This is fairly basic stuff, but may be helpful as we think through how to attract and retain talented young people into our businesses. For a detailed definition, look at Wikipedia.
The term “knowledge worker” was coined by Peter Drucker in 1959 to describe someone who adds value by processing existing information to create new information which could be used to define and solve problems. They now dominate the workspace, accounting for over 80% of all formally employed people in the world.

“… fewer and fewer people are subordinates – even in fairly low-level jobs. Increasingly they are knowledge workers. Knowledge workers cannot be managed as subordinates; they are associates… This difference is more than cosmetic. Once beyond the apprentice stage, knowledge workers must know more about their job than their boss does – or what good are they? The very definition of a knowledge worker is one who knows more about his or her job than anyone else in the organization.”

“The vice president of marketing may have come up the sales route and know a great deal about selling. But he knows little about market research, pricing, packaging, service, sales forecasting. The marketing vice president therefore cannot possibly tell the experts in the marketing department what they should be doing. In that sense, they are associates, not subordinates. The same is true for the hospital administrator or the hospital’s medical director with respect to the trained knowledge workers in the clinical laboratory or in physical therapy.”
“What motivates workers – especially knowledge workers – is what motivates volunteers. Volunteers, we know, have to get more satisfaction from their work than paid employees precisely because they do not get a pay check. They need, above all, challenge. They need to know the organization’s mission and to believe in it. They need continuous training. They need to see results. Implicit in this is that employees have to be managed as associates, partners-and not in name only. The definition of a partnership is that all partners are equal.”
“The productivity of the knowledge worker is still abysmally low. It has probably not improved in the past 100 or even 200 years-for the simple reason that nobody has worked at improving the productivity. All our work on productivity has been on the productivity of the manual worker…The way one maximizes their performance is by capitalizing on their strengths and their knowledge rather than trying to force them into molds.”
Peter Drucker. Management’s new paradigms. Forbes, 5 October 1998

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