The success of companies is strongly dependant on their ability to create, disseminate and use different forms of information. Business administrators regard knowledge management (KM) as one of the prerequisites for the competitiveness of enterprises (McDermott and O’Dell 2001). This paper will discuss several questions related to the implementation of KM in the workplace. Firstly, much attention should be paid to the influence of human resource management (HRM) on KM policies.
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Furthermore, it is necessary to examine the relations between organisational culture and KM. Finally, this essay will describe communities of practice (CoP) as one of the approaches to KM. This discussion will be based on the practices of Sainsbury’s, one of the largest retailers in the United Kingdom. Overall, business administrators should adopt policies that can create incentives and opportunities for sharing knowledge; in this way, they can increase employees’ readiness for various tasks and promote their professional growth.
Sainsbury’s was established in 1869, and since that time, it has grown into one of the most successful retailers in the United Kingdom (Martin 2016). The company sells various goods produced by other businesses. Furthermore, Sainsbury’s sells some products manufactured by its subsidiaries. It serves millions of British consumers, primarily middle-income people. At present, this corporation employs 186,900 people; they work in 1423 stores operated by the company (Sainsbury’s Group, 2018).
This company holds about 16.9 per cent of the UK grocery market share (Sainsbury’s Group, 2018). In terms of the market share, Sainsbury’s is the second-largest chain of supermarkets in the country. The sales of this organisation equal £ 28.456 billion (Sainsbury’s Group, 2018). Overall, Sainsbury’s has been able to strengthen its position in the retail industry.
Children in Need
Children in Need (2017) is a charity founded and managed by the BBC. This organisation was established in 1980; its primary goal is to raise funds to support children who may be affected by different socio-economic difficulties (Amarteifio 2013). For instance, they focus on the implementation of projects that target children who became victims of domestic neglect and abuse. Additionally, this charity works on the development of programs that assist individuals struggling with disabilities (Children in Need 2017). In many cases, this organisation is not directly involved in the development and implementation of projects. As a rule, it supports those groups that directly assist vulnerable populations. Currently, this agency has 136 employees; moreover, its activities are supported by 250 volunteers (Children in Need 2017). It has been able to generate an income of £ 67.7 million (Children in Need 2017). Nevertheless, this revenue is spent on various charitable activities and projects.
How HRM Practices affect KM
The Concept of HRM and Its Elements
To a large degree, the efficiency of KM is determined by the HRM policies adopted by the enterprise. The concept of HRM is used to describe various initiatives aimed at strengthening the commitment of workers and providing them with the resources required for adequate performance (Paauwe and Farndale 2017). It should be noted that HRM includes various practices, including recruitment, training, performance appraisal, remuneration and job design (Paauwe and Farndale 2017). In part, each of them can impact the way in which employees use knowledge and information.
The Influence of Recruitment and Retention on KM
There are several ways in which HR practices can impact KM. Firstly, scholars focus on the role of recruitment (Hislop et al., 2018). In many cases, businesses prefer to hire those applicants who are ready to communicate with co-workers and share knowledge or expertise with them (Hislop et al., 2018). As a rule, such candidates can better contribute to various KM initiatives in organisations (Hislop et al., 2018).
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If HR managers take this factor into account while recruiting employees, they can create an environment in which knowledge sharing is habitual and widespread. By contrast, the failure to consider this issue can stifle communication in the workplace and prevent businesses from growing. Researchers also focus on the retention of employees as one of the conditions for effective KM (Hislop et al., 2018).
Companies that strive to retain experienced and competent workers are more likely to make full use of the knowledge acquired by these people. In these businesses, skilled employees share their experiences with newcomers and prepare them for potential difficulties. At the same time, the companies with a high employee turnover do not make full use of the expertise gained by their workers. As a result, their performance deteriorates substantially.
The Impact of Performance Measurement and Remuneration on KM
Moreover, practitioners regard performance measurement and remuneration as the factors influencing KM. Very often, businesses try to offer incentives for active participation in KM. For instance, while assessing the performance of a worker, HR managers strive to determine if he/she is willing to share knowledge with co-workers. Moreover, they reward the initiatives of those people who help their colleagues or play an active role in the dissemination of various innovations (Hislop et al., 2018). Conversely, the absence of these incentives tends to have a negative impact on KM in the firm. In particular, workers are unwilling to support the KM initiatives undertaken by managers.
Training and Job design
Furthermore, it is vital to remember the role of training and job design in improving the effectiveness of KM. At first, one should focus on various programs helping employees acquire or develop their skills. These practices ensure that employees can quickly learn about the practices and methods developed by the company (Pandey 2016). Such activities are also essential for identifying potential difficulties and enabling workers to avoid these hardships (Pandey 2016).
Job design can also have a strong effect on KM in the company (Hislop et al., 2018). Workplace activities should be designed in such a way that facilitates the exchange of information between different stakeholders in the organisation. For instance, employees should have an opportunity to contact their managers when it is necessary to address various problems. Furthermore, they should be provided with information resources that will help them find relevant guidelines and instructions as quickly as possible. In this case, workers are more likely to learn from the experiences of their colleagues.
Training at Sainsbury’s and Its Role in KM
These theoretical discussions can be illustrated by examining the practices of Sainsbury’s. To some extent, the HRM policies of this retailer are aimed at improving KM. In particular, the management of this company focuses on the role of training as an important prerequisite of KM (Jenkins and Williamson 2015). For instance, this company gives law courses to middle managers. In this way, the executives ensure that the employees of Sainsbury’s know about the most recent legislative changes. Furthermore, the employees of this company are given the opportunity to learn about the emerging trends in marketing and procurement.
Many of them are also allowed to take part in the leadership programs launched by the company (Jenkins and Williamson 2015). Thus, they can assume new roles in the organisation and improve its performance. One should keep in mind that this training is provided by the in-house teams consisting of lawyers and procurement managers. These initiatives undertaken by the managers of Sainsbury’s are directly related to KM. In particular, they are supposed to ensure that the expertise developed by some employees can benefit their colleagues.
Recruitment Policies of Sainsbury’s and Their Implications for KM
Furthermore, this firm adopts a recruitment strategy that facilitates KM. In many cases, this corporation gives preference to internal recruitment; in other words, HR managers tend to select those candidates who have already worked in the company (International HRM 2013). As a rule, this approach is used in those cases when the organisation has to find a person who will assume managerial positions (International HRM 2013). Such a policy helps Sainsbury’s find those managers who know about the experiences of employees as well as the challenges that they face. Moreover, this strategy helps to preserve the knowledge of the frontline personnel. Such steps are indirectly related to KM; to a great extent, they make it easier for leaders and followers to share knowledge with each other.
Retention Practices of Sainsbury’s and Their Effect on KM
Additionally, the executives of Sainsbury’s recognise the importance of retaining employees. This task is vital for retaining the knowledge and skills of the most competent workers. Moreover, this method improves the acquisition of skills by newcomers who have an opportunity to interact with more experienced colleagues. This is why the executives of Sainsbury implement policies that can motivate workers to stay in the company. For instance, they provide accommodations to employees who have children (Sainsbury’s Group 2017). They also support the individuals who struggle with disabilities (Sainsbury’s Group 2017).
Additionally, Sainsbury’s implements a reward program that encourages the most competent professionals to stay (Sainsbury’s Group 2017). Such steps are supposed to minimise the loss of knowledge acquired by workers. It is important to remember that this firm has to recruit thousands of employees every year. Many people prefer to work in retail chains only on a part-time basis. From their perspective, the work at Sainsbury’s is only the beginning of their career. Therefore, these businesses have to deal with a high employee turnover. However, the management of Sainsbury’s attempts to adopt those HR practices contributing to more effective KM.
The Implications of Culture for KM
Organisational Culture and Its Components
Organisational culture is one of the factors that shape KM practices adopted by managers. This concept can be described as a set of values, ethical principles, beliefs and assumptions shared by the workers of an enterprise (McDermott and O’Dell 2001). Culture is reflected in many official declarations of the company; for instance, it is possible to consider its mission statement (McDermott and O’Dell 2001). It also impacts informal relations between different stakeholders (McDermott and O’Dell 2001). For example, this factor influences the relations between managers and subordinates, people’s willingness to share information, their teamwork and so forth. Furthermore, culture determines workers’ attitudes towards their colleagues. KM is one of the areas that are strongly affected by organisational culture.
The Influence of Collectivism and Trust on KM
Researchers choose to distinguish several dimensions of culture and discuss their impacts on KM. Scholars note that certain characteristics of companies are more likely to improve KM in the workplace. For instance, a company is usually more effective at KM if its culture emphasises the need for cooperation, mutual trust and teamwork (Chen et al. 2016). In such companies, employees are more willing to communicate with their colleagues and share information that will help other people improve their performance (Chen et al. 2016). In this case, KM initiatives of the management are more readily embraced by workers.
The impact of Individualism on KM
By contrast, the emphasis on individualism and competitiveness can sometimes prevent businesses from establishing effective KM policies. It can make workers more concerned about their own success rather than the performance of their team (Chen et al., 2016). They may regard their colleagues as potential competitors who may eventually take their jobs. Moreover, before sharing knowledge, they will think about the benefits that this action can bring to them (Chen et al. 2016). Hence, sometimes, they may be reluctant to participate in KM initiatives. Business administrators should be aware of these threats and introduce safeguards that can prevent employees from acting in this way.
Much attention should be given to the role of power distance. This concept can be defined as the degree to which people can accept inequalities in the workplace. This aspect of organisational is important for explaining the relations between leaders and their followers. In organisations with low power distance, employees are more ready to express opinions that contradict the decisions of leaders (Benscik 2017).
They tend to perceive their managers as partners (Benscik 2017). By contrast, people working in companies with high power distance tend to regard managers as superiors whose decisions should not be questioned or criticised. Lower power distance ensures that people can raise concerns about potential problems or mistakes as quickly as possible. Additionally, they tend to participate in workplace discussions more actively. In this environment, workers have many opportunities for sharing their knowledge. By contrast, if power distance is high, employees may be reluctant to communicate with their managers and discuss existing problems. Consequently, their knowledge and expertise do not contribute to the improvement of performance.
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Alternative Opinions on the Influence of Organisational Culture
Other scholars adopt a different approach to the discussion of organisational culture. They do not regard culture as a facilitator or an impediment to KM (McDermott and O’Dell 2001). From their perspective, organisational culture is the product of different factors like the size of the company, its operations, competitive environment and so forth. Hence, it should not be described as a positive or negative phenomenon.
Instead, KM practices should be adjusted to the values, beliefs and assumptions accepted by workers (McDermott and O’Dell 2001). Inefficiencies in KM arise when the company is unable to devise strategies that can fit the existing organisational culture (McDermott and O’Dell 2001). Although these approaches are different, each of them demonstrates that culture shapes different aspects of KM. In their turn, business administrators should take these factors into account while designing organisational policies; otherwise, their initiatives will not produce the expected results.
The Culture of Sainsbury’s as a For-Profit Organisation
One should examine KM in for-profit and not-for-profit organisations because their distinctions are important for explaining the impacts of culture on KM. Sainsbury’s can be seen as an example of a for-profit organisation. Although this company emphasises the importance of social responsibility, its management has to focus on revenues (Sainsbury’s Group 2017). The culture of this enterprise can be compared with Children in Need, a not-for-profit organisation. There are several critical differences between these agencies. Firstly, for-profit agencies are driven by the necessity to improve their financial performance and increase revenues.
This task is one of the top priorities for the managers of Sainsbury’s since they are accountable to shareholders (Sainsbury’s Group 2017). Furthermore, these executives always have to consider the danger of competition posed by other large retailers such as TESCO or ASDA. As a result, the culture of Sainsbury’s has to be result-driven. This company has greater incentives for developing efficient KM strategies; otherwise, its performance can deteriorate in the future.
The Culture of Children in Need
The cultural characteristics of not-for-profit organisations are different. Such institutions as Children in Need are supposed to maximise social welfare rather than their revenues (Amarteifio 2013). Furthermore, unlike businesses, they do not always have to face competition. More likely, they tend to regard other not-for-profit organisations as potential partners. This is why the employees of Children in Need are less pressured to focus on immediate results. As a result, this institution may adopt KM practices more slowly.
Resources of For-Profit and Not-For-Profit Organisations
It is also critical to speak about the resources available to profit and not-for-profit organisations. Businesses like Sainsbury’s can generate revenues independently. They can invest more capital in recruiting and retaining the most competent employees. Hence, they can better ensure that knowledge is passed from experienced workers to newcomers. Additionally, they can allocate greater financial resources to the development of the information infrastructure supporting KM. By contrast, not-for-profit institutions such as Children in Need depend on external sources of revenues. For example, they are dependent on governments and private institutions (Children in Need 2017).
In many cases, there are significant budget constraints that their management has to recognise. Moreover, many of their employees work only on a part-time basis (Children in Need 2017). Thus, there are fewer opportunities for improving KM.
The Strengths of Culture in Not-For-Profit Organisations
Nevertheless, there are some important cultural characteristics of not-for-profit organisations that can help them succeed in KM. In many cases, their employees are people who are not concerned only about their compensation or revenues. Very often, they work as unpaid volunteers whose major priority is the welfare of other people (Children in Need 2017). This argument is particularly relevant to institutions like Children in Need. Those people, who join this agency, do not perceive their co-workers as potential competitors. Therefore, they are more willing to share knowledge with their colleagues.
From their viewpoint, such a step is essential for maximising the wellbeing of people served by the organisation. They may pay more attention to the needs of newcomers. If managers take full advantage of these characteristics, they will implement more effective KM policies. Hence, it is possible to say that institutions like Children in Need tend to be more collectivistic. This is why there are fewer impediments to effective KM.
The Similarities between Children in Need and Sainsbury’s
Despite these differences, one can still argue that Sainsbury’s and Children in Need have recognised the importance of KM. Their managers understand that KM policies are essential for avoiding various mistakes that workers can make on a regular basis. Additionally, these practices are vital for understanding the needs of the people whom these institutions serve. By sharing knowledge with each other, employees can better understand the problems faced by the organisation. This is why the management of these institutions adopt various techniques to improve the use and dissemination of knowledge.
CoPs and Their Benefits
The Major Attributes of CoPs
There are several approaches to KM, and one of them is the creation of communities of practice or CoPs. This term can be defined as a group of individuals who have the same professional background and engage in collaborative learning activities (Agrifoglio 2015). As a rule, the members of these groups work on similar tasks even though they are not always co-workers (Agrifoglio 2015). The interactions of these professionals often enable them to acquire new knowledge and skills. CoPs can be created within organisations, yet, very often, they can exist in a virtual environment.
Sharing Best Practices
CoPs can play several critical roles in KM. Firstly, this cooperation is critical for identifying and sharing the best practices. By participating in a CoP, a person can avoid the mistakes made by other practitioners (Agrifoglio 2015). He/she will better anticipate the pitfalls that prevent a worker from professional goals. More importantly, this person can see how these risks can be minimised. Thus, his/her work will become more effective in the long run.
Such interactions can also facilitate the spread of innovations in different institutions. This argument applies to those cases when one of the practitioners tries to introduce new ideas or methods of solving existing problems (Agrifoglio 2015). The member of a CoP can get the opportunity for promoting his/her ideas and receiving the feedback of other practitioners. In their turn, participants can make use of these ideas and improve them.
Avoiding Widespread Mistakes
There are other important functions performed by CoPs; in particular, such communities can help people adapt to the requirements set by their employers. By learning from the experiences of other people, an individual can better understand the expectations of businesses and not-for-profit organisations (Agrifoglio 2015). Furthermore, he/she can avoid the mistakes that are normally made by inexperienced employees. Thus, the creation of CoPs is a valuable approach that managers should consider to improve the performance of workers.
The Dissemination of Tacit Knowledge
While examining the benefits of CoPs, one should also mention the transfer of tacit knowledge. The concept is used to describe the knowledge that cannot be easily codified or verbalised (Canestrino and Magliocca 2016). In many cases, it cannot be found in guides, textbooks, or statutes. For instance, in some cases, tacit knowledge can be related to the most optimal ways of performing different tasks.
A person usually acquires this knowledge only after many years of work and learning from one’s mistakes (Canestrino and Magliocca 2016). Nevertheless, in some cases, workers can acquire tacit knowledge by communicating and interacting with more experienced professionals. CoPs are useful because they create an environment in which different professionals can interact with each other (Canestrino and Magliocca 2016). This approach to KM should not be compared to training because, in this case, the activities of learners are not guided by an educator. In their turn, business administrators should foster the creation of CoPs to promote the development of employees’ skills.
Involving the Employees of Sainsbury’s in a Virtual CoP
By relying on CoPs, Sainsbury’s can acquire new opportunities; in particular, such groups can contribute to the development and improvements of the services and products provided by this corporation. For instance, the management of Sainsbury can create a CoP for the marketers who understand the expectations and needs of clients. By communicating with each other, they can identify the products that will be of great use to customers. The strategy for the creation of a CoP has to stress several aspects. Firstly, the management should not describe participation in a CoP as a duty imposed on employees (Hislop et al., 2018).
If such an approach is adopted, Sainsbury’s will not benefit from creating a CoP. Workers will not be genuinely committed to the goals set by the management. Sometimes, they can make some valuable contributions; however, they will perceive the participation in the CoP as some burdensome activity. As a result, they will eventually lose the intrinsic motivation for joining such groups. Thus, the management has to explain the benefits of CoPs and encourage employees to join such groups.
The Rules Governing the Interactions of CoP Members
Additionally, business administrators should establish the rules that should be followed by the members of CoPs. In particular, the leaders of these groups should not impose their opinions on those participants who take a less active part in the discussion. It is important to bear in mind that the members of CoPs should regard each other as equals and colleagues. They should not perceive each other as leaders and subordinates. Such perceptions will make some people reluctant to participate in discussions. Moreover, every member should be encouraged to identify the limitations of the solutions or decisions advocated by the majority.
This precaution is critical for avoiding groupthink or the situation in which individuals are reluctant to disagree with other people even if their arguments are wrong. If this problem is not properly addressed, the CoP is unlikely to offer new solutions or unconventional ideas.
Designing the Information Portal for the Members of a CoP
Secondly, the executives of Sainsbury’s should clearly identify and meet the needs of the people involved in the CoP. For instance, it is necessary to design an information portal in which the participants can pose questions or express ideas that may contribute to the development of new products and services. One should design a website that can adequately support the interactions of people involved in the CoP. The end-users should be involved in the design of this portal; their participation will be essential for ensuring that the virtual CoP will function effectively.
Mediating the Discussions in a CoP
Furthermore, it is essential to identify the duties of those people who will lead the CoP. These people should be able to act as mediators of different discussions held by the members of the group. Furthermore, they will be responsible for identifying and gathering the most valuable suggestions that will facilitate the development of different products and services. This step is critical for taking full advantage of the ideas generated by the members of the CoP. Those professionals, who will guide the work of the CoP, should impartially evaluate the activities of others. This skill will be crucial for identifying the most valuable contributions.
Rewarding the Contributions of Employees
The employees, whose recommendations will be used for the development of products and services, should be rewarded by the management. This policy will enhance the commitment of people to the CoP and improvement of KM policies. Employees usually join CoPs on a voluntary basis; they do not always expect to receive monetary compensations for their activities. Nevertheless, by recognising and rewarding such initiatives, the management can better involve workers in KM activities (Pandey 2016). In this case, one should not speak only about financial compensation received by a worker.
Very often, managers can strengthen this person’s motivation by acknowledging his/her initiatives and contributions. This individual will see that his/her efforts are appreciated by the management. Sometimes, such non-monetary rewards can be rather effective. On the whole, the management of Sainsbury’s should understand the factors that determine the level of employees’ commitment to a task. In this way, they can ensure that the virtual CoP helps the company introduce new products.
The advantages of the Proposed Strategy
The proposed recommendations will help Sainsbury’s gain several advantages. Firstly, it will ensure that skilled professionals can freely express opinions that will improve the products and services of the organisation. In the long run, their cooperation can lead to innovative goods that can be put on the market. Secondly, these recommendations will provide incentives for participating in the CoP.
Furthermore, it will assist the company in avoiding the problems that often diminish the effectiveness of KM practices. If the executives of Sainsbury’s take these recommendations into account, they will create CoPs that will contribute to the improvement and development of products. On the whole, this discussion indicates that managers should foster the creation of CoPs in their organisations. This approach to KM will enable businesses to make the most of the skills that their workers have developed.
KM initiatives are important for improving the performance of businesses. These policies enable businesses to retain and use the knowledge of their employees. The efficiency of KM policies is determined by several factors, including HRM practices of the company and its organisational culture. Businesses should consider the use of such a technique as CoP since it contributes to the collection and generation of valuable ideas. The management of Sainsbury should regard KM as one of the critical conditions for the sustainable performance of this firm.
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