Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Where do policy, productivity and business strategy all align? Knowledge Workers and the Market State.

McKinsey & Company’s article What Happens Next? Five crucibles of innovation shaping global business discusses an important trend in the “Productivity imperative” portion of the article.

“In the United States, for example, 85 percent of the new jobs created in the past decade required complex knowledge skills…”

Although knowledge workers are increasing, demand continues to exceed supply:

“Governments aren’t moving fast enough to educate workers with the skills needed to meet the productivity imperative, and businesses can’t afford to wait.”

The wealth divide discussed in the “Market states” portion of the article is both caused by, and at odds with, the rapid increase in knowledge worker jobs described in “The productivity imperative.” Both parts of the article touch upon businesses’ need to work with policy makers as markets continue to evolve.

Since the publication of this article there have been positive strides towards closing these gaps, particularly from University-affiliated incubators and government tax-incentive programs like START-UP NY. However, most of these programs focus on new companies, what about existing ones? Conversely, what are established companies doing to further the creation of knowledge workers in their fields?

There have been some controversial trends as well, like Yahoo!’s company-wide ban on telecommuting, or The Affordable Care Act, which enabled job mobility (at a price), but also imposed stringent new provisions on employers. It remains to be seen on whether programs and policies like these will widen or close the gap.

To truly close this gap the leaders of knowledge workers need to turn some of their innovation inward. Education of young people is a given, but that doesn’t close the gap. Employers need to create the company culture and conditions for employees to become knowledge workers, not just recruit and hire them.

Government programs and businesses aren’t thinking of innovative ways for non-knowledge workers to become knowledge workers.

There are myriads of cases where CEO’s of large companies started out working menial jobs and worked their way up. At what point did they become knowledge workers? If the divide becomes too great, will non-knowledge workers lose their opportunity to jump to the other side? These are the challenges businesses face if they don't work to create new knowledge workers. 

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