Surprising Secret to Increasing Your Value in the Workplace

The surprising secret to increasing your value in the workplace came from an assessment of the Knowledge Work Framework presented in Episode 6 of the Science of Success Podcast (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/). I became interested in knowledge work because I noticed that over the course of my 25-year corporate career, degree requirements for entry-level jobs had shifted. Specifically, in research, when I started my career, research technicians typically had a high school diploma or a 2-year technical school degree. Now a research technician needs to have at least a 4-year college technical degree and sometimes a Master of Science degree. This trend was also happening across all functions in the organization, including manufacturing. The incoming educational requirements for jobs have increased over time because the knowledge content required to perform those jobs has increased.

The incoming educational requirements for jobs have increased over time because the knowledge content required to perform those jobs has increased.

Valerie Patrick

I also became interested in what it takes for a knowledge worker to excel at their work. This is because knowledge workers are often faced with job tasks that do not have a recipe of how to accomplish the task. I am all too familiar with this from the ten different high knowledge content jobs I have held over the course of my career. In fact, this interest led me to develop content for how to thrive on a steep learning curve based on my experience (please email me at valerie.patrick@fulcrumconnection.com for a one-pager to learn more).

In this blog post, I provide a quantitative definition of knowledge work from the UK for you to assess your current job. I also show that a key challenge for knowledge workers is to find the right balance between the foundational skills needed to perform their job and the collaboration competencies needed for enabling and delivering results of value to the organization. Finally, I show that developing the ten collaboration competencies are important to high performance because collaboration is implicit in every element of the Knowledge Work Framework.

The first topic is a quantitative definition of knowledge work. I will use the job-content definition of knowledge work that comes from the Work Foundation in the UK. The job-content definition assesses the job tasks and how many and the extent of knowledge required for those tasks. So, workers whose jobs have high-knowledge content frequently perform tasks that require tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the type of knowledge that is difficult to write down or explain to someone else. Workers whose jobs have moderate knowledge content less frequently rely on tacit knowledge and more frequently rely on explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the type of knowledge that can be easily explained to and written down for others. Finally, workers who engage in only a few tacit knowledge tasks with the remainder being explicit knowledge tasks have jobs that fall under the category of low knowledge content. I’m using the Work Foundation’s definition because they have used this definition to show that the higher the knowledge content of a job, the higher the salary. The Work Foundation has also shown that jobs with higher knowledge content are growing disproportionately faster than other jobs. These trends have been shown for the UK where the Work Foundation is based. I believe that the same trends exist in the U.S. though the analysis has not been performed yet in the U.S. to my knowledge. The implications are clear: the higher the knowledge content of a job, the higher the salary because the greater the value being provided to the organization. How would you assess your current job: high knowledge content, moderate knowledge content, or low knowledge content? Regardless, you can influence the knowledge content of your job by how you approach your job. Read on to learn more.

Fulcrum Connection has developed the Knowledge Work Framework as a guide for knowledge workers to excel in the performance of their jobs. This framework is based on distilling the cognitive task analyses (http://www.usabilitybok.org/cognitive-task-analysis) of several different types of knowledge work. The framework shows that the best knowledge workers balance the ‘how’ and “what” of knowledge work amidst the forces that can make this balancing act more difficult. The forces include things like the context of the job and the climate and culture of the work environment. There are three levels to each the ‘how’ side of the scale and the ‘what’ side of the scale in the framework represented by pyramids. The base level is the foundational skills, the middle level is the enabling skills, and the top level is the delivery skills. To learn more about the framework depicted below, listen to Episode 6 of the Science of Success Podcast on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast).

Knowledge Work Framework 12Jan2016

The second topic is showing that a key challenge for knowledge workers is to find the right balance between the foundational skills needed to perform their job and the collaboration competencies needed for enabling and delivering results of value to the organization. This insight comes from noticing that the only place where collaboration as a skill is explicit in the Knowledge Work Framework is in the enabling skills of the ‘What’ pyramid. Collaboration is not mentioned at all in the ‘How’ pyramid. This means that collaboration enables the delivery of workplace results for a knowledge worker. It is the delivery of results of value to the organization that makes knowledge work valuable. Therefore, collaboration is the secret to transitioning from a lower knowledge content job to a higher knowledge content job. In addition, the foundational skills in the ‘What’ pyramid are self-centered skills like growing your expertise, managing your time well, and skillful reporting. Similarly, the foundational skills in the ‘How’ pyramid are largely self-centered skills like the multi-faceted aspects of a solid work ethic and developing niche-worthy competence for the organization. However, these foundational skills without the enabling skill of collaboration won’t lead to valuable results for the organization. Therefore, a key challenge is to balance the ‘alone time’ needed to grow and sustain the foundational skills with the ‘together time’ needed to develop collaboration competencies.

The ten collaboration competencies were discussed in the last blog post (https://fulcrumconnection.com/blog). These collaboration competencies were used to assess where in the Knowledge Work Framework is collaboration implicitly needed.

10 Skills of Collaboration 23Dec2015

The table below summarizes the results of this assessment.

Table on How Collaboration Implicit in KWF 12Jan2016

The results of this assessment demonstrate the third topic: developing the ten collaboration competencies are important to high performance because collaboration is implicit in every element of the Knowledge Work Framework. I find this result interesting because it supports a framework for knowledge work that Ph.D. Lilia Efimova presented in her 2005 paper titled “Discovering the Iceberg of Knowledge Work,” which shows collaboration at the center. It is not surprising to me that collaboration plays a central role in knowledge work. This is because knowledge work is about using your brain. Human thinking is inherently flawed for many different reasons. I wrote a blog that cited 33 different types of flawed thinking (see getting-beyond-limited-thinking-great-results). One example that I was often subjected to as the head of sustainability was “disproportionate responsibility”: the error of looking for one cause when there often are multiple causes. The flaws in our thinking reduce possibilities. It is only through others with different perspectives that we can become aware of and reduce the flaws inherent to our thinking and open up possibilities for addressing challenges.

It is only through others with different perspectives that we can become aware of and reduce the flaws inherent to our thinking and open up possibilities for addressing challenges.

Valerie Patrick

Fulcrum Connection LLC provides training, coaching, and professional facilitation services to help individuals and groups improve social skills and solve collaboration problems. For example, Fulcrum helps organizations improve teamwork, social intelligence, creativity, learning, and innovation using structured processes and proven tools. Get a copy of findings from a recent social skills survey by adding your input here: http://www.surveymonkey.com. Get added insights on social skills for the workplace by listening to the Science of Success Podcast on i-Tunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/science-of-success-podcast) and leave a review. Sign up for Fulcrum Connection’s Quadrant II newsletter to receive a free white paper on five ways to improve creativity for innovation (https://fulcrumconnection.com) and stay up-to-date on Fulcrum Connection’s blog posts and podcasts. In addition, the newsletter will announce when the following content will be available on-line: “Secret to High Performance Teams” program, the Team Collaboration Assessment© Tool and Guide, the LEARN Plan, the collaboration assessment quiz, and new tools and techniques to remain productive in a toxic micro-climate. To learn more, please contact Valerie Patrick at Fulcrum Connection LLC (412-742-9675 or valerie.patrick@fulcrumconnection.com). Also ask about our first-time client offer.

Categories