There is an increasing rate of academic papers being published around managing knowledge specifically citing theories and practices in knowledge sharing in various fields of interest. However, the implication of the rising interest in managing knowledge for human resource practices is an area of research to which little attention has been made (Scarbrough and Carter, 2000). In their study, they stated, “if we are to manage the way people engage with knowledge in organisations, we need a much more sophisticated appraisal of the specific contributions of differing human resource management practices”. However, it is an unfortunate fact that managing knowledge in human resource practices have been limited. Even if we acknowledge how important human resource is in an organisation and how relevant brain power is in its success as it is a valuable entity, an indispensable tool in knowledge economy today. Others refer to this as human capital others view it as intellectual capital as knowledge produces intellectual capital like intellectual property rights, product brands, franchise, business relationship, and others (Anzano, Khanser 2003).
“You take away all my Factories, you take away all my money, you take away all that I possess, but leave me my men and in next 5 years they can get me everything I had or even more.” – Andrew Carnegie
While human capital is necessary for achieving a competitive advantage, the knowledge held by individuals should be passed along to others for its value to be appropriated and leveraged. Thus, the effective management of knowledge flows is necessary for increasing the knowledge stocks that will sustain organizational success (E. Cabrera & A. Cabrera 2005).
Thus, knowledge sharing has become a key concern to organizations, not only because of the growing importance of the value of knowledge work (Hansen 2002; Reagans & McEvily 2003). To promote knowledge-sharing behaviour, people in the organisation need to understand the influences and the mechanism that drives individually to contribute their valuable knowledge with others. Even in the local set-up like the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Philippines acknowledges this as a relevant issue on Knowledge Management which needs to be addressed. Why is this so? What are human resource practices which can motivate and inspire knowledge sharing in the organisation? With these questions in mind, this paper will endeavour to explore three aspects: (1) defining knowledge sharing and the problems associated with it, (2)review theories underlying knowledge sharing behaviour to understand the factors that influence individual behaviour to share their knowledge such as theory of reasoned action (TRA), theory of planned behaviour (TPB) and social exchange theory (SET), and (3) analyse of human resource practices in knowledge sharing and its applicability in a local context (CSC, Philippines).
Knowledge Sharing Defined and Examined
Discussions about Knowledge Sharing (KS) have ignited the interest of many over the past years and how it works in an organisation and how essential it is in achieving success considering that it can stimulate cultural change and innovation, motivate performance and learning, and facilitate decision-making (Postolache, 2017). It is obvious that knowledge sharing also improves communication among employees as it enables interaction, thus relationships significantly improve as well whether they work together in one department or from different departments. Although knowledge sharing is more than mere communication because much knowledge in organisations is hard to articulate. What it is then? Knowledge sharing can be defined as “a reciprocal process of understanding, integrating and sense-making, which is embedded in the activities of the organisation” (Willem & Scarbrough, 2002). Based on Storey (2001), MacNeil (2003) states that knowledge sharing occurs “when people who share a common purpose and experience similar problems come together to exchange ideas and information”. According to Steffen Soulejman Janus (2016) in his published handbook for World Bank Group entitled Becoming A Knowledge Sharing Organisation, “it is a subset of Knowledge Management (KM) encompassing the exchange of knowledge (information, skills, experiences, or expertise) within and across organizations”. Having said these, some models on knowledge sharing focus on deploying its knowledge assets as it fails to recognize the variety of forms of knowledge and understand its properties and develop more meaningful means by which knowledge can be disseminated. This somehow leads to a culture of knowledge hoarding rather than knowledge sharing because of lack of understanding thereof. Szulanski (2000) suggests that “mere possession of potentially valuable knowledge somewhere within an organization does not necessarily mean that other parts of the organization benefit from this knowledge”. If Janus views KS as a subset of KM, for Boer, et al., believe that it is a crucial KM process within organisational settings characterised by high division of labour, as it facilitates the integration and regeneration of otherwise fragmented, specialised, and asymmetrically distributed knowledge, thus making feasible the production of complex and innovative products and services. Furthermore, KS is perceived to have fostered individual and organisational learning as well as employee cooperation. Although the benefits of the knowledge transfer process have been documented,its optimisation has proven a difficult challenge (Argote etal., 2003, Szulanski, 1996). In the same stated published handbook by Janus, he cited Three Typical Knowledge-Related Problems and Knowledge-Sharing Goals for Organizations:
Looking into this table, KS problems cannot just be solved by investing solely on Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (Swan et al., 2000) which is often a common notion. It is far more complicated social process, than just a technical. Although in practice, information technology seems to be the main driving force, with knowledge management projects being five times more likely to be led and funded by the IT Department than by its Human Resource counterpart (KPMG, 2000). A. Cabrera and E. Cabrera in their published article in 2002 entitled KS Dilemma identified two factors which have most likely contributed to this. First, there is growing conviction among managers, consultants and scholars that organisational knowledge may constitute a key strategic resource (Boisot 1998, Spender 1996; or Nanda 1996). Knowledge can be seen as an intangible asset which is unique, path dependent, causally ambiguous, and hard to imitate or substitute. The second factor contributing to the adoption of knowledge-management solutions has to do with the recent developments in information and communication technologies (Boland et al. 1994; Olson et al. 1993; Fowler 2000; Davenport and Prusak 1998). The development and widespread adoption of global networks and communication protocols have not only made it possible but economically feasible, allowing them to exchange documents and virtually any type of multimedia content (Anand et al 1998).The knowledge management perspective emphasizes that information and communication technology interventions are the main means by which the sharing of knowledge is enhanced (Davenport and Prusak, 1998; Ruggles, 1998). However, some studies also show that interventions based on information technology insufficiently recognize the nature of knowledge and the processes by which it is shared. For instance, investment in technology and infrastructure do not always guarantee successful KM, rather, it is claimed that the main pillar of achievement rests on employees’ willingness and commitment to participate in the initiatives (Lin, 2011; Wasko & Faraj, 2005). Under any circumstance whether KS is more of IT-related than a Human Resource concern, it is clear that effective practice of KS contributes to increasing productivity, sharing of ideas in making decision, problem solving and innovation. Hence, knowledge held by employees must be disseminated and shared with the others as a strategy to retain the knowledge (Cabrera, Collins & Salgado, 2006) and minimize employees who intend to leave the business (Hansen, 1999). It is in this context that HR or people management practices may be examined to address KS issues in an organisation. By doing so, we are led to analyse the nature of KS through the discussion of some theories applied in KS.
Theories Applied in Knowledge Sharing Analysed
The urge to share knowledge and learn is ingrained in our DNA. From the moment we open our eyes, we’re on a lifelong quest to gain knowledge. – Author unknown
Human behaviour and motives of what drives one to share knowledge vary. These may depend on the individual’s attitude, values and beliefs about the organisation. Yun, Takeuchi and Liu, (2007) supported the idea that knowledge sharing behaviour is related to the employees’ willingness to share their knowledge with others in the organisation by actively communicating, consulting with colleagues (Lin, 2011), exchanging and voluntary sharing their experience. If it is voluntary, then there is no coercion to share but rather a feeling of satisfaction and enjoyment of being able to share knowledge with others which will eventually lead to a more engaged individual and productive organisation. The fear of sharing may be rooted to the thought that knowing something which others do not may be a career advantage, but this is not so because such thinking can only lead to silo mentality among employees. What causes us to behave this way? This may be at a microlevel but would eventually lead to identify management practices which may encourage and sustain knowledge sharing. We first analyse the socio-psychological nature of this behaviour. On a microlevel, we use the psychological theory of reasoned action to shed light on individual motivation to share knowledge. We then draw on three additional theories from a sociological perspective, social capital theory, social dilemma theory and social exchange theory, to further understand the social dynamics of knowledge sharing (Cabrera, 2003).
The Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA)is a social psychology model, which tries to elaborate and predict the behavioural intentions; it was developed by Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzan and it represents the attitude and social norms which influences the individual intention of knowledge sharing behaviour. The components of TRA are Behavioural Intentions (BI), Attitudes (A), and Subjective Norms (SN). The theory suggests that a person’s behavioural intentions will be depending on his attitudes and Subjective norms. That is BI = A+SN.In per the founder of this theory subjective norm is the person’s perception that most people who are important to him or her think s/he should or should not perform the behaviour in question (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975) while Attitude is defined as disposition to respond favourably or unfavourably to the self, others and the environment (Ajzen, 1985). For example, the problem-solving ability of the people depend on their attitudes towards the problem. Many studies have successfully tested this theory by providing evidence of the link between attitudes and perceived norms, intentions and behaviour (Kim and Hunter, 1993). When applied to knowledge sharing, this theory predicts a link between attitudes and subjective norms about knowledge sharing, intentions to share knowledge and actual sharing of knowledge. One limitation which we can assume is, when someone forms an intention to act, one will be free to act without limitation but in practice, constraints such as limited ability, time, environmental or organisational limits, and unconscious habits will limit the freedom to act. Behaviour is not 100% voluntary and under control. Therefore, this theory suggests identifying the factors that affect people’s attitudes towards sharing and their perception of norms for sharing.Therefore, a personal motive which not necessarily aligned with the organisation may be manifested by the individual. This can be both deceiving and clever move for personal career gain rather than organisational success.
The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB)attempts to resolve the issue of acting without limitation. It is essentially an extension of the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) that includes measures perceived behavioural control (Ajzen, 1988). TPB defines the individual’s intention to perform a given behaviour orto predict an individual’s intention to engage in a behaviour at a specific time and place. The theory was intended to explain all behaviours over which people can exert self-control.According to TPB, human action is guided by three kinds of considerations such as behavioural beliefs (consequences of the behaviour), normative beliefs (normative expectations of others), and control beliefs (presence of factors that may facilitate or impede performance of the behaviour). TPB can cover people’s non-volitional behaviour which cannot be explained by the theory of reasoned action.However, every theory has its limitations, even if TPB has resolved some issues of TRA, it still has limitations such as the assumption that the person has acquired opportunities and resources to be successful in performing desired behaviour regardless of the intention and it does not account for other variables that factor into behavioural intention and motivation such as fear, threat, mood or past experience.
Another theory is the Social Exchange Theory (SET) which explains social change and stability as a process of negotiated exchanges between parties. Social exchange theory speculates that human relationships are formed using a subjective cost-benefit analysis and the comparison of alternatives (Wikipedia). It assumes that individuals choose those alternatives from which they expect the most profit and in industrial societies, other costs and rewards equal, individuals choose alternatives that promise the greatest financial gains for the least financial expenditures (Nye).Davenport and Prusak (1998) have analysed knowledge sharing from this perspective, outlining some of the perceived expected benefits that may regulate the behaviour: future reciprocity, status, job security or promotional prospects. From this perspective, knowledge sharing will be positively affected when an individual trust that this behaviour will be reciprocated with some benefit in the future. Putting this in the context of HR practice, one way for individuals to repay their organisation is through their level of engagement. The more engaged the employee are to their work, the greater amounts of cognitive, emotional, and physical resources they will devote to perform their job duties. When the organisation fails to provide economic or emotional resources, the employees are more likely to withdraw and disengage themselves from their roles (Saks, 2006). These theories suggest several factors that may facilitate and encourage knowledge sharing among employees. Now, what are HR or people management practices which may encourage and facilitate knowledge sharing as well?
HR or People Management Practices in KS Explored
In seeking to examine which people management practices facilitate knowledge sharing, a review of the literature has been found that the important knowledge-sharing factors include things like culture, technology and perceived support which an organization (Aklamanu, 2008). An attempt to have a comparative analysis is done with that of Cabrera et al, 2007 in their published article.
It clear that both studies have agreed on some people management practices like hiring/staffing, training and development, performance appraisal, and compensation and rewards. For staffing/ hiring practices, recruitment and selection policies and procedures should be geared towards identifying individuals who will have a higher probability of agreeing on the same norms and identifying with one another in the organisation. To identify which candidate “fit-in”, selection interview which our organisation (CSC, Philippines) utilises the Behavioural Events Interview (BEI) or the Targeted Selection Interview. This method ensures alignment of candidate’s knowledge, attitude, skills and values with the organisation through the types of questions asked. Since the use of BEI in recruitment and selection in 2011 in said organisation, all recruits have found satisfaction in the job they currently do, and the turn-over rate has decreased as shown in the employee engagement survey conducted. On the other hand there were some practices which the studies presented differently, like for work/facility design, Aklamnu (2008) emphasized the physical work or facility design which encourages knowledge sharing such as open spaces or no physical barriers while Cabrera et al. (2007), talked about work dynamics and designing work around teams which gives employees the opportunity to work closely with others and encourages knowledge sharing, especially when rewards are based on team results which encourage collaboration among employees, interdependency and cross-functional interactions. Furthermore, it is clear in their study that there are more people management practices which encourage knowledge sharing like in the areas of culture and technology. On Organizational Culture, De Long and Fahey (2000) consider that it plays a fundamental role in the creation, sharing and use of knowledge. This can be done by creating an environment of caring and trust that is so important for encouraging individuals to share with others through creative and sustained socialization processes, storytelling and rituals. In the case of our organisation (CSC, Philippines), ever since the accreditation by Investors in People (IiP)1 one of the best practices highlighted was the modelling of managers in sharing their knowledge willingly which clearly signals knowledge-sharing norm. The coaching and mentoring were likewise institutionalised causing employees to build trust and care among themselves as well as with the management. This is even strengthened by regular conversations by employees which can be among themselves, with the managers, within the department and other departments. There is two-way, face to face discussion which provides a high level of interaction which is also known as high band-width communication. Lengnick-Hall and Lengnick-Hall (2003) explain how co-location, or bringing employees together under the same roof, increases the frequency of interactions among workers. This does not only lead to more chance encounters during which information can be shared, but also increases familiarity, which can result in shared understanding and feelings of community, both of which increase the likelihood of sharing. This is proven to be advantageous as acknowledge by the international standards affirmed by the Investors in People (IiP) to our organisation (CSC, Philippines) having been given the Silver level accreditation under the Generation 6 IiP Standard. CSC ranked first among 42 public sector organizations which went through the online assessment (http://www.csc.gov.ph/new-updates/1554-csc-among-the-best-globally-for-people-management-practices.html).
In seeking to examine and understand knowledge sharing through people management practices as stated, other studies were encountered which may require more thorough analysis such as Scarbrough and Carter (2000) wherein they illustrated the congruence and human and social capital perspectives upon the interaction of human resource management be combined, to develop effective knowledge sharing. If this will be advocated, Currie and Kerrin (2003) suggested what human resource practitioners should do and that they formally intervene to develop more effective knowledge sharing by 1) changing the performance management framework to encourage necessary situated learning, 2) recruiting employees with appreciation of others’ perspectives, and 3) developing the necessary appreciation of others’ perspectives through lateral career movement by employees. This paper attempted to provide some theoretical indications as to the key variables that may determine knowledge-sharing behaviour through HR or people management practices. However, much needs to be covered as it may have failed to examine sufficiently the other theoretical framework relevant to the study like the difficulties that human resource practitioners will face in attempting to manage knowledge or to provide empirical evidences which shows effectiveness of some practices discussed. On one level, the paper has laid down a theoretical background for development of future study which will attempt to address knowledge sharing in organisation.
|1 Investors in People, is a standard for people management, offering accreditation to organisations that adhere to the Investors in People Standard. From 1991 to January 2017, Investors in People was owned by the UK government. As of 1 February 2017, Investors in People transitioned into the Investors in People Community Interest Company. http://www.investorsinpeople.com |
Alexopoulos Angelos, Monks Kathy, A Social Capital Perspective on the Role of Human Resource Practices in Intraorganisational Knowledge Sharing, The Learning, Innovation and Knowledge (LINK) Research Centre Working Paper Series, 2004 <http://www.link.dcu.ie/publications/workingpaperseries/>
Ajzen, I., From Intentions to Actions: A theory of Planned Behavior, In J. Kuhl & J. Beckmann (Eds.), Action control: From Cognition to Behavior, 1985, New York, Springer-Verlag
Aklamanu, Alphonse Mawusi Kwasi, The Impact of Human Resource Management Practices on Knowledge Sharing The Case of Poro Bank, Osuva Open Science, 2008, <http://osuva.uwasa.fi/handle/10024/473>
Anand, Vikas, Charles C. Manz and William H. Glick, An Organization Memory Approach to Information Management Review, 23/4, 1998, pages 796-809
Argote, L., B. McEvily & R. Reagans, Managing Knowledge in Organizations: An Integrative Framework and Review of Emerging Themes, Management Science, 49, 4, 2003, pages 571- 582
Boer, N. I., & Berrends, H., The Relational Dimension of Knowledge Sharing: An Empirical Study of An Industrial Research Group. Paper presented at the 4thEuropean Conference on Organizational Knowledge, Learning, and Capabilities, IESE, Barcelona, April 13-14, 2003
Boisot, Max H., Knowledge Assets, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
Boland, Richard J., Ramkrishnan V. Tenkasi, and Dov Te’eni, Designing Information Technology to Support Distributed Cognition Organization Science, 5/3:, pages 456-475, 1994
Bulchandani Amrita, Why is Knowledge Sharing Important at Workplace?, 2015, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-knowledge-sharing-important-workplace-amrita-bulchandani
Cabrera, Ángel, Collins, William C. & Salgado, Jesús F.,Determinants of individual engagement in knowledge sharing, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 17:2, pages 245-264, 2006, DOI: 10.1080/09585190500404614
Cabrera, Elizabeth F. & Cabrera, Angel (2005) Fostering knowledge sharing through people management practices, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 16:5, pages 720-735, DOI: 10.1080/09585190500083020
Cabrera, A. and Cabrera, E.F. (2002) ‘Knowledge-Sharing Dilemmas’, Organization Studies,
23(5): pages 687–710, Volume No. 23, Issue No. 5, September-October 2002, http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.lib.uts.edu.au/ps/i.do?ty=as&v=2.1&u=uts&it=DIourl&s=RELEVANCE&p=AONE&qt=SN~0170-8406~~TI~%22Knowledge-sharing+dilemmas%22~~VO~23~~SP~687~~IU~5&lm=DA~120020000&sw=w
Carnegie, Andrew, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Carnegie#Philosophy
Corazon Gaanan Anzano and Marites A. Khanser, Towards an Integrated Approach in Knowledge Management in the Creative Industry International Journal of Information and Education Technology, Vol. 3, No. 4, August 2013
Currie, Graeme & Kerrin, Maire, Human Resource Management and Knowledge Management: Enhancing Knowledge Sharing in a Pharmaceutical Company, The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 14:6, 2003, pages 1027-1045, DOI:10.1080/0958519032000124641
Davenport, T.H. and Prusak, L., Working Knowledge: How Organizations Manage What
They Know. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1998
De Long, D.W. and Fahey, L., ‘Diagnosing Cultural Barriers to Knowledge Management’,
Academy of Management Executive, 14(4), pages 113–27, 2000
Fishbein, M. and Ajzen, I., Beliefs, Attitudes, Intention and Behaviour: An Introduction to Theory and Research. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1975
Fowler, Allan, The Role of AI-based Technology in support of the knowledge management value activity cycle, Journal of Strategic Information Systems 9/1, pages 107-128
Hansen, M. (2002). Knowledge networks: explaining effective knowledge sharing in multiunit companies. Organization Science. 13, 3: 9232-48
Janus, Steffen Soulejman,Becoming A Knowledge Sharing Organization: A Handbook for Scaling Up Solutions through Knowledge Capturing and Sharing, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank, 2016
Kim, M. and Hunter, J.E., Relationships among Attitudes, Behavioural Intentions, and Behaviour: A Meta-Analysis of Past Research, Part 2, Communication Research, 20, 1993, pages 331–64
KPMG (2000) ‘KPMG Knowledge Management Survey 2000’. Available on-line at http://www.kpmgconsulting.com/kpmgsite/service/km/survey2000.html
Lengnick-Hall, M.L. and Lengnick-Hall, C.A., Human Resource Management in the Knowledge Economy: New Challenges, New Roles, New Capabilities. San Francisco, CA:Berrett-Koehler, 2003
Lin, H. F., Antecedents of the Stage-based Knowledge Management Evolution Journal of Knowledge Management, 15:1, 2011; pages 136 – 155
MacNeil, C. M., Line Managers: Facilitators of Knowledge Sharing in Teams, Employee Relations. 25 (3), 2003, pages 294-307
Nanda, Ashish, Resources, Capabilities and Competencies in Organizational Learning and Competitive Advantage, B. Moingeion and A. Edmonson (eds), 1996, pages 93-120, London, , Sage
Norfadzilah Abdul Razaka, Faizuniah Pangilb, Md Lazim Md Zinb, Noor Azlina Mohamed Yunusc, Nini Hartini Asnawi, Theories of Knowledge Sharing Behavior in Business Strategy, Fifth International Conference On Marketing and Retailing (5thINCOMaR) 2015, Procedia Economics and Finance, Volume 37, 2016, Pages 545-553, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212567116301630
Olson, Judith S. Thomas K Card, Gary M. Landauer, Thomas M. Olson and John Legget, Computer-supported co-operative work: research issues for the 90’s Behavior and INformation Technology, 12/2: 115-129, 1993
Postolache, Andra, 5 Benefits of Knowledge Sharing within an Organization, 2017, http://www.quandora.com/5-benefits-knowledge-sharing-organization/
Quotes About Knowledge Sharing, Continuous Learning and the Knowledge Economy, AnswerHub, 2016, <http://www.dzonesoftware.com/blog/quotes-about-knowledge-sharing-continuous-learning-and-the-knowledge-economy>
Reagans, R. & B. McEvily, Network Structure and Knowledge Transfer: The Effects of Cohesion and Range, Administrative Science Quarterly, 48, 2003, pages 240-67
Ruggles, R., The State of the Notion: Knowledge Management in Practice, California Management Review, 40(3), 1998, pages 80–9
Saks, A.M., Antecedents and consequences of employee engagement, Journal of Managerial Psychology, 21 (7), pages 600–19, 2006, DOI:10.1108/02683940610690169
Scarbrough, H. and Carter, C. (2000) Investigating Knowledge Management. London: CIPD
Spender, J.C., Competitive Advantage from Tacit Knowledge in Organizational Learning and Competetive Advantage. B. Moingeon and A. Edmonson (eds.) 56-73, London, 1996, Sage
Storey, J., Human Resource Management: A Critical Text, 2001, London, Thomson Learning
Swan, J., S. Newell & M. Robertson, Knowledge Management – When people will enter the debate? Paper presented at the 33rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, Maui, Hawaii, January 04-07, 2000
Szulanski, G., The Process of Knowledge Transfer: A Diachronic Analysis of Stickiness. Organizational Behaviour and Human Decision Processes, 82, 2000, pages 9-27
Szulanski, G., Exploring Internal Stickiness: Impediments to the Transfer of Best Practice Within the Firm, Strategic Management Journal, 17, 1996, pages 27 – 43
Wasko, M. M. L., Faraj, S., Why should I share? Examining Social Capital and Knowledge Contribution in Electronic Networks of Practice, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 29, No.1, 2005 pp. 35 – 37
Wayne W. LaMorte, MD, PhD, MPH, The Theory of Planned Behavior, Behavioral Change Models, Boston University School of Public Health, 2018 <http://sphweb.bumc.bu.edu/otlt/MPH Modules/SB/BehavioralChangeTheories/BehavioralChangeTheories3.html>
Willem, A., & Scarbrough, H., Structural Effects on Inter-unit Knowledge Sharing: The Role of Coordination Under Different Knowledge Sharing Needs, Paper presented at the 3rd European Conference on Organizational Knowledge, Learning, and Capabilities, Athens, April 5-6, 2002
Yun, S., Takeuchi, R., & Liu, W.,Employee Self-enhancement Motives and Job Performance Behaviors: Investigating the Moderating Effects of Employee Role Ambiguity and Managerial Perceptions of Employee Commitment, The Journal of Applied Psychology, Vol 92, Issues. 3, 2007; pp.745-756