Employees who enjoy their jobs and gain meaning from their roles are more likely to share information with their colleagues, new research led by Curtin University has found.
The research, published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior, explored what motivates employees to share knowledge with team members and why some might intentionally withhold or conceal information that has been requested by another colleague.
Lead author Professor Marylene Gagne, from the Future of Work Institute at Curtin University, said organisations can benefit from encouraging their employees to share their knowledge around the workplace.
“In today’s workforce, jobs are becoming more complex and require problem solving and innovative thinking. Encouraging employees to work together and share their knowledge can give organisations a competitive advantage,” Professor Gagne said.
“Our research found that employees were more likely to share information if they were required to engage in tasks that required them to solve complex problems or process information, or if they had autonomy in their job, meaning they had the power to prioritise their work and use personal initiative when making decisions.
“It was also common for employees to hide information if they felt like their colleagues relied on them to get their work done, as it can generate unrealistic job demands that creates excessive pressure.”
Co-author Associate Professor Amy Tian, from the School of Management at Curtin University, explained that the research highlighted the importance of designing work well in today’s workforce, which could in turn affect how people share or hide knowledge.
“We looked at three ways employees typically avoid sharing knowledge with their colleagues. These included ‘playing dumb’ or pretending they don’t know something, saying they would share information but never getting around to it, or making up an excuse as to why they could not pass on the information,” Associate Professor Tian said.
You might be asking at this point; so what? A study confirming the anecdotally obvious has little relevance to Defence at first glance. But I think it speaks to a deeper trend in the Defence and Industry collaboration effort.
At the Land Environment Working Group last month, Head of Land Capability Kath Toohey and Head of Land Systems Division Major General Andrew Bottrell made this quite clear.
“We don’t want contractual relationships; we want actual partners to achieve outcomes. But we need you to ensure that you are also truly partnering on integration challenges,” MAJGEN Toohey said.
MAJGEN Bottrell echoed these sentiments, as did the rest of the speakers on the day. Having come back from a stint that included time with Lockheed Martin and Boeing in the US, MAJGEN Bottrell is a good example of what this cross-pollination can look like.
There are now more people in senior management in CASG and various service headquarters who have spent time in industry and/or other government departments outside of Defence.
Despite this, I would say that the cynicism in the room was still relatively high. The issues and interactions of the past can be hard to set aside despite all the right tools and talk now in place.
“The elements fit together as a mutually reinforcing system and combine to prevent any attempt to change it,” Steve Denning, a leadership and agility specialist, said.
“That’s why single-fix changes, such as the introduction of teams, or Lean, or Agile, or Scrum, or knowledge management, or some new process, may appear to make progress for a while, but eventually the interlocking elements of the organizational culture take over and the change is inexorably drawn back into the existing organizational culture.”
Despite all the talk of collaboration, partnership, trust and innovation on both sides of the Defence and Industry equation, there are still many who doubt. There are those who feel that Industry feels entitled and acts accordingly. There are those who feel that Defence can’t clearly articulate what it wants in plain English or has any appreciation that time literally is money for industry.
I use the word ‘feel’ here very deliberately. It’s hard to quantify and yet has a very measurable affect on outcomes. Given the ramp up of Defence spending in the next 3-5 years, I know that the Defence community as a whole will have trouble meeting the challenge. But I feel that there are pockets of people up to the challenge.
This article first appeared in the June 2019 edition of ADM.