x-Early Perspectives

Workforce demographics: what categories?

…… Part of The Basics series. First published in May 2011 ……


As we prepare the final questions for the 2011 Digital Workplace Trends survey, I’m looking for definitions of different types of workforces. The reason is that peoples’ needs from intranets and digital workplaces vary depending on their roles, especially how and where they work.

Three years ago, before mobile emerged as a trend,  we used these 3 categories:

  1. Rule-based environment – process-oriented, routines to follow. Examples: airlines, hotels, many service industries,….
  2. Knowledge-based environment – non-routine, complex interactions, judgment calls. Examples: healthcare, consultancies, R&D companies,
  3. Manufacturing-based environment – Raw materials turned into finished goods. Examples: mining, construction, paper manufacturing, ….

Our analysis around these categories, published in the “Global Intranet Trends for 2009” report showed some interesting differences. (See the end of this blog post for a summary.)

Today, in 2011/2012, we need a new approach

We need to find a small number of categories that…

  • do not use the word “knowledge” for only one category since knowledge is important for all types of workforces.
  • take into account the physical mobility of workers (office, field, road)
  • are easily, quickly understandable around the world by people who speak different languages and who work in very different organizations (government, corporate, etc.)

Suggestions from survey participants:

  • Manufacturing/shop floor
  • Office based
  • On the road

A proposed variation:

  • Manufacturing/logistics
  • Office-based workforce (corporate, home)
  • Mobile workers e.g. field sales

Question 1: What categories make sense to you? Please make some suggestions.

What type of categorization is relevant to your organization and others you know? Remember that the purpose is to  look at differences in how these workforces use the intranet/digital workplace.

Question 2: What breakdown for devices?

The following breakdown has been proposed. What do you think?

  • Computer or laptop
  • Smart mobile device (smart phones, tablet)
  • Single-purpose mobile devices (field force automation)
  • Shared computer/kiosk

Thank you for your help in making this survey relevant to everyone!

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FYI: Highlights of differences based on workforce from Global Intranet Trends for 2009

Categories were rules-based, knowledge-based, manufacturing-based (see beginning of post).

  • Publishing models >centralized versus distributed versus hybrid: Knowledge-based workforce was more distributed, manufacturing more hybrid, rules-based fairly balanced but with a slight tendency towards centralized.
  • Maturity of intranets: We found that a higher proportion of organizations with manufacturing-based workforces were likely to be in “Stage 3” – the most advanced stage – than the other types of workforces.
  • Manufacturing-based workforce organizations tended to have more implicit personalization in their systems.
  • They also had more involvement of business managers in the intranet.
  • The knowledge and manufacturing-based workforce organizations tended to let their people enter their own information into the employee directory, whereas the rules-based workforce organizations allowed this much less.
  • The perception of benefits from social media tools was also different:
    • Manufacturing-based: higher on innovation and emergence of experts
    • Rules-based: higher than the other two in general, and specifically higher on better informed employees, employee engagement, problem solving, process streamlining, cost reduction
    • Knowledge based: lower expression of perceived benefits overall than the other types of workforces