Need for Well-Rounded Knowledge Workers
IN weathering the economic storm which affected our country, there is a need to ensure a holistic perspective in our human resources development.
This is not a reaction to the declining productivity in the manufacturing sector but a fundamental requirement for our economy to sustain its competitive edge.A recent World Trade Organisation (WTO) report has highlighted that Malaysia’s scarcity of skilled labour can erode its industrial competitiveness.
In the past, Malaysia has promoted capital-intensive industries and imported cheap unskilled workers for the construction and agriculture sectors.
In the light of global competitiveness, we are now giving greater emphasis to investing in human intellectual capital. Our shift in strategy from a production-based economy (P-economy) to a knowledge-based economy (K-economy) reflects our concern to develop our human resources.
We realise that to be competitive in the global arena our industrial performance demands a new economic approach which recognises that knowledge is a vital part of a worker’s performance.
Knowledge is thus seen as an organisation’s key asset, or as Toffler (1993) put it: “The real value of companies like Compaq or Kodak, Hitachi or Siemens, depends more on ideas, insights and information in the heads of their employees and in the data banks and patents these companies control than on the trucks, assembly lines, and other physical assets they may have. Thus capital itself is now increasingly based on intangibles.”
The Quran has, in various verses from the beginning, pointed out to humanity the importance of knowledge for human progress, not only in the economic sphere but also in the entire human development.
Economic advancement, to Islam, is only a subset of the entire human requirement.
The Quran places those who are knowledgeable in a very noticeable position. It says: “Those who know and those who don’t will they ever be equal?” (39:9) and “Only scholars will be able to reason it out.” (29:43)
Despite this realistic analysis of the importance of knowledge to the future strength of a society, it will equally be important to appreciate the understanding of knowledge in its comprehensive sense.
Knowledge should not be understood in its limited scope or only within the realm of economic production.
Instead, it should be understood as an instrument to build a noble organisation and human society which touches on all aspects of human requirements at the individual and societal levels.
Indeed, true knowledge will also guide humanity towards recognising the supremacy of God.
The willingness of man to submit to the Almighty Creator is indeed the beginning of human success.
This is because it develops a sense of mission and purpose for him to lead his life. This also applies to his mission as a worker.
In our quest to develop our human resources, we should not repeat the mistakes of the secular societies, which only emphasise the development of knowledge for economic requirements per se.
The industrialised nations are now worrying about their inability to sustain their economic performances. Their knowledge professionals, who are the backbone of their working force, are not that competitive.
In their book, Values-Based Leadership, S.S. Kuczmarski and T.D. Kuchmarski were of the opinion that an erosion of values has occurred in American work lives.
They were worried that as corporate America is chock-full of rules, policies, and procedures, it is running on empty in terms of norms and values that can provide employees with a reason to believe in their work.
This phenomenon of feeling “anomie”–disillusionment, isolation and hopelessness–has to be replaced.
Kuczmarski and Kuchmarski felt that American workers need to cultivate norms and values to regain their commitment, high performance and productivity.
A sophisticated society in the making, like Malaysia, should be very careful in its quest to develop knowledge workers.
We should give due consideration to developing well-rounded workers with the right attitude, character and skills in line with our Vision 2020.
In this regard Islam definitely can be a good source for reference.
Our knowledge workers should be equipped with the ability to appreciate our national aspirations and culture.
They should be aware of the need for comprehensive social development as envisaged in our Vision 2020.
Their roles should not be limited to being economic agents. They should be able to understand the social conditions and problems of our society.
If possible, as members of society, they should be catalysts for our social betterment.
Workers should not be like robots who only know how to perform routine duties.
Instead, they should take the initiative to discover new approaches and techniques in performing their jobs.
There is always room for these professionals to further improve themselves. What is needed is the right attitude.
They must be interested in enhancing their understanding of their areas of specialisation.
They need to be kept informed of the latest developments in their areas of specialisation by cultivating the reading habit.This reading habit should not be considered a requirement only for academicians.
On top of that, they should develop their spiritual needs. The failure to relate with their Creator will only develop a spiritual vacuum within them. This can eventually lead to serious human disasters.