A recent GartnerGroup study pointed out that attempting to strictly
retain all employees in the knowledge economy age may be futile. Worldwide
people are spending less time with any one employer. In the U.S. the
median tenure for all workers is 3.6 years; in Silicon Valley it is
significantly less. Mobility is on the rise as professionals and
technologists shop for experiences to bolster their portfolios and
"The factor driving this movement is less the flattening of
organizations than the perceived high reward for people with good ideas
launching the ideas themselves," said GartnerGroup vice president and
research area director Kathy Harris in an email response.
Harris said, however, that dotcoms are under great pressure to produce.
"First, their funding partners typically expect some return on their
investment within a defined time frame. Second, being first to market with
a new idea is one of the critical success factors in the Web economy.
These two factors individually and collectively exert great pressure on
these companies to produce."
Harris takes a broader view of the knowledge worker saying that by
2002, knowledge-based work will characterize the majority of jobs in the
majority of industries as more companies convert themselves into
e-business models. "K-work is ad hoc, demand-driven and creative. Fewer
jobs will be well structured or well defined. K-workers will not be given
a predetermined set of tasks, but will be far more responsive,
collaborative and action- and decision-oriented. Management practices have
to adjust to this new environment," she said.
GartnerGroup analysts predict that by 2005, 75 percent of global
enterprises will require major overhauls in response to the shift to
knowledge as the center of wealth production.
"Old models of hierarchical organizations, command and control
structures, and follow-the-management-chain approaches must be replaced by
horizontal processes, matrixed management, collaborative work styles,
shared decision-making and more employee autonomy and participation in
decisions," said Harris. She cited examples of recent announcements by
Ford Motor, Delta Airlines, and other companies to provide PCs with
Internet access for all their workers as movements towards the
transformation. "We believe the efforts to Internet-enable employees
represent initial steps in fueling profound cultural change. This will
impact not only the manner in which such enterprises act as suppliers and
customers in the world of e-business but also the character of their
workforce and their workplaces," she said.
The bottom line is enterprises that move quickly to seek out knowledge
workers that are versatile, can collaborate and have cross-enterprise
understanding, and put in place adequate reward practices stand to gain in
the New Economy. Those that hold out and treat the late 1990s as an
anomaly, do so at their own peril.