Knowledge Work and Human Resource Development

Ronald L. Jacobs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is increasing awareness that most work is changing, and the predominant trend is toward greater complexity, becoming known as knowledge work. Two fundamental questions remain essentially unresolved about knowledge work, which have importance to the human resource development field. First, what are the characteristics of knowledge work that make it unique from other work behaviors? Second, how should organizations develop employees to perform knowledge work? To address these questions, this article has the following goals. First, the article reviews the definitions of knowledge work and discusses four key points that provide a better understanding of the topic. Second, the article proposes a definition of knowledge work using the term knowledge-based tasks to describe instances of knowledge work. Third, the article presents an employee development system that helps individuals learn to perform knowledge-based tasks. The article concludes with a brief discussion about knowledge work and the challenges and opportunities it presents to the human resource development field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)176-202
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Resource Development Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017


  • changes in jobs
  • human resource development theory
  • knowledge work
  • work analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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