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Donson, Adam 2019, 'Strategies for managing contingent knowledge workers in New Zealand', DBA thesis, Southern Cross University, Lismore, NSW.

Copyright A Donson 2019


Using the Social Exchange Theory (SET) as a theoretical framework, the present research aims to examine how the appointment of contingent workers affects an organisation's ability to effectively manage knowledge in New Zealand. Another objective is to explore how New Zealand organisations are managing knowledge and knowledge workers. The number of contingent knowledge workers is increasing, but organisations have been slow to adapt their cultures, structures or procedures to maximise the opportunity these workers represent. The relationship between the organisation and contingent knowledge workers is characterised primarily by economic compensation, which does not emphasise trust and commitment, the prerequisites for collaborative knowledge management behaviours.

This is a qualitative study based on data collected through semi-structured interviews with senior and middle managers, human resource management practitioners, and permanent and contract employees located in six case organisations. A total of forty-eight employees were interviewed for this this study over a period of three years.

The findings suggest that trust in the organisation has a significant influence on an organisation’s ability to manage knowledge. Trust moderates employee commitment and represents the basis for organisational culture, and as shown by the findings it is cultural elements that support the knowledge creation processes within the SECI model. The findings showed that information and communication technologies not only support Combination, but play an increasing role in Socialisation, Externalisation and Internalisation. In conclusion, the existence of trust encourages social exchange between individuals and facilitates the sharing and transfer of knowledge. Extending trust towards contingent workers influences their commitment and ensures their inclusion in the knowledge creation process.

This study adds to the knowledge management body of knowledge by considering a distinct, yet increasingly important, segment of the workforce. Existing research focuses on generic knowledge management implementation, but does not consider how this affects different types of worker, such as contingent knowledge workers. There is a need to adapt human resource management practice in relation to the management of contingent workers, so that organisations provide rewards which promote professional commitment. This research also confirms the need to further develop dynamic capabilities for managing knowledge management, and proposes that this responsibility is delegated to those in middle and project management positions. The use of the SECI model (Takeuchi & Nonaka, 2004) to examine knowledge management practice is shown to be effective, and provides those charged with developing this competence with the means of identifying elements that require attention.