Adult 625 #2: Balancing the Equation

Many changes have transpired since Sandra joined the organization in 1984.  The blue card that she discovered in the pocket of her lab coat is a reminder of why she selected this organization over the other opportunities she considered. Her teammates have recognized that her excellence in leadership is the reason for the new training program in their department. While the individual nominator chose to remain annonymous, her department overwhelming recognizes her commitment to the values of the organization.

Sandra glanced at a banner hanging outside the room where the Town Hall meeting occurs.  It once targeted a team shortage of one crucial knowledge worker. The promise of a generous finder’s fee to any team member whose recommendation is successfully hired, now targets knowledge workers in her field of work. Does this strategy actually change how team members view their role in the organization?  Finders fees were not offered thirty years ago. She reflects back to the many students she has proctored over the years, considering who would make a suitable candidate to recommend.

She is the team representative to the organization. Tonight she will thank them for providing mindfulness training for each member of the department.  Selected intentionally, the benefit of this training is two-fold. Continuous learning increases the team member’s knowledge base.  They have discovered the power of controlling one’s thinking and actions to be an effective strategy when working with sensitive clients. Secondly, it is an instance to share knowledge when proctoring junior members of the field. This organization creates a culture of engagement through communication and recognition.  Participation, the key to successful relationships, occurs in multiple locations at varying times. Working the night shift can be lonely, but not during Town Hall meeting days for this team member. The comradery of meeting days infuses her with excitement she will impart to her team.

As a volunteer in this organization, I noticed this new campaign complete with banners touting positive slogans about services for team members.  This organization recognizes behavior that team members appreciate through a reward system.  Team members are encouraged to submit points accrued to select from an offering of rewards. This program captured my interest. I have not worked in any organization that sought to use rewards to motivate or hire workers. While this organization was not the basis of my exploration and writing, it certainly was the impetus for exploring the relationship between rewards, motivation, and performance.  I chose to further my understanding of the relationship between motivation, performance and knowledge workers.  The scenario above is based on a real friendship with an individual who has worked for thirty years in one of the fields where there is a critical shortage of a specific knowledge worker. I chose to focus this exploration of knowledge workers as opposed to manual workers as this is where my professional interests lie. (I have not divulged the type of knowledge worker to respect the privacy of this individual and the organization.)

Ah-ha and Ah-hemAsset-Distribution.Human-Capital.Tony-Ridley.Travel-Risk-Management5

“Falling into the rabbit hole” surfaced in many classmates’ oral reflections of their work.  Time spent with Peter Drucker and Edward Lawler while educationally enlightening could easily have consumed all of my time leaving little time to consider the contributions of other researchers. While a blog is not the place to include a research paper, a few ideas resonant with real-world experiences, while other ideas challenge me to reconsider my ideas. The lens of OD practitioner is a new lens to consider when researching, while the lens of an educator is a product of thirty years of cultivation.


Knowledge Workers vs. Manual Workers-In the United States, acting and reacting in a “politically” correct fashion may be a lens through which to consider OD ideas, albeit a social lens rather than a lens based on empirical data.  Drucker’s ideas about the relationship between knowledge workers and the future prosperity of developed economies could draw much opposition. Often, such truths elicit criticism for the dual nature of the data.  One or the other, it suggests.  What happens when workers do not fit neatly into a theory? Drucker considered those workers who combine both manual and knowledge skills as technical workers.  Okay, a new category that now fits those in the quaternary sector of the economy.  What about those workers between secondary and tertiary sectors of society?  Peter Drucker is a rather deep rabbit hole for future consideration. 

A personal and professional aside-If public education is the cornerstone of a democratic society, shouldn’t this cornerstone recognize the value of knowledge?  The knowledge worker being sought in the above scenario is an asset worth the reward of a finder’s fee. Unless I am grossly misinformed, educators are not sought with any sort of reward. When a well-seasoned educator retires, a wealth of knowledge retires with this worker.  S/he is replaced by two inexperienced teachers while full of energy and possibility, lack wisdom. Lawler suggests that we consider human capital an asset rather than something to be controlled.   

Teacher as cost vs. teacher as an asset?  Ah, hem…not a rabbit hole I would like to consider at this moment in time. (sigh…)

Peter Drucker’s ideas about challenges for the 21st century consider how “More and more people in the workforce-and mostly knowledge workers-will have to manage themselves.” One of the key challenges I confronted in public education was helping students to learn how to manage themselves and their work.  While my work did not focus on adults, the time to cultivate skills necessary for future work as an adult begins with young learners. The time between young adult and adult worker is very short. My last group of students is graduating next month. A few of them will transition directly to the workforce where their work will most likely be managed.  Those who will transition to the university level and eventually knowledge work careers need to know how to manage themselves as first-year students.  

Ah…hum…I know that there isn’t a universal standard for learning that addresses the skills expected by those in higher education.  Where will learners receive and practice these skills? 

 The inclusion of mindfulness in Hunter and Scherer’s research finding was a welcomed surprise.  I have been interested in the concept of mindfulness for the last several years; however, have not participated in any actual training.   The practice of self-management incorporates ideas to help knowledge workers examine their experiences and process how these experiences may have a direct impact on behavior.  Self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transformation support professional success. They further considered the implications of embracing the practice of multi-tasking.  Wow!  Now that’s was a rude awakening.  I hear adults taught their ability to mulit-task as a skill valued and prized above all others.  Hunter & Scherer consider how concentration allows those in knowledge intense fields produce work of greater substance and quality when given the opportunity to concentrate on one task at at time.  How about that?

Ah,…ha…further proof that I need to pursue my interest in these two topics and how it relates to adult learning…(a healthy rabbit hole!)

Which rabbit holes have trapped you this semester?

Looking for a rabbit hole?

Motivation in the Workplace

Knowledge-Workers Productivity, The Biggest Challenge

Make Human Capital A Source of Competitive Advantage

Knowledge Worker Productivity and The Practice of Self-Management


One thought on “Adult 625 #2: Balancing the Equation

  1. Interesting points here, Laurie. And I do intend to come back and nestle into one of those rabbit holes you posted. For now, I will focus on your personal reflection.

    I find your assessment and the readings and research of Drucker, Hunter and Scherer most interesting. In a world where doing more-with-less and creating efficiencies for a larger ROI is valued, these concepts of mindfulness paired with self-management will be most critical to consider for all generations in (and entering) the workplace. Integrating skills of self-awareness, self-regulation, and self-transformation in and among members of an organization will most certainly be critical to true professional success, overall organizational effectiveness, and in turn the highly regarded ROI.

    As Lawler suggests and you acknowledge, human capital should also be considered as a major asset for the organization, in their strive for efficiency and effectiveness. I see this coming to light in my organization’s interest and focus on succession planning. It is much more than attaining and maintaining knowledge from one generation of workers to the next. It should be seen as an enriching experience in the self-awareness, self-transformational process, for both the individual and the organization itself.


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