Motivations for knowledge sharing in professional services firms. A case study = Motivaciones para compartir conocimiento en firmas de servicios profesionales. Estudio de caso

Research Question Starting with the research question -Why are individuals at professional services firms motivated or inhibited to share knowledge? This case study gives an elaborate picture of the knowledge sharing behaviors and the motivations of a group of technology consultants. The insights ob...

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Detalles Bibliográficos
Autor Principal: Orjuela Álvarez, Luis Arturo
Formato: Trabajo de grado (Bachelor Thesis)
Lenguaje:Desconocido (Unknown)
Publicado: 2012
Acceso en línea:
Sumario:Research Question Starting with the research question -Why are individuals at professional services firms motivated or inhibited to share knowledge? This case study gives an elaborate picture of the knowledge sharing behaviors and the motivations of a group of technology consultants. The insights obtained from this research reveal valuable lessons to increase the propensity of these individuals to share their knowledge. Problem Businesses such as management consultancy and technology consultancy are recognized for their heavy investment in human capital while minimizing the use of tools and machinery. It is in this setting where managing knowledge has become critical to performance and the process of sharing knowledge has been identified as a key source of competitive advantage. Although much theory is available in this area, organizations often experience difficulties taking knowledge management into practice. Among other problems, it has been observed that there is a poor understanding of the employees who carry the knowledge and what their perceptions are. One approach drawn from social sciences has addressed this situation by focusing on the motivations of the individuals to engage in knowledge sharing. It brings attention to the personalized, diffuse nature of knowledge and that transferring knowledge is an effort-insensitive activity, thus requiring certain degree of motivation. A relevant development in this direction is the Alignment Model of Motivational Focus, which stresses that the decision on an individual to share knowledge is not only affected by personal motivations, but also by the alignment, or association, to the groups it belongs to. While this model is recent and has not been tested, its original approach and its focus on knowledge-intensive firms provide a suitable foundation to prolong the research on knowledge sharing. Objective In line with the theoretical and practical implications of focusing on professional services firms, this research aimed to explore the knowledge sharing behaviors in this industry and to identify the motivations of the individuals to engage in the process. Once reached a conclusion on the most relevant forces steering the individuals, the author sought to draw corresponding management practices that would increase the propensity of the workforce to share its knowledge. Methodology The research was structured in the form of a case study on an IT-consulting unit within a large professional services firm in the Netherlands. It made use of in-depth interviews with the consultants and direct observations of their behaviors, while the Alignment Model of Motivational Focus was implemented as main conceptual model to structure the data. Given the strict qualitative nature of the study, specialized software was utilized to code and analyze the data. The analysis focused on evaluating the frequency of key concepts and establishing relationships among them. Findings It was found that the individuals are mainly driven by personal motivations, but also by the alignment to their team, the alignment to the organization and the alignment to their professional discipline. Eight motivational forces seem to have a major impact in stimulating knowledge sharing behaviors. Their ranking in order of importance is: -Most important: Reciprocity -Personal success -Expectations from the team -Team success -Perceived value of knowledge by others -Availability of resources -Personal Status - Least important: Contribution to project practices This list is the result of proposing a modified version of the Alignment Model of Motivational Focus specific to professional services. The new model excluded the motivations of gaining financial rewards and of gaining personal influence, as they do not seem to correspond to the work in this industry. In addition, reciprocity was a motivation not contemplated in the original model but here it was found to have a central role. These disparities appear to be related to the distinctive features associated with the professional services industry, such as the importance of networking and the heavy weight given to the individual achievements. Furthermore, it was found that there are a various barriers inhibiting the individuals to share knowledge. The most significant ones are the perception that there is not enough time to invest in sharing, and that the management does not provide enough support for this process. Practical implications The results of the case study provide the groundwork to design improvement measures to increase the likelihood that knowledge will be shared among the employees of professional services firms. A set of seven managerial practices were identified that may effectively stimulate knowledge sharing in line with the perceptions and ambitions of the individuals. In no particular order: 1. Strengthen networking skills 2. Make knowledge contributions publicly visible 3. Have formal procedures to record and share lessons learned 4. Integrate knowledge sharing into the performance appraisal 5. Offer explicit, non-financial rewards 6. Develop a knowledge sharing culture 7. Exhibit leadership Incorporating these practices in the knowledge management strategies of professional services firms and keeping sight of the behavioral responses of the workforce will offer valuable insight to gain an enhanced organizational performance.