Knowledge retention in national agricultural research organisations: the case of Uganda

2016-11-14T12:05:15Z (GMT) by Sylvester D. Baguma
Organisation knowledge attrition continues to gain attention due to the increasing mobility of organisational employees. Employees leave organisations due to retirement, resignation in search for better employment opportunities, termination of employment contracts, indisposition, unofficially leaving employment, and death. When they leave organisations, they take with them tacit knowledge. Attrition of tacit knowledge leads to loss of intellectual assets and erosion of organisational memory which negatively affect learning and innovation. The knowledge can be subject matter expertise, organisational memory of why certain decisions were made, experience of past research and development projects and the social network in terms of from whom they sought out for answers or collaborated with in executing their tasks. Knowledge attrition is common in many organisations in different sectors. The literature does not show any framework that addresses knowledge attrition right from the time an employee is recruited into an organisation to when he or she leaves it. The purpose of this study was to develop an integrated knowledge retention framework for minimising organisational knowledge attrition. This was achieved by investigating how loss of organisational tacit knowledge can be minimised. The research adopted a single case study design with a concurrent parallel mixed methods research strategy informed by pragmatic philosophical assumptions. It was conducted in Uganda in a large national agricultural research organisation. Data was collected from 36 focus group discussions involving 161 participants, review of organisational documents, 35 interviews, 205 online surveys and a validation workshop by 16 top managers. The main contribution of this research is the novel framework for knowledge retention that comprehensively addresses knowledge attrition from an organisation. The framework comprises two categories of components. The first is the organisational behavioural components comprising knowledge sharing, capturing and documenting knowledge, and knowledge exploitation. This category constitutes the core components of the knowledge retention strategy. The second category is the organisational environmental components. It comprises creating organisational learning environment, having knowledge-oriented governance and leadership, providing necessary capacities and conditions, and providing strategic guidance - planning for knowledge retention. Environmental components have moderating effects on the behavioural components. In addition, it has contributed to the theoretical existing body of knowledge from the framework that was developed. This complements the reviewed literature which uncovered three conceptual categorisations of the knowledge retention strategies based on the timing of capturing knowledge from an individual. The three categories are: Reactive (short-term), Containment (medium-term) and Preventive (long-term) knowledge retention strategies. Although the concept of knowledge retention is not new, this research has contributed to the existing body of literature. Additionally, the study provides a deeper understanding of knowledge retention and opens new research areas. Perhaps this is the first study of its kind in the agricultural sector specifically focussing on agricultural research.