The 6 Factors of Knowledge Worker Productivity: Chapter 4 – Factor 1 – Social Cohesion

In answering our second research question:  What is known in the world’s academic research about the factors associated with Knowledge Worker Productivity? From their review of over 800 papers our researchers identified 6 factors that are associated with Knowledge Worker performance. Most of the research related to the productivity of Knowledge Worker teams, but many of the findings can be translated to apply to organisations, divisions or units. Here’s the first and top factor: Social Cohesion.


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‘Social Cohesion: A shared liking or team attraction that includes bonds of friendship, caring, closeness and enjoyment of each other’s company.’

In other words…people get on with each other, are happy to share their ideas and knowledge with each other for the good of the team and the organisation. They are comfortable to challenge the ideas of others and be challenged themselves without feeling offended, insulted or disadvantaged. They feel safe in saying their piece regardless of the seniority or importance of others.

Social cohesion applies to a team, between teams and up and down the organisation in order that the whole of the Knowledge Worker community shares a strong sense of cohesion and comfort in speaking out. It is a factor that is required to maximise collaboration and should be implemented in the workplace design and workplace strategy.

Why is this important?

Quite simply, in the Knowledge business every person is a knowledge asset or receptacle bringing to the team and organisation the knowledge, experiences and relationships gathered throughout their lives. It is the fusion of their knowledge, experiences and relationships with those of others in the organisation that creates the new knowledge that propels the organisation forward and eventually turns into commercial value. However to make the organisation work, people need to be willing and comfortable to contribute their knowledge and ideas. Put another way, if an individual or team’s knowledge becomes ‘land locked’ for any reason then that knowledge is denied to the organisation.

So when we talk about social cohesion we don’t just mean within teams. Yes of course we want colleagues in the same team to be socially cohesive so that they can get on and deliver great work. But increasingly teams don’t work in isolation, team A may need knowledge or information from team B and C to deliver its output. Teams A and C can in themselves be beautifully socially cohesive, but be at war with each other and therefore co-operation may be difficult. The way we set organisations up doesn’t help with this. In traditional organisations where ‘the only way is up’ competitive leaders of teams may often be competing with each other for superiority. They may have conflicting objectives which set teams and leaders in competition with each other.

Further, the social cohesion applies up the organisation too if people are to feel that they can share their ideas, challenge convention and seek input. So social cohesion is a big deal in the Knowledge business and if organisations don’t focus on this as a key organisational capability, they are not maximising the knowledge they have in their organisations.

In our next article I’ll focus on Factor 2 of the 6 Factors of Knowledge Worker Productivity.

Also read another blog piece referring to the Importance of Social Cohesion.

For more information about social cohesion, you can contact a workplace management consultant on +44 207 743 7110. Alternatively you can email with your inquiry. Advanced Workplace Associates are based in London, United Kingdom but now work internationally across the United States of America, Asia and Europe.

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