Rewarding Knowledge Workers

Most new ages ride in on a wave of optimism. A sense of “things will be different this time around” abounds. The new technology of the day is going to rid the world of hunger, usher in universal love, and make everyone rich. It’s not much to ask.

The Internet is the workhorse of the Information Age, the steam engine of digital progress. Suddenly, we are all knowledge workers, rising in the morning and heading out to a bright future of lifelong learning. We embrace the new ideologies of cooperation and sharing, of moving the information about. It’s genuinely exciting.

Reality doesn’t want to crush the dream, but it has a thing or two to say. The cynic is coming in from the cold, and his words have a piercing bite. “Information is power,” he chides. “Sharing information sucks. What’s yours is mine; what’s mine is my own.”

The knowledge organization is not a matter of choice but of necessity. Organizations are increasingly being measured by their intellectual rather than physical assets. These “assets” go home every evening, and many of them don’t even come in to work. They work remotely, are contracted, are part of an alliance, whatever.

Knowledge organizations need to get knowledge workers to turn more of their knowledge into information, into documents, into content.

The knowledge workforce must share information freely so as to learn and create new information, new value, and profit. Most people are open to sharing once they’re given an answer to “What’s in it for me?” That is not an unreasonable question.

We used to pay people by the hour. A knowledge organization needs to reward its knowledge workers for the knowledge that they turn into information. Quality information about a product published professionally on a web site will help sell more of that product. The more motivated the knowledge worker is, the more quality information he or she will create.

How do you get the knowledge worker to contribute great information? There are a number of ways:


  1. By paying him or her. No matter how much people love to work, they have to get paid. If you want great technical information on a product that is well written so that it can be easily understood, you need to specifically pay for it. In this way, the worker who creates more quality information gets paid more than the worker who doesn’t.
  2. By rewarding his or her ego. It’s always nice to see your name under the lead article on a web site. So, if someone creates a great document, promote them and their document.
  3. By progressing his or her career. Make it clear that those who contribute quality information on a consistent basis will move up through the organization.
  4. By linking in with learning. If a worker is aware that creating quality information is an essential skill, then they are more likely to want to learn how to become better at it.
  5. By championing cooperation. To fully cooperate you need to be able to share information to give as well as take. If you can give quality information that others can discuss and add to, then you become a valuable part of the team.


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