Professor Ingi Runar Edvardsson University of Akureyri, Iceland
Occasional Paper 14 Department of Human Resource Management University of Strathclyde 2003
Knowledge Management and Creative HRM
Introduction Knowledge management (KM) is about developing, sharing and applying knowledge within the organization to gain and sustain a competitive advantage (Petersen and Poulfelt 2002). How, then, is human resource management (HRM) related to knowledge management? Scholars have argued recently that knowledge is dependent on people and that HRM issues, such as recruitment and selection, education and development, performance management, pay and reward, as well as the creation of a learning culture are vital for managing knowledge within firms (Evans 2003; Carter and Scarbrough 2001; Currie and Kerrin 2003; Hunter et al 2002; Robertson and Hammersley 2000). Stephen Little, Paul Quintas and Tim Ray go as far as to trace the origin of KM to changes in HRM practices: One of the key factors in the growth of interest in knowledge management in the 1990s was the rediscovery that employees have skills and knowledge that are not available to (or ´captured´ by) the organization. It is perhaps no coincidence that this rediscovery of the central importance of people as possessors of knowledge vital to the organization followed an intense period of corporate downsizing, outsourcing and staff redundancies in the West in the 1980s (2002: 299). The aim of this paper is, first, to analyse which impact HRM practices, such as strategy, selection and hiring, training, performance management, and remuneration have on the creation and distribution of knowledge within firms. Second, the paper attempts to assess whe ther or not knowledge management requires a particular human resource strategy. This paper is a work in progress based on a literature review. However, at the end of the paper a synthesis of previous debate is presented to enrich the theoretical debates. Knowledge Management The popularity of KM has increased rapidly, especially after 1996, and it has become a central topic of management philosophy and a management tool. This popularity is reflected in the growing number of articles and books on the topic. In 1995 there were 45 articles about knowledge management in the ABI/Information database, 158 in 1998, and in 2002 the number has increased to 835 (Edvardsson, 2003; Petersen and Poulfelt 2002). Specific journals have even been established. In 1997, the Journal of Knowledge Management and Knowledge and Process Management were introduced, and the Journal of Intellectual Capital was introduced in 2000 (Petersen and Poulfelt 2002). Many organisations have also introduced knowledge management programmes. A recent KPMG survey of 423 leading European and American companies found that 68 per cent of respondents were undertaking some kind of KM imitative (KPMG 2000). Another recent UK survey found that 64 per cent of the responding firms had introduced KM and 24 per cent were at the introduction stage (Moffett et al. 2003).
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Scarbrough and Swan (2001) argue that the rise and growth of KM is one of the managerial responses to the empirical trends associated with globalisation and postindustrialism. These trends include the growth of knowledge worker occupations, and technological advances created by ICT. In organisational terms, they argue, this new era is characterised by flatter structures, debureaucratisation and ‘virtual’ or networked organisational forms. As already noted Little, Quintas and Ray (2002) point out that outsourcing and staff redundancies made organisations vulnerable regarding the knowledge of core processes. Kluge et al. (2001) ague that the value of knowledge tends to perish quickly over time and that companies need to speed up innovation and enhance creativity...