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Clerks in the Workplace and Information Technology

Fearfull, A. (2005) ‘Using Interpretive Sociology to Explore Workplace Skill and Knowledge’, International Journal of Social Research Methodology 8(2): 137-150.

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Theoretical Knowledge: Key Issues in the Article

Fearfull states that the existing research literature lacks qualitative studies exploring the experiences of clerks at work, primarily viewing clerks via the connection to information/office technologies (IoT) and considering them insignificant subordinates in the system. Thus, Fearfull uses interpretive sociology to explore clerks’ perspectives. Her findings suggest that clerks possessing knowledge of manual techniques of operation and IOT can handle tasks better than those who only know IoT. She also discovered that experienced clerks (with manual knowledge) use IoT to explore the products better and get an enhanced business sense, gaining the ability to impact the successfulness of their companies powerfully.

Applied Knowledge: The Understanding of Knowledge and Its Influence on Human Resource Development Policies

According to Fearfull, experienced clerks, i.e. those who possess the knowledge of both manual techniques of operation and IoT, are more efficient than those who know IoT because the former can combine the knowledge of both manual systems and IoT. Besides, clerks knowing the manual techniques have a better understanding of the processes taking place in the company. Therefore, it follows that it might be considerably better to teach individuals who wish to play the role of clerks to use the manual techniques of operation to help them develop an in-depth understanding of organizational processes, and gain an enhanced business sense and a better knowledge of their product. Consequently, the understanding of knowledge as proposed by Fearfull might influence HR development policies by suggesting that such policies should include training permitting clerks to be able to operate without a computer.

Ability to Relate Theory to Practice: Providing an Example

To demonstrate the points made by Fearfull in her article, an example of a clerk whose responsibility is to keep records of credits and collecting debts can be used. When the clerk only utilizes IoT to keep track of the records, it is likely that a new clerk will be provided with to do so, and will be instructed how to use that software for record management. The clerk will also probably have to inform the clients of their debts using automatic means such as SMS, emails, etc. In this case, the new clerk will probably only act as an operator of the existing software, and will not be able to get an in-depth understanding of the business processes.

However, an exercise for training clerks manage the accounts manually can be designed. The existing records can be managed simultaneously by two clerks: by an experienced one, who will use IoT, and by the trainee, who will manage the records manually. Some basic system for manual record management can be provided for the trainee. Still, the latter will have to develop this system further to make it fully operational and capable of handling a considerable amount of records (of course, it should be taken into account that such systems may never be able to reach the effectiveness of IoT, which is why IoT, not manual records, are used nowadays.) This may allow new clerks to gain a better understanding of the business and gain more confidence when doing their work.

Usefulness of the Provided Example

The example that was made features a clerk who manages records of credits and informs clients of their debts. It is likely that such a clerk will be supplied with software specifically designed for this purpose, trained to use it, and will employ automatic messaging to inform the clients.

According to Fearfull, clerks who possess the knowledge of both manual techniques of operation and information/office technologies (IoT) have a better business sense and a greater knowledge of how a company operates. Therefore, it is possible to train clerks to be able to use manual techniques of operation as well. In the current example, it is offered to train clerks to use manual techniques by asking them to keep manual records of credits and debits, in parallel to a clerk who will be using IoT. The trainee should be provided with a basic system for keeping track of records but will have to enhance this system to make it possible to work using it.

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This will allow the clerk to learn how to deal with large amounts of information manually, and to design systems for such management, instead of simply using the provided software. This will also let them better understand the business processes taking place in their company because without such an understanding they will probably not be able to enhance the basic system provided for them to the degree when it can be used for actual record management.

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