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Knowledge sharing behavior of employees in organizations

Are the employees willing to share knowledge with their colleagues? What makes them share and not share knowledge? Knowledge sharing behavior is the core object of knowledge management. Nowadays knowledge sharing is used everywhere in organizations. Knowledge sharing is when having a face to face communication and you interact with the personnel in the same trade, this however is related with communication but it is something else. Knowledge sharing is something that you get and that you give which involves two parties, the one that takes knowledge and the other that is willing to give it, so in other word knowledge sharing suggests a relationship between two parties. (Hendricks, 1999).

According to Wang (2004) “Sharing knowledge with others is assumed to be an ethical behavior” (p.1) – This tells that people who are ready to share knowledge take in consideration certain systems of different standards (Wang, 2004).

The main point of knowledge sharing in organizations is to enlarge the value of knowledge and the performance of the employees work .According to Zhang et al. (2000) this not only increases value but it also enhance the knowledge management of the organization and their incensement of competitive advantages.

In order to describe Knowledge sharing the author Hendricks (1999) has done a model which simplifies the idea of how two parties share their knowledge. The figure below shows the interaction and collaboration of two individuals that are willing to absorb and transmit knowledge for those who acquire it.

Figure . A simplified model of Knowledge Sharing (Hendrick, 1999)

Relation of knowledge sharing in strong-ties

What are strong-ties? Strong-ties are when two or more people carry and exchange information with one and other in a social environment. Taking an example from the real world would have a better explanation for this question. When working in an environment where you have good relations with your colleagues whom you already know, you exchange knowledge and ideas with them. This relationship between colleagues is considered to be strong-tied.

It is argued that strong-ties tend to be ineffective while sharing knowledge; however there are some positive characters of strong-ties. Out of four characteristics of strong-ties: “the combination of the amount of time, the emotionally intensity, the intimacy and the reciprocal services” (Granovetter, 1973:1361), two of them the intensity and intimacy are more objective and can have a positive impact in knowledge sharing. Another strong point of strong-ties in knowledge sharing is that strong ties are available easier. (Krackhardt, 1992).

How the importance of strong-ties plays a crucial role in Knowledge sharing? There are three conditions that affect knowledge sharing between employees in strong-ties. These three conditions are interaction, affection and trust (Krackhardt, 1992). In order to have a good relationship between colleagues, the interaction between them is significant. For two colleagues to be able to share knowledge in an effective way they should have interaction, which leads to exchange and access of information from one and other. Affection plays a crucial role also. For Example when two colleagues like one and other in the sense of companionship and collaboration, hence one has to have affection on the other. If this affection is not visible however, it can lead to another issue discussed in this paper: the asymmetric relationship between employees which result in not sharing knowledge with each other.

Description of the research area

The exchange of knowledge between organizational employees is a critical act in knowledge-management process. According to Paul, 1999 Knowledge sharing is considered “as a major focus area for knowledge management”. This research proposal raises the importance of sharing knowledge between employees in organizations. By sharing knowledge or expertise between employees in an organization, the organization will have more progress visibly (Olivera et al., 2008).

When employees work together in a period of time, will influence on their intention behavior positively to share knowledge (Levin et al., 2002).Take for an example two employees that have regular ongoing interaction (which is called Strong-ties) were assigned to work together in one software. One of the employees gets stuck while writing a code whiles his/her colleague knows the specific code better. If the colleague that knows the code and is willing to share his/her knowledge to the other colleague, will result in a better collaboration between employees and a better and faster deployment of the software. This however is all related with interaction, affection and trust.

This form of knowledge or expertise sharing of an employee can increase the value of the organization, and more specifically the value of employees. Yet, knowledge or expertise sharing is a challenging task for an employee, considering that knowledge itself can be tacit (Polanyi, 1983), and is usually uncertain how the communication and the process of transforming it evolves.

The purpose of the research assignment and its role within the research area

The purpose of this paper is based in one point:

How will the behavior of employees influence knowledge sharing in strong-tie relation

The specific problem stated in this paper is that people don’t want to share knowledge in various cases while some are willing to. To address this problem more specifically we will examine the behavior of both cases of when employees share and don’t share their knowledge. Based on our research question “How does the employee’s behavior influence knowledge sharing, either positively or negatively” will help us guide through examining their behavior based on real cases.

Goal and audience

In practice (intended for individuals and organizations), this research will help organizations or individuals in the organization to know how the knowledge sharing behavior takes place in strong-ties. This will have benefits for any manager, to be able to examine the behavior and attitude of employees in one department. By knowing their behavior and the influences of sharing their knowledge in strong-ties, can help the managers understand the collaboration between them and know which team should be assigned to collaborate together in order to have better performance of their work.

Contribution

By observing the knowledge sharing of employees within an organization, this paper contributes to the readers by helping them understand the behavior intention of sharing knowledge; this illustrates that knowledge sharing should involve helping the other party develop the ability to absorb new knowledge. This however will lead the organization towards a higher success.

Theory

The theory which our paper will be based on is a framework from the theory of reasoned action (TRA). By this theory we will be able to study the employees’ attitude and behavior. TRA is consisted of three general structures which are: behavioral intention, attitude, and subjective norm. The behavior intention is based on the person’s attitude and subjective norms. In our case this helps us know how the employees are willing to share their knowledge in an organization.

Theory of reasoned action’s main role is to identify the behavioral intention. Reasoned Action also gives an important role to the attitude which is one of the components that leads to the behavioral intention (Ajzen HYPERLINK "http://www.cios.org/encyclopedia/persuasion/Gtheory_5references.htm#Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980)."et alHYPERLINK "http://www.cios.org/encyclopedia/persuasion/Gtheory_5references.htm#Ajzen, I., & Fishbein, M. (1980).", 1980). For example, if we want to go to a concert but it is held on the same day you have an exam, our exam will prevent our attitude from causing us to go to the concert. This shows how reasoned action plays a big role in predicting behavioral intention.

The reasoned action not only discusses the factor that limit one person’s behavior but it also comprises two elements which are: attitude and norms. This on the other hand is related with how the expectations of other people influence in our behavior. For example if I want to watch a movie but one of my friends who previously watched that movie wouldn’t suggest me to watch it because it doesn’t have a good thematic. This will discourage me not to watch the movie because I was influenced by the norms of my friend’s suggestion (which are not to watch the movie). This may be a conflict between other people’s norms and our attitude because our attitude suggests us to do something while on the other hand the people norms tell us the opposite; this however has a huge impact in our behavior.

The attitude consists of two components: evaluation and strength of a belief. Attitude plays an important role on the behavior intention. This role shows how people have different feelings either positive or negative when they execute a behavior (Ajzen and Fishbein, 1980).

Figure : Belief, attitude, intention, and behavior (Fishbein & Ajzen, 1975):

Accoridng to Fishbein et al (1975) the explanation of the TRA is better understood by the famous equation which is B ≈ BI = w1AB + w2SN. Where B is the behavior which is comparably equal to BI (behavioral intention) that equals the sum of AB (attitude towards behavior), SN (subjective norms) and w1 and w2 are the weights which show the importance in this formula for each term.

Method

Research Procedure

We use the hypothetic model as the main scientific method on which we base our research work and apply it to the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA) framework in strong-ties. According to the model, we will gather data and study the literature to formulate the hypotheses which is used for explaining the observations. After the hypotheses is done, we will reason the consequence of that explanation (a prediction), and proceed with measurements which will be explained below.

This research is to use quantitative data gathering technique and measurements to collect numerical data and analyze them by conducting a survey. We will gather the data using the questionnaire in organizations between employees with strong-ties relations who have the extensive experience in knowledge sharing. The questionnaire will be based on the theory of reasoned action (TRA). One part of the questionnaire is the demographic information. Thus the main part of the questionnaire consists of the measurement for the factors of knowledge sharing attitude, subjective norm and behavioral intention. After the data collection, we will measure the hypotheses and analyze them.

The measurements will be done by using the famous measurement technique for reliability, the Cronbach’s α. Other than measuring the reliability we also have to test if the hypotheses are significant. For doing that we have used one Sample T-student Test (T-Test). The T-test is used to define the significance level of the hypothesis. The mentioned test is computed when comparing two means, one which is a sample mean with a hypothesis mean. The significance level of the hypothesis will be defined by knowing the probability (P-value). To know the P-value we have to extract data from the T-test. The main formula how we have calculated the T-student test is written below (Graphpad, 1997), however the t-test value was measured using SPSS 17.0 program which is the most suitable software for measuring techniques.

The sample mean in the formula takes the mean of the sampled data, the hypothetical mean in our case is the t-value given for the specific hypotheses and Standard error of mean was calculated using the above mentioned program.

Based on the research question, this paper also needs a reliability measurement therefore we have used the Cronbach’s alpha. The measurement of Cronbach’s alpha is done by showing the number of tests and the correlation between items while using this formula:

In the formula above N is the number of items, C is the average inter items and V is the average variance.(xxx)

For measuring the Cronbach’s alpha we also have used SPSS 17.0 program.

Research Framework and Research Hypotheses

From intensive literature study, following the TRA will influence the behavior intention or the behavior itself. With this assumption, this supports us to use the “Behavioral intention” as a "substitute for Behavior”. Thus, we will simplify the Theory of Reasoned Action in 2 parts: The knowledge sharing attitude and subjective norms. Both of the actions have different influences that result in the behavior intention.

Referring to the figure 2, in this paper we have given more attention on the attitude rather than subjective norms because in some cases of knowledge sharing the norms don’t have an immense influence on the intention of behavior; different research has proven that behavior can happen even when subjective norms are not present, nevertheless we have included the subjective norms since they have a small impact on the behavior itself. However we propose a model based on the theory of reasoned action which also consist an important factor in knowledge sharing; that is “trust”, “expected return” and “cooperativeness”. The figure below shows our proposed methodology based on TRA.

Figure : The Research Conceptual Model

Referring to the figure 3, the H1 (Hypotheses one) is consisted of three different hypotheses which have influence in knowledge sharing attitude, therefore influence knowledge sharing behavioral intention. The H2, H3 and H4 should be examined as a subset of the H1; whilst these hypotheses are a part of H1 (Knowledge sharing attitude), the latter should also be examined separately as a sum of H2, H3 and H4. The H5 also plays a crucial role in order to bring us to the main point and that is “knowledge sharing behavioral intention “. By examining each of the hypotheses we will determine the knowledge sharing behavior intention, which is the main goal for this paper. In order to show how we will proceed further with our methodology, below there is detailed information for each of the hypotheses based on the figure3.

Knowledge sharing attitude and Knowledge sharing behavioral intention

Based on TRA, It is stated that behavior is determined by behavior intention and behavior intention is determined by the individual’s attitude toward the behavior (Ajzen, 1975).Thus, it is critical to define the behavior intention. From the above findings, we can formulate the hypotheses as follows.

Hypotheses1: The Knowledge sharing attitude is highly connected to Knowledge sharing intention

Trust between co-workers in strong-ties and Knowledge sharing attitude”

Friendship and trust within the organization is a subset of knowledge sharing attitude. Previous literatures have said that strong ties are connected in a bond way in a social level. When one is working in a strong-tie environment, this will help employees to have ethical reasoning in a social network level. (Grantz, 2003; Jones and Kavanaugh, 1996). The social network has a big impact on employees trusting one and other which also leads to sharing knowledge with one and other. Strong-ties are considered a positive impact on sharing knowledge since employees who work in a social network have comparable perceptions on the work they do. (Wesley, 2009; Marsden, 1998).Hence friendship is also the factor for individual’s knowledge sharing attitude. From above finding, we can formulate the hypotheses as follows.

Hypotheses2: Trust between co-workers in strong-ties has an effect in knowledge sharing attitude

The expected return of Knowledge Sharing related to the attitude

Knowledge sharing is an exchange of knowledge between two people. According to Wesley (2009) “people tend share something valuable to others only if the expected return is greater than the cost” (p.4); this shows that sharing knowledge costs. People exchange knowledge because they want something in return. This leads them to believe that this is in their own benefit and will increase their wit (Paul, 1999). The third hypothesis is in the following.

Hypotheses3: Valuable return of knowledge sharing as an influence on attitude

Cooperativeness to organizational commitment and Knowledge sharing attitude

The idea of Sunshine and Tyler (2003) “cooperative also implies latent ethic” shows that the employees have good communication with other peers within the organization they work. While employees work in the same environment they are more likely to help and understand one and other. In group, employees have personality characteristics that tend to show more commitment for the organization. (Wesley, 2009). When sharing knowledge the employee’s behavior tends to put priority to their interests first and put themselves primary regardless of others. Some employees that have more cooperating characteristics than others show more interest in collaborating, exchanging knowledge and sharing ideas within the organization. (Chatman and Barsade, 1995). From the above findings, we can formulate the hypotheses as follows.

Hypotheses4: The Cooperativeness within the organization is related to knowledge sharing attitude

Subjective norms

Subjective norms (SN) have an influence on the behavior of the person when wanting to share knowledge. This impact might be positive or negative in some cases. Subjective norms can reflect on the perception of one’s behavior of knowledge sharing. If one don’t want to share knowledge but by the influence of the other pair, he/she will be encouraged to share knowledge with others. Subjective norms have an influence on behavioral intention. This is proved and supported by various literatures relying on the relationship of subjective norms and behavior intention. (Karahanna et al., 1999).

Hypotheses5: Subjective norms have an influence on knowledge sharing behavioral intention

Collecting and analyzing Data

This study began by conducting a survey with employees of different sectors from different organizations. The survey had mainly multiple questions from 1 (Strongly agree) to 5 (Strongly Disagree), there were some YES or NO questions also. The purpose of this survey was based on all five hypotheses that led to the main point of “Knowledge sharing behavioral intention”. This study was supported from the research question “How does the employee’s behavior influence knowledge sharing, either positively or negatively” and by conducting the survey this research question was proved right.

The survey was conducted mainly in three different organizations in two different countries. The countries that the survey was conducted are Kosovo and Thailand. The two organizations in Kosovo had different market segments where one was a private IT organization and the other was a private Bank. The organization in Thailand was also an IT organization. The survey was taken by 30 employees who eight were from Thailand and the rest were employees from Kosovo.

Collecting the demographic information showed us the similarities and differences of how people from two different countries express their behavior intention towards knowledge sharing. Below we have gathered the demographic information of the employees that took the survey.

Data

Number (N=30)

Percentage

Gender

Female

Male

20

10

68%

32%

Age

25 or under

26-40

41-55

13

15

1

42%

55%

3%

Marital Status

Married

Single

Living with someone

Would rather not say

7

17

5

1

23%

58%

16%

3%

Education

High school or equivalent

Bachelor’s degree

Master’s degree

Doctoral degree

3

17

9

1

10%

58%

29%

3%

Organization you work for

Public Sector

Private Sector

Non profit

17

12

1

58%

39%

3%

Table 1.Demographic Data

The demographic part was the first part of the survey, after completing this, the survey continued with the multiple questions based on our framework that was built from the TRA framework. To show how we have formulated the survey online, here is the link for a better view of our questionnaire: http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=enHYPERLINK "http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&formkey=dEtTdXc2X0ZLeHNWdWFhQ3pGTDFWWVE6MA"&HYPERLINK "http://spreadsheets.google.com/viewform?hl=en&formkey=dEtTdXc2X0ZLeHNWdWFhQ3pGTDFWWVE6MA"formkey=dEtTdXc2X0ZLeHNWdWFhQ3pGTDFWWVE6MA . After the survey was done, we have gathered all the data on the spreadsheet and proceeded with the measurements.

Measurements

Our measurements were done using SPSS 17.0 software. To test the Hypotheses we have used “one Sample T-student Test” which is commonly used for studies that are not too large, this in our case was a perfect match. This test is used for comparing the number of responders with the number of the hypothetical mean (Motulsky, 1999). To show if the hypothesis were statistically significant and if it had impact on this study, we were based on the Probability (P-value) results which is a statistically hypotheses test that shows if the given hypotheses is true. To do this we have compared the P-value to our level of test, and if the P-value is small than the test shows to be significant. The higher the P-value is the hypothesis is more likely to be rejected. The highest level of the P-value is p<0.05(Motulsky, 1999). Below there is a table with 5 hypothesis which their significance level were based on T-test value and P-value.

Hypothesis

Number (N=30)

T-value

P-Value

Significance level

Knowledge sharing attitude

30

10.3

P<0.0001***

Extremely statistically significant

Trust between coworkers in strong-ties

30

2.86

P<0.001**

Very statistically significant

Expected Return

30

1.6

P<0.01*

Statistically significant

Cooperativeness to organizational commitment

30

2.47

P<0.001*

Very statistically significant

The subjective part was analyzed by measuring the Yes and No question with 1 as a Yes and 0 as a No

Hypothesis

Number(N)

N of 1(YES)

N of 0 (No)

Other(don’t know)

Significance Level

Subjective Norms

30

25

0

5

Significant

*P<0.0001 (less than one in ten thousand chances of being wrong)

**P<0.001 (less than one in a thousand chances of being wrong)

***P<0.01 (less than one in a hundred chances of being wrong)

Table 2. Significance level of the Hypotheses

Subjective norms were tested by the quantity of people who responded with a positive answer. The subjective norms were based in two questions which are in the following: “My manager thinks that I should share my knowledge” and “My colleague’s thinks that I should share my knowledge”. The two questions were formed with Yes and No choices. The measurements were based on the positive answer. If the majority of respondents have answered with a Yes than the Hypothesis 5 would be significant. As it is seen in table 2, the majority of answers for Subjective Norms (H5) were Yes while no responded have given a negative answer (No). Five responders out of 30 have answered “Don’t Know” as another option. This shows that the subjective norms have influence in knowledge sharing behavior.

Regarding table 2 all of the hypotheses are statistically significant, which means that all of the hypothesis influence knowledge sharing behavioral. Furthermore we have also done a probability test using Cronbach’s Alpha. Table 3 shows the cronbach’s alpha for each of the hypothesis except hypothesis 5 (H5). The reason why hypothesis 5 was not tested using cronbach’s alpha is because the questions addressed for the mentioned hypothesis were YES or NO questions.

The reliability of the alpha is tested when the cronbach’s alpha is higher than 0.7. As seen in the table below, the cronbach’s alpha is above 0.7 for the three first hypotheses, which means that the entire three hypotheses are highly reliable. If the cronbach’s alpha is lower than 0.7 and in our case this occurred in the fourth hypothesis (H4) then we have to delete some questions that are not reliable for the hypothesis. In the aforementioned hypothesis we have deleted one question so that the reliability can be higher. The question apposed for hypothesis four (H4) was: “I would prefer to work independently rather that in a group”. Most of the answers were negative in a sense that people would rather work in a group than independently. Moreover the hypothesis can still be measured even if the question mentioned has been removed.

Data N=30

Cronbach’s α

Nr. Of Questions

Deleted Questions

Cronbach’s αmodification

Knowledge sharing attitude

0.794

4

X

0.794

Trust between coworkers in strong-ties

0.772

4

X

0.772

Expected Return

0.868

3

X

0.868

Cooperativeness to organizational commitment

0.174

4

1

0.848

Table 3.

Conclusion

Contribution to motivate the employees to share knowledge

Appendix A:

Scale

Measurements

Resources

Knowledge Sharing Attitude

I think that knowledge sharing is valuable

I believe that knowledge sharing will have a good impact in the environment I work

I believe that knowledge sharing is a smart act and will help me learn more

I believe that knowledge sharing will impact my performance of work

Kinshuk et al. (2009)

Trust between co-workers in Strong-ties

I have trust and faith on my co-workers

I have good relations with my co-workers

I consider my co-workers can do the job right

I consider my co-workers as untruthful at times

Chieh-Pen (2007), Yilmaz and Hunt (2001)

Expected Return

When I share knowledge with co-workers I expect something valuable in return

When I share knowledge I hope to increase my knowledge

When I share knowledge I excpect a reward from my organization as a good performance

Wesley at al.(2009)

Cooperativeness to organizational commitment

I like to be cooperative with other co-workers in my organization

I would prefer to work independently rather that in a group

I make a good team with my co-workers in different duties

My co-workers and I exchange knowledge in the office

I ask my co-workers for advice in different projects

Yilmaz and Hunt(2001), Manev and Stevenson (2001)

Subjective Norms

My manager thinks that I should share my knowledge

My colleagues think that I should share my knowledge

Chen et al. (2009)

Table : Measurement Items

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