In today's workplace environment, does it matter what you know or how you know it? It turns out how we value workers is changing, and the emphasis now is on learning and adapting instead of coming into a job with the skills required to do everything.
In the old system of working, you were often categorized as a "knowledge worker" if you dealt with knowledge and information, which applied to most everyone working in an office. That meant workers basically fell into two categories: knowledge workers (in offices) and manual workers (in factories).
The idea of knowledge workers stemmed from the old-fashioned practice of getting knowledge from an apprenticeship. If you wanted to be a bookkeeper, you needed to apprentice with a bookkeeper; if you wanted to be a manager, you needed to apprentice with a manager. What gave people the power to be knowledge workers was the specific knowledge they gained from their apprenticeships. That practice has taken modern shifts through college learning and internships, with people gaining the specific skills they need in professional, university, and vocational training that translates directly to the workplace.
But there's one major difference in today's modern workplace -- we can instantly learn anything, anywhere. All it takes is a smartphone. Knowledge used to be a commodity that only a few people had and that was passed down through specific channels. Today, knowledge on just about anything is available on the Internet. Want to know how to change the oil in your car, organize your office in an efficient way, or learn a new computer program? It's all available through social media, YouTube, Google, and many other outlets. These days, instead of being an apprentice and working your way up the company, all you need to be the smartest person in the room is a smartphone.
This new movement is the age of the "learning workers." Yes, these people largely have college degrees and advanced training, but what sets them apart is their knowledge of how to learn. Instead of having a set of specific skills, learning workers have the skills to learn as they go, adapt, and apply their learning to new situations and issues. While an old-fashioned bookkeeper may have entered the workforce with knowledge passed down from a predecessor of how to work the systems, today's accountants and bookkeepers are taught to think for themselves and apply the principles they learned to a variety of situations, continuing to adapt and learn as they go.
A learning worker is far more valuable to an organization because he or she can adapt with a changing workplace environment. While having specific skills about certain industries or technologies may have worked hundreds or even tens of years ago, these days technology is changing at too rapid a pace to be pigeon-holed by only knowing how to use certain programs or systems.
Alongside the growth of learning workers comes the growth of learning organizations. These organizations are led by learning workers who adapt and evolve as the industry changes. Instead of having a stiff business plan and set of processes, learning organizations value collaboration and innovation. As the future of work continues to take shape, learning organizations are the ones that will be leading the pack.
Transitioning from a knowledge worker to a learning worker can be difficult, especially because our working society has ingrained a certain process in us for so long. But as a new generation of workers enters the office and brings with them fresh perspectives and a thirst for knowledge and growth, their learning worker drive can change the face of the workplace.
What do you think of learning workers? How could you be a learning worker in your environment?
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Say Goodbye To Knowledge Workers And Welcome To Learning Workers was originally published in Jacob Morgan on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.