worker buy-in. Since the beginning of the modern economic system, there always has been a business need to establish strict rules and processes to ensure productivity.

Today, though, with technological advancements making command and control less effective and the shift towards a more knowledge based economy with different success metrics, the worker management methodologies have dramatically shifted. With an economy that is less about process and more about new ideas, businesses are finding the need to motivate their workers in different ways that encourage ideation versus suppressing it. One only needs to look at the dramatic changes occurring in managerial responsibilities.

Today's managers are less about driving production results (e.g. achieving daily production) to more about coaching workers to enable them to develop the next great idea. This means that managers are increasingly spending less time uniformly treating their workers as biological machines and more time as workers with individual talents with the manager's responsibility to tailor a program that will enable the worker to reach their full potential.

(5) Leaders Need To Lead & Will Be Held Accountable: Increasingly, workers expect that their leaders lead and be held accountable. Workers, shareholders and boards of directors are increasingly applying pressure on leaders to lead and to be held accountable. There are very few businesses at which leaders can hide from their responsibilities and those that do inevitably are buffeted by the increasingly competitive business environment that exists today.

Thanks to technology, employee mobility, shareholder activism, changing economic success metrics and overall business culture shifts, inept leaders are finding fewer places to hide. It isn't the fact that certain individuals are born inept at leadership but it is that certain leaders get complacent and fail to see that increasingly leadership is about self awareness and continuous improvement not only for the workers but themselves as well.

(6) Employee Empowerment: Increasingly to get the best out of today's knowledge workers, it is about fundamentally empowering individuals to achieve the best results. This means businesses are less about forcing individuals down a standardized growth path to providing the tools to enable individuals to customize their career growth path. Some of the tools that workers are looking for to create their individualized career path include:

  • Training and coaching
  • Honest 360 feedback
  • Acknowledgement of an employee's time and expertise
  • Paying employees a salary and benefits that commiserate to their skills, experience and potential

(7) Harnessing Employee Enthusiasm Is Critical: The reality of today's technologically enhanced economy is that there are no longer only "official" communication channels. There are increasingly several channels that businesses need to be aware of concerning brand and messaging including channels used by workers.

The reality of today's corporate communications is that workers are the best face of the business. Whether through formal gatherings or informal conversations, workers are a business' best channel to communicate brand and messaging. As such, it is critical that businesses make the effort to ensure that all workers pitch in and act as one unified voice.

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