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Knowledge retaining in current settings

1 October 2017
Alla Parlov
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The data technology revolution has shifted the previous social paradigms regarding individuals and organizations’ ability to connect to each other from nearly any location. Nowadays, an increasing number of organizations view honing communicational skills as a requisite for success and real time data transmission. On the other hand, organizations' need for professional and innovative knowledge is unchanging. In order to demonstrate the contrast between the dynamism of material transfer and the will to retain data and learning skills I refer you to a known trend from the field of career management: it is not uncommon for employees to leave their workplace every number of years. This phenomenon raises a dilemma among managers of large corporations: how can organizational knowledge be retained despite the high turnover of professionals possessing much knowledge with which they transfer to other organizations.

In the introduction to Knowledge Management in Theory and Practice, author Kimimz Dalkir characterizes Knowledge Management as a structured, consistent and methodical process which enables complex construction, management and transfer of knowledge in organizations. This optimizes work processes through learning lessons and reproducing successes, in turn decreasing organizational costs. Again, the logic leading the work of knowledge managers in organizations is that of collecting and retaining, described by Dalkir as "save it, it may prove useful sometime in the future".

Currently, most organizations choose to invest in setting up online knowledgebases and designated websites for material storage. These tools are usually managed by "Knowledge Managers" and are thus usually not visible to most workers. I believe that focusing on technical aspects of organizational knowledge storage and documentation isolates the issue of KM as an organizational matter and in practice leads to a state of no competition, growth and learning on behalf of the organization as a whole. The central question is whether exclusively using technological tools is indeed enabling organizations to retain knowledge?

Obviously, each organization has its own needs, considerations and style of work. That said, the emergence of social media has brought a new meaning to the term "share". People share and upload millions of pieces of information in various shapes and sizes on a daily basis believing that sharing connects and generates possibilities. In this stage, more and more voices are being heard in favor of sharing the knowledge held by organizations, especially large, multi-department corporations in which workers of different divisions do not meet throughout the ongoing work routine.

According to the above, it is understood that the goal of these organizations in all KM activities in general, and more specifically in knowledge sharing activities, is to attain a state of knowledge implementation on both organizational and individual level, i.e. making optimal decisions in the organization by utilizing its knowledge. This goal implies that knowledge retaining processes must be upgraded and transformed into intellectual capital. Various studies use specific terms to refer to different stages of the overall process of organizational learning: knowledge transfer, knowledge sharing, implementation, etc.

According to Wang and Noe (2010), knowledge Sharing is a valuable professional asset for organization which serves as a tool allowing employees to affect knowledge and innovation development processes and enhance the organization's competitive abilities in today's market. Knowledge sharing is a learning process for all organization workers and as such is more complex than individual learning processes. Organizations are comprised of many individuals, each holding knowledge that can leverage the organization as whole. Therefore, as part of the organizational knowledge management process, the organization must motivate personal knowledge sharing and personal learning processes in the organization. Paired together, these processes can serve as a basis for growth and learning of the entire organization.

Although organizations are supportive and despite the comfortable technological platform which enables this, a large portion of organization workers refrain from sharing their knowledge.

Studies claim that awareness to cooperation in the field of knowledge and said technological platform are insufficient for creating a knowledge sharing-based organizational culture. This approach cites that the missing component is reward or an incentive system intended to compensate workers for sharing their personal and professional knowledge. Professional knowledge, especially tacit knowledge, is usually viewed as something very personal that as such must remain sheltered from the organizational environment.

In other words, people are scared to expose their professional and personal knowledge so as to not give up the advantage they may hold over other workers. Therefore, besides creating a supportive learning environment, generating a sense of trust between workers is vital, nay crucial for the success of this process. This is the reason that businesses and social organizations are both beginning to believe in the importance of "socialization" between workers and require communication skills when recruiting as part of the job requirements as well as invest substantial resources in designing open, comfortable work spaces which encourage casual meetings between co-workers.


Dalkir, K. (2005). Knowledge management in theory and practiceWang, S. & Noe, R. (2010). Knowledge sharing: A review and directions for future research. Human Resources Management Review, 20 (2), June, pp. 115–131.


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