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“Knowledge”, “knowledge management”, “social media”, all these terms have become very popular and even “trendy” expressions frequently used in business. In part, they reflect the increasingly influential shift from an industrial economy to a knowledge economy facilitated by accelerated social change and technological changes in such areas as broadband communications, social media, mobile technologies, and so on. In this context, organizations are faced with an unpredictable economic environment that is becoming increasingly competitive. Furthermore knowledge is increasingly seen as the most important strategic asset and individual knowledge workers play central role in the creation of value by organizations and the development of their strategies. Organizations have an urgent need to focus on innovation with respect new products and services. A fundamental precursor to such innovation is effective knowledge sharing. Of the knowledge possessed by an organization, a significant proportion is in the possession of individual knowledge workers. Thus, it is important to understand what encourages individuals to share their knowledge and what holds them back from sharing knowledge. Although individuals might recognize the importance of knowledge management practices for the success of their daily business life, it might be postulated that their propensity to share knowledge depends on their personal demographic characteristics such as their age. When organizations understand the determinants of knowledge sharing, effective management technologies can be implemented to improve productivity and competitiveness. Social media provide increasingly flexible and powerful channels for collaboration. Furthermore, social media has allowed individuals to contribute to number of issues and generated new possibilities and challenges to facilitate collaboration. Thus, the potential advantage of embracing and implementing social media by organizations is very significant. However, individuals may be reticent to make use of social media because they may not appreciate the power of social media or be concerned with security of reliability. In addition, many organisations do not favour their employees using social media because they may be concerned about the risks and consequences of a potential misuse. The study reported in this paper was conducted with the help of organizations operating in Hungary, applying quantitative research methods. Data was obtained from a total of 299 individuals who completed an online, web-based questionnaire. The survey supports the investigation of how social media technologies are being used for knowledge sharing during work and examines the characteristics of the different generations using these tools by exploring willingness of employees to participate in knowledge sharing. An analysis of the data show that Hungarian organizations prefer not to allow the usage of external social media; but where


VOLUME 4 • ISSUE 1 (MARCH 2015) the employees are encouraged to use social media tools a high proportion of them do. The paper also provides recommendations to the organizations as to how to motivate employees to use social media technologies for knowledge sharing in a work environment. The subsequent paper provides a short summary of the empirical study, practical implications and potential new research directions.


Knowledge has always seen as potentially one of the key strategic resources that can be the basis for developing sustained long-term competitive advantage for organizations. Knowledge is necessary basis for individual and organizational understanding and facilitate the ability of individual and organizations to act effectively. Knowledge both provides support for regular organizational routines as well as enabling employees to respond to new situations and develop new strategies. Organizations that need to thrive, compete, and operate in an ever changing and evolving environment, cannot leave the development of knowledge within the organization to chance. The exchange of information and knowledge among employees is a vital part of knowledge management. As a result, organizations are faced with the challenge how to get people to share their knowledge.

For several decades, the world’s best-known forecasters of social change have predicted the emergence of a new economy where brainpower and knowledge, not traditional sources of energy and machine power is the critical resource. However, this future is already here and the knowledge economy has arrived. This evolving era is characterized by rapid change and uncertainty, the increasing importance of knowledge and knowledge management and the popularity of new information technologies that have the potential to radically change the way organization do business.

The single most significant technological development in the last 20 years has been the Internet. The Internet makes it possible for individuals to connect, collaborate and share knowledge, information, document, photo, video, etc. continuously with anyone in the world.

Furthermore, people are able to make use of social media tools in order to increase range and richness of their networks, gather information and nowadays, increasingly organizations are finding ways of integrating social media into their business processes (Gaál et al., 2014).

If majority of people use something on a daily basis, it is natural for the companies to use it as a marketing channel. In addition it is natural for human resource managers to check applicants social networking profiles in addition to their CVs. Actually, we would argue that every aspect of doing business is potentially influenced by these new technologies, such as social media and knowledge management processes and techniques.



As we have noted above organizations have started to use social media tools to facilitate communication, collaboration and knowledge sharing. It is, however, often assumed that the younger generation have a greater willingness to use social media. Baby boomers were the first generation to grow up with the television and a time of dramatic social change. In contrast, members of Generation X have grown up with a rapidly changing technology and most of them are skilled at understanding and using technologies and adapting to new platforms.

Generation Y individuals have grown up considering the Internet, instant messaging, and social media as integral components of their natural environment (McHenry – Ash, 2013).

Some surveys have examined the extent to which differences exist among the generations (McHenry – Ash, 2013; Busch et al., 2008), but none of them has investigated how these differences influence the willingness to use these technologies for knowledge sharing. In general, there has been some research about traditional knowledge sharing (Bock et al., 2005;

Hansen et al., 2005; Quigley et al., 2007). Some researchers have investigated the use of social media in the workplace for sharing knowledge. There has also been research investigating how IT systems, more generally, have been used to share knowledge (Günther et al., 2009).

Knowledge management

As we have noted above knowledge is becoming a strategically important resource and a very significant driver of organizational performance (Yesil – Dereli, 2013). Either located in the minds of the individuals (tacit knowledge) (Polanyi, 1966), embedded in organizational routines and norms, codified in technological devices (explicit knowledge) (Nonaka – Takeuchi, 1995), knowledge enables the development of new competences (Choo, 1998).

Successful companies are those that consistently create new knowledge, disseminate this knowledge throughout the organization, and embody it in technologies, products and services (Gottschalk, 2007; Gaál et al., 2009).

Knowledge management describes the processes of acquiring, developing, sharing, exploiting and protecting organizational knowledge to improve organizations’ competitiveness.

Negroponte (1995) conceived the concept of “knowledge” as the most recent input factor for business organizations and a key to their future competitiveness. A review of the research literature in Knowledge Management provides many definitions of knowledge and knowledge management distributed among numerous important journals, studies and books.

Our research group adopted the definition of knowledge management utilized by KPMG (2003, p. 4) namely: “knowledge management is a systematic and organised approach to improve the organisation’s ability to mobilise knowledge to enhance performance”.


VOLUME 4 • ISSUE 1 (MARCH 2015) Many organizations and institutions have recognized the importance of knowledge and knowledge management to the future performance of both businesses and society. For example, the report Europe 2020 sets out a new vision of Europe’s social market economy for the 21st century. One of the priorities it puts forward is the promotion of smart growth, that is, developing an economy based on knowledge and innovation. Such smart growth requires among others things the promoting of innovation and knowledge transfer, making full use of information and communication technologies and ensuring that innovative ideas can be turned into new products and services (European Commission, 2010). The emergence of the knowledge economy and the recognition of knowledge as a key factor in the achievement of competitive advantage are making it critical to understand and develop effective approaches to knowledge management.

Organizations around the world have focused on knowledge management and have already developed knowledge management programs in order to improve their performance with varying degrees of success. Clearly one important set of activities involves the defining knowledge and constructing the metrics to assess how effectively an organization is managing (sharing) its knowledge (intellectual capital). The development of this definition and the creation of metrics is clearly challenging but is a necessary first step towards improving knowledge management practices since it has been cogently argued that one cannot improve what one cannot somehow measure (Gaál et al., 2008).

Although a standard global approach to knowledge management does not exist three general activities involved in knowledge management have been identified. These activities are integrated together into the overall knowledge management process. The three major activities are (Figure 1): 1) knowledge capture and/or creation, 2) knowledge sharing and dissemination, 3) knowledge acquisition and application (Dalkir, 2005).

Knowledge sharing

To ensure the success and long-term survival of any organizations effective knowledge sharing is of critical importance (Gaál et al., 2008). Knowledge sharing is potentially a twoway process, in which one entity (individual, team, department, etc.) has access to skills, competencies another entity (individual, team, department, etc.) is provided with access to information and may itself provide information in return (Mohannak - Hutchings, 2007). The nature of the information which is shared depends, in part of the experience of the parties involved (Argote et al., 2000). Knowledge sharing is a two-way process between the knowledge giver(s) and the knowledge receiver(s), who as participants of knowledge sharing, exchange the knowledge found in their minds or the knowledge found in electronic or paper NÓRA OBERMAYER-KOVÁCS – ANTHONY WENSLEY 39


Figure 1. Integrated knowledge management cycle Source: Dalkir, K. 2005. p. 43.

documents (Gaál et al., 2013). The knowledge sharing process is of mutual benefit to the participants involved (Csepregi, 2012).

Knowledge sharing is characterized by communication processes and information flows.

In many social situations knowledge sharing is a common activity but knowledge sharing within an organization tends to be a complex and complicated issue and, as a result, needs to be actively managed. Knowledge sharing is typically focused on activities that involve providing information and knowledge to assist others in solving problems, develop new ideas, or implement processes (Cummings, 2004).

Previous research has suggested that there are three generations of knowledge sharing (Bellefroid, 2012):

• The first generation: the traditional way of knowledge sharing is the concept of codification (Hansen et al., 1999) and storage. This way can easily be supported by information technologies.

• The second generation: focuses on the social component, personalization (Hansen et al., 1999), the way people co-operate and communicate. Formal and informal opportunities to share knowledge can be used like mentoring, coaching or face-to-face meetings. Codification is mostly used as a starting point, were new employees can find out what others know and what knowledge is available. Personalization is used to see the application of the available knowledge.



• The third generation: social networks provide a new way to get in touch with experts and to search for knowledge outside the organization. Using social media tools enable less physical contact between employees.

Knowledge sharing is the process by which the knowledge possessed by individuals is converted into a form that can be understood and used by other individuals. Research has also

proposed that there are four factors that influence knowledge sharing (Ipe, 2003):

1. The nature of the knowledge – tacit form: located in the individual’s mind (Polányi, 1966) – explicit form: embedded in organizational routines and norms, codified in technological devices (Nonaka – Takeuchi, 1995).

2. The motivation to share – internal factors: perceived power (Gray, 2001) and reciprocity (Davenport – Prusak, 1998) – external factors: relationship with the recipient and rewards for sharing (Hall, 2001)

3. The existence of sharing opportunities – formal: training programs, team works, technology-based systems – informal: personal relationships and social networks

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