Exploring the application of knowledge management within a South African human resource development context
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Knowledge management (KM) has been brought to the fore due to rapid global changes inherent to the knowledge economy. KM assists organisations to create and apply new knowledge for improved performance and competitive advantage. Human resource development (HRD) in particular, has a significant role to play in KM to promote, build, and maintain organisational knowledge capabilities. So far, limited research has been conducted on KM within an HRD context. Most previous studies on KM were conducted within other (non-HRD) contexts. The limited number of studies that exist within an HRD context, were mostly literature reviews. Therefore, this study sought to determine, through empirical research, whether KM and associated activities are applied by HRD professionals in practice and what roles these HRD professionals fulfil concerning KM within an HRD South African context. Hence, the purpose of this study was to explore the application of KM by HRD professionals in a South African context. A basic qualitative descriptive research design, underpinned by interpretivism, was used to conduct the study. Expert sampling, which is a form of purposive sampling, was used to select twelve HRD professionals employed in various industries to be interviewed individually, based on the practical experience of HRD that they have obtained in practice, together with their theoretical HRD knowledge obtained through HRD graduate studies at a specific South African university. The researcher used emergent and priori coding and categorised the data into themes. To ensure data quality, participants were asked to check their own verbatim quotations for accuracy. In addition, member checking was done, and the analysed data was also corroborated against the literature. Ethical clearance was obtained prior to the study to ensure that ethical conduct was maintained throughout all stages of this study. Four themes were identified after data analysis, namely HRD professionals’ perceptions of KM; application of KM and related activities in an HRD context; HRD’s roles related to KM in a South African context; and participants’ recommendations regarding the application of KM in a South African context. The findings revealed that HRD professionals apply KM and related activities in their various roles as HRD professionals within a South African HRD context. Based on the findings, recommendations could be made to manage and apply KM more effectively within an HRD context. One recommendation is that HRD professionals should be included on strategic levels within organisations. Based on the findings, a KM definition was formulated for the South African HRD context. It was further recommended that the formulated KM definition be considered for inclusion in HRD textbooks by HRD academics.
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