Historically, such as the times of the Industrial Revolution, workers were seen simply as that, people employed to fulfill basic tasks, their thoughts or ideas never really part of the equation. Now a company of 100 people has 100 minds at its disposal, 100 different feeds of input, criticism and suggestion. We are living in the age of the knowledge economy, when workers are employed for their ideas and skills.
In 2017, $2.2B was spent on focus groups in the USA, but how many companies think of their own employees as vital sources of information?
As automation in the workplace becomes more common, and purely physical tasks are being reduced, roles now rely more and more on the brains and abilities of the employee, not just their hands or labor.
It creates an interesting challenge for businesses. Whereas an employee will complete physical tasks, whether they are inspired by the company or not, when it comes to the knowledge economy an engaged employee is vital.
In teams where creativity and commitment are of value, where they are necessary to solve problems, develop or simply spot opportunities, a business wants employees who are invested in the company and its success.
It can be hard to spot an employee that isn’t engaged in this situation, they may complete their work but perhaps won’t feel confident or inspired to share ideas or better working practices and processes. They are simply getting by. And you are missing an opportunity.
In the knowledge economy a company’s success is driven by its ideas, by the problems it solves and the solutions it creates. This is where the people within a company become key. They are the difference between standing still and growing, between mediocrity and success.
It is not only in general terms that businesses can engage with their employees’ knowledge, but also specifically. Collaboration between departments, greater levels of autonomy and self-motivation and an increase in curiosity, innovation and risk-taking are all potential things to take into account.
However, when it comes to the knowledge economy, businesses can sometimes be too close to the problem and not able to identify a lack of synchronicity.
The contemporary commercial world is becoming increasingly automated, but the humans left in the system crave greater degrees connection than ever before. It’s not enough to employ and pay someone in many cases.
The most important questions now are: How can we motivate and engage our teams? What type of person is key to our ongoing success? And what is the future of our company in the context of a growing knowledge economy?