Organizational Identification: The Impact on Knowledge Sharing

Subject: Employee Management
Pages: 10
Words: 2851
Reading time:
12 min
Study level: PhD


The emergence of economic knowledge has led to significant transformation with regard to the importance of knowledge as an organisational asset. Firms in different economic sectors have become concerned on how to develop their knowledge base, which has led to the integration of knowledge management as one of the management practices. This research identifies organisational identification as one of the most effective ways through which organisations can encourage and empower their employees to share knowledge. The study focuses on how firms can improve organisational identification through incorporation of various elements, factors, and practices. Some of the variables considered in the study relate to the establishment of a shared vision, high degree of collaboration amongst employees, and development of trust. Additionally, integration of effective management practices such as leadership and communication are some of the major factors that contribute to improvement of organisational identification. Creation of effective knowledge sharing can enhance a firm’s competitiveness by enhancing utilisation of employees’ knowledge, which forms the basis of product innovation, problem solving, and decision-making.


Knowledge is categorised amongst the most important intangible organisational assets due to its invaluable characteristic as a source of organisations’ capability to create and deliver sufficient value. Consequently, it is fundamental for organisations to ensure that they institute valuable Knowledge Management (KM) processes, which are in many occasions a challenging task (Jong & Gutteling 2006). One definition of KM entails sharing, retention, acquisition, and utilisation of knowledge across or within the organisation. With regard to human resource management perspective, KM constitutes the various practices or processes of capturing, creating, sharing, and utilising knowledge (Al-adaileh 2011). Effective KM requires firms to integrate a number of initiatives in addition to incorporating coordination mechanisms amongst people, processes, and the implemented technology (Petterson 2008). Organisational managers are increasingly becoming concerned with the most effective mechanism to facilitate the exchange of knowledge amongst individuals and across units. Failure to share knowledge within an organisation limits the degree of its exploitation hence low organisational effectiveness (Carmeli et al. 2010). A certain degree of correlation exists between knowledge management and organisational culture. According to Al-adaileh (2011), organisational culture is a “collective programming of the mind, which distinguishes the member of one community from another” (p.219). According to Rehman et al. (2011), the prevailing organisational culture significantly affects establishment of knowledge sharing behaviour. Therefore, it is paramount for both private and public sector organisations to develop an organisational culture that fosters knowledge-sharing capability amongst employees. Diverse models explain organisational culture. One such a model is the Hofstede Model, which provides organisational managers with ideas on what type of organisations they should be in order to nurture an optimal culture.

Theoretical framework

In the modern business environment, the probability of firms’ attaining a high level of success hinges on the effectiveness with which it fosters and shares knowledge (Abrams et al. 2003). One of the elements that managers should consider in their quest to promote knowledge sharing in their organisations relate to the development of interpersonal trust. Abrams et al (2003) are of the opinion that trust is vital in knowledge creation and exchange. A strong organisational culture is also a key determinant in nurturing the degree of identification amongst employees because it affects the level of employee satisfaction (Ryan et al. 2010). Establishment of a strong collaborative culture between employees is also essential in developing a learning culture and fostering knowledge sharing. Incorporating effective communication also plays an essential role in improving the degree of organisational identification by nurturing the extent of collaboration between employees across the various business units. Additionally, communication also serves in establishing the degree of fit between organisational and employees vision (Cornelissen 2011). The chart below illustrates how trust, establishment of a shared vision, incorporation of effective managerial practices, nurturing trust, and development of a collaborative working environment are linked in creating knowledge.

Theoretical framework illustrating the concept of the relationship between components of organisational identification and their link to knowledge sharing
Figure 1: Theoretical framework illustrating the concept of the relationship between components of organisational identification and their link to knowledge sharing

Research objectives and hypothesis

In light of the aforementioned theoretical framework, the study seeks to illustrate the relationship between organisational identification and knowledge sharing. More focus is on how to nurture organisational identification through the development of a strong organisational culture. Some of the issues that enhance an organisation’s quest to nurture a high degree of organisational identification amongst employees include the creation of a shared vision, a high degree of trust, and creation of a collaborative working environment and incorporation of effective management practices. Based on these issues, the study will be guided by the following hypothesis denoted by H.

  1. H1:The level of trust has a significant impact on knowledge sharing
  2. H2: Creation of a shared vision between employees and organisations affects the knowledge sharing.
  3. H3: The extent to which individuals collaborate in an organisation determines the effectiveness and efficiency with which knowledge sharing is created.
  4. H4: The managerial practices instituted by an organisation have a significant effect on knowledge sharing.

Literature review

Hofestede’s cultural dimensions (Degree of Identification with the organisation)

Most developing countries have experienced an “increment in the volume of foreign direct investment over the past two decades” (Boros 2008, p.68). This aspect has not only affected the countries’ national economy but also their labour market. One effect relate to an increment in the rate of employee turnover, which is a major challenge to the FDI in their quest for profit maximisation. The labour markets have also had undergone a rapid growth with reference to the intensity of competition for skilled labour. In a bid to develop a high degree of competitiveness in the labour market, organisations are shifting towards incorporation of non-monetary benefits in their human resource management practices (Boisnier & Chatman 2002). The objective is to attain high-level human capital attractiveness and employee retention. Institution of an effective corporate communication and development of corporate identity are some of the mechanisms that organisation’s management team should consider in their quest to improve the rate of employee retention. Identity serves as the basis upon which an organisation distinguishes itself from other firms. Organisational identification has a significant effect on a firm’s effort to establish strong organisational behaviour and hence the likelihood of attaining the predetermined objectives (Ackerman, Dieng-Kuntz 2008). A strong corporate image can improve an organisation’s ability to attract skilled employees. Organisational identity forms the basis of attaining a high level of employee identification. Ryan et al. (2010) are of the opinion that a strong corporate identity improves the likelihood of various stakeholders identifying themselves with an organisation. With regard to employees’ perspective, organisational identification is concerned with determining the employee’s significance in relation to the organisation, which improves the chances of the organisation attaining its objectives due to improved employee behaviour.

Ryan et al. (2010) assert that the organisational identification varies not only based on its degree, but also on its reasons. Findings of previous studies conducted reveal that the purpose of identification varies depending on the degree of desired level of self-actualisation and achievement, self-esteem enhancement, cohesion and affiliation. Organisational identification theory entails three main components, which include feelings of solidarity, behavioural and attitudinal support the firm, and the perception shared by the various organisational members.

Organisational identification influences the employees’ level of satisfaction, their behaviour, and effectiveness. Pless and Maak (2011) are of the opinion that a strong link exists between employees’ behaviours, outcomes, and attitudes, which in turn affect the employees’ decision-making capability and commitment towards the attainment of organisational goals. Additionally, organisational identification also affects the degree of employee interaction.

Jex and Britt (2008) assert that employees tend to identify themselves strongly with organisations whose operations align with their beliefs. Findings of a study conducted to determine the degree of organisational identification amongst scientists revealed that scientists who depicted a high degree of organisational identification portrayed positive attitude towards their career, business and profession (Jex & Britt 2008). Strong identification forms a prerequisite for innovation, development of positive attitude, effective communication and improved employee performance and productivity. Organisational identification has a direct impact on employees’ behaviour. Identifying with a particular organisation motivates individuals to make decisions that align with the predetermined organisational objectives. Additionally, such individuals make concerted effort to attain the organisational objectives, which in turn culminates in the individual gaining intrinsic satisfaction (Pless & Maak 2011). Other findings conducted on the degree of organisational identification as postulated by Hofstede show that a high degree of organisational identification amongst employees culminates in a high level of productivity, lowers the propensity of employee turnover, and improves the level of satisfaction (Pless & Maak 2011).

Smidts et al. (2001) emphasise that the sufficiency of information provided to employees regarding the organisation for example organisational objectives, vision and mission affects the degree of employee identification. On the other hand, failure to provide employees with fundamental organisational information translates into a feeling of lack of appreciation amongst the employees hence influencing organisational identification negatively (Delmonte & Aronson 2004).

Three main antecedents are associated with organisational identification. They include value congruence, the perceived level of external prestige, and length of tenure. The number of years an individual has remained in an organisation determines the degree of identification. The length of tenure determines the degree of identification. Smidts et al. (2001) proposes that if high degree of organisational identity tends to promote interaction between individuals in addition to increased likelihood of the individual’s needs being met. Other studies conducted have also confirmed the direct relationship between length of tenure and organisational identification.

Wei (2008) asserts that the perceived external prestige by employees affects the degree of identification due to the level of attachment developed. The perceived external prestige refers to the perceived status of an organisation by external stakeholders (Smidts et al. 2001). On the other hand, prestige is an indicator of the level of motivation amongst the employees. Previous studies conducted reveal that the perceived prestige determines the extent to which individuals cognitively link their self-worth and self-identity with the firm’s status and characteristics [organisational identity] (Wei 2008). The degree of fit between individual and organisational values also influences organisational identification. High levels of congruency are an indicator for high levels of organisational commitment, satisfaction, and cohesion.

Empowering Knowledge Sharing Behaviours through Degree of Identification with the organisation

Traditionally, KM was not an important component of organisational operation. However, with the emergence of the knowledge economy, businesses have increasingly implemented systems and measures aimed at improving innovative performance of their employees through knowledge management (Yang & Xi 2007). Despite this aspect, instituting effective KM processes is a challenging task. It is estimated that 84% of all KM programs initiated by various organisations fail (Pettersson 2008). In a bid to establish an effective KM system, it is crucial for the firm’s management team to ensure that there is a high degree of coordination between the implemented processes, system, and people, which can be attained through incorporation of measures such as problem solving, collaborative learning and development of a strong organisational culture and structures. Such measures will inspire development of knowledge (Pettersson 2008).

Al-adaileh (2008) asserts that knowledge sharing is the most important component of knowledge management. Despite the importance of knowledge, most individuals tend to withhold it because they consider it as important to them. This behaviour is motivated by the fact that individuals consider holding such knowledge to be a valuable asset in their continued stay within an organisation. Rehman et al. (2011) concurs that an organisation cannot force its workforce to start their knowledge but they can be motivated to do so. Numerous motivational methods stand out as effective in promoting knowledge sharing in an organisation. However, the major challenge relates to changing individuals’ behaviour. Organisational managers should determine the most effective mechanism through which they can promote knowledge sharing behaviour amongst employees, which arises from the fact that it is challenging to transform individuals’ knowledge into organisational knowledge (Rehman et al. 2011). Failure to share knowledge in organisations leads to the emergence of knowledge gaps, which limits attainment of organisational goals.

Consequently, it is fundamental for organisational managers to consider the most effective mechanisms through which they can improve knowledge sharing amongst employees. Previous studies conducted have identified a number of factors, which should be considered in firms’ quest to improve knowledge sharing. Some of these factors relate to intrinsic and extrinsic rewards, development of effective socio-psychological and organisational climate, establishment of long term and short-term benefits (Fuchs 2012). In addition to the aforementioned factors, nurturing a strong organisational behaviour is another perspective that managers should consider in their quest to promote knowledge sharing (Rehman et al. 2011). Some of the elements that contribute to knowledge sharing are job related and include job satisfaction, job involvement, and job characteristics. Other factors are employee related and include organisational commitment, the rate of employee turnover, employee empowerment, and psychological contract (Jex & Britt 2008).

Traditionally, rewards were considered as the most effective element in promoting knowledge sharing within organisations. However, studies conducted showed that they only have a short-term effect. Providing employees with intrinsic benefits can result in development of a high degree of organisational identification (Rehman et al. 2011). An effective organisational climate culminates in individuals establishing a link between the employees’ feelings, behaviours, and thoughts hence influencing organisational identification positively (Khastar et al. 2011). To improve knowledge sharing, it is essential for a firm’s management team to ensure that a high degree of trust is developed. Instituting an effective communication mechanism between employees, managers, and departments is also essential in empowering employees to share knowledge. Thus, it is important for organisational managers to empower employees in their communication efforts by eliminating structural barriers such as status and authority hierarchies. Adoption of effective leadership styles is also another mechanism through which organisations can empower their workforce (Carmeli et al. 2010).

Research methodology

The study adopts qualitative research methodology in order to establish the relationship between knowledge sharing and degree of identification. In collecting the data, the study identifies organisational managers and employees as the main respondents. Well-designed questionnaires were used as the main data collection tools. A sample size of 100 respondents who included managers and employees selected from small, medium and large enterprises were considered as the main respondents. Microsoft Excel was used as the main data presentation and analysis tool.

Analysis of hypothesis

Seventy percent (70%) of the respondents opined that they tend to identify themselves with their organisation due to the high degree of trust that the management team has developed. On the other hand, 80% of the respondents cited the extent to which employees and the management team collaborate in execution of duties and task to be a key determinant in nurturing organisational identification. When asked why, the respondents cited the established social relations, which in turn enhance the exchange of knowledge between and across an organisation. Institution of effective managerial practices such as effective leadership and communication was cited by 93% of the respondents to a major determinant in their organisational identification. The degree of collaboration also enhances the creation of synergy amongst employees, which further develops organisational identification to the strong organisational culture established. With regard to shared vision, 83% of the respondents asserted that effective communication of organisational goals, visions and mission enables employees to determine whether their continued stay in the organisation will contribute to attainment of their personal values. The chart below illustrates the respective responses provided.

Analysis of hypothesis
Figure 2

Conclusions and recommendations

From the responses provided, one can conclude that there is a relatively high degree of correlation between organisational identification and knowledge sharing. The organisational culture created within a particular entity determines the extent to which individuals indentify themselves with the firm. This aspect in turn influences establishment of knowledge sharing. Some of the key success factors that influence organisational identification and consequently knowledge sharing identified in the study are employee and job related. Firstly, the level of trust that individuals associate their organisation with determines whether they will share knowledge with their colleagues. A high level of trust nurtures knowledge sharing while lack of trust tends to diminish knowledge sharing. Establishment of a collaborative environment for example nurturing teamwork tends to increase knowledge sharing. Collaborative environment provides individuals with an opportunity to undertake the assigned tasks independently thus improving their morale. This element leads to the creation of a positive and long-term intrinsic value amongst employees, which fosters knowledge sharing. The degree to which organisational vision fits with that of the employees’ affects how they identify themselves with the organisation. Lack of a shared vision limits organisational identification and hence knowledge sharing. The managerial practices implemented in the organisation such as the leadership style and communication mechanism impacts organisational identification by influencing the level of employee satisfaction.

In a bid to improve knowledge sharing by enhancing organisational identification, organisational managers should consider nurturing an effective social-cultural environment. The management team should create an organisational culture that promotes the establishment of shared vision, incorporation of supportive management practices such as communication and leadership. Organisations should consider enhancing the degree of collaboration between employees in order to minimise employees’ resistance in sharing information.


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