Enhancing Knowledge Management (KM) in the Fourth Industrial Revolution Era: The Role of Human Resource Systems

  • Troy Sarina


As organisations encounter an era of rapid technological change and intensifying competition, this chapter unpacks the notion of organisational knowledge and how it remains a crucial resource enabling organisations to establish a competitive advantage. In doing so, the concept of knowledge management is explored to identify the main repositories of knowledge within an organisation and how the human resource (HR) function can access and coordinate the flow of genuine ‘know-how’ required for innovation. This chapter offers a conceptual frame that identifies a series of organisational enablers that the HR function needs to coordinate, develop and promote effectively in order for organisations to share and generate new knowledge.

In developing this frame, this chapter argues that external changes to labour markets and modern economies, which include the emergence of the gig economy, are real and present threats which could challenge the pivotal role that HR and organisations play in the creation of new innovations. In conclusion, this chapter argues that instead of the HR function attempting to control knowledge, it should nurture it by utilising HR systems that create an organisational architecture that promotes, rewards and disseminates new knowledge, enabling organisations to respond to the hyper-competitive environments in which they operate.


  1. Adams, G. L., & Lamont, B. T. (2003). Knowledge management systems and developing sustainable competitive advantage. Journal of Knowledge Management, 7(2), 142–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Akbari, N., & Ghaffari, A. (2017). Verifying relationship of knowledge management initiatives and the empowerment of human resources. Journal of Knowledge Management, 21(5), 1120–1141.Google Scholar
  3. Andreeva, T., & Kianto, A. (2016). Empirically testing the role of strategic management of knowledge in firm performance. In European conference on knowledge management (pp. 1–8). Kidmore End: Academic Conferences International Limited.Google Scholar
  4. Ardichvili, A., Page, V., & Wentling, T. (2003). Motivation and barriers to participation in virtual knowledge-sharing communities of practice. Journal of Knowledge Management, 7(1), 64–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Employee earnings and hours. Category 6306(0).
  6. Bamber, G. J., Gittell, J. H., Kochan, T. A., & Von Nordenflycht, A. (2013). Up in the air: How airlines can improve performance by engaging their employees. New York: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Barney, J. (1991). Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage. Journal of Management, 17(1), 99–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bogner, W. C., & Bansal, P. (2007). Knowledge management as the basis of sustained high performance. Journal of Management Studies, 44(1), 165–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Boon, C., Eckardt, R., Lepak, D. P., & Boselie, P. (2017). Integrating strategic human capital and strategic human resource management. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 8(1), 1–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boxall, P., & Purcell, J. (2011). Strategy and human resource management. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  11. Burstein, F., Sohal, S., Zyngier, S., & Sohal, A. S. (2010). Understanding of knowledge management roles and responsibilities: A study in the Australian context. Knowledge Management Research & Practice, 8(1), 76–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Burstein, F., Zyngier, S., McCullough, G., Oliver, G., Symonds, J., & Brown, M. (2003). Leading knowledge management strategies in Australia and New Zealand: A comparative study of public and private sector organisations. In 14th Australasian Conference on Information Systems ACIS 2003 Proceedings, Sydney (pp. 1–10).Google Scholar
  13. Cheung, F. (2015). Australia’s freelance economy grows to 4.1 million workers. Accessed 29 May 2017.
  14. D’aveni, R. A. (2010). Hypercompetition: Managing the dynamics of strategic maneuvering. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  15. Daft, R. (2006). Organization theory and design. USA: Cengage learning.Google Scholar
  16. Davenport, T. H., & Glaser, J. (2002). Just-in-time delivery comes to knowledge management. Harvard Business Review, 80(7), 107–111.Google Scholar
  17. Desouza, K., & Awazu, Y. (2005). Engaged knowledge management: Engagement with new realities. London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Drew, S. A. (1997). From knowledge to action: The impact of benchmarking on organizational performance. Long Range Planning, 30(3), 427–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Edmondson, A. C., & Harvey, J. F. (2017). Cross-boundary teaming for innovation: Integrating research on teams and knowledge in organizations. Human Resource Management Review.
  20. Efrat, K. (2014). The direct and indirect impact of culture on innovation. Technovation, 34(1), 12–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Ferraresi, A. A., Quandt, C. O., dos Santos, S. A., & Frega, J. R. (2012). Knowledge management and strategic orientation: Leveraging innovativeness and performance. Journal of Knowledge Management, 16(5), 688–701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Frappaolo, C. (2008). Implicit knowledge. Knowledge Management Research & Practice, 6(1), 23–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Friedman, G. (2014). Workers without employers: Shadow corporations and the rise of the gig economy. Review of Keynesian Economics, 2(2), 171–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fu, N. (2015). The role of relational resources in the knowledge management capability and innovation of professional service firms 1. Human Relations, 68(5), 731–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Garvin, D. A. (1993). Manufacturing strategic planning. California Management Review, 35(4), 85–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Grant, R. M. (1996). Prospering in dynamically-competitive environments: Organizational capability as knowledge integration. Organization Science, 7(4), 375–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hambrick, D. C. (1981). Specialization of environmental scanning activities among upper level executives. Journal of Management Studies, 18(3), 299–320.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hofstede, G. (1994). The business of international business is culture. International Business Review, 3(1), 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hull, R. (2000). Knowledge management practices and innovation. In Knowledge and innovation in the new service economy (pp. 142–155). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.Google Scholar
  30. Hussinki, H., Hussinki, H., Ritala, P., Ritala, P., Vanhala, M., Vanhala, M., & Kianto, A. (2017). Intellectual capital, knowledge management practices and firm performance. Journal of Intellectual Capital, 18(4), 904–922.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Jiménez-Zarco, A. I., González-González, I., Saigí-Rubió, F., & Torrent-Sellens, J. (2015). The co-learning process in healthcare professionals: Assessing user satisfaction in virtual communities of practice. Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 1303–1313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Khodaee, H., Omrani, V., Kazemi, H., Tamar, I., & Piri, A. (2016). Investigating the effect of knowledge management on human resources productivity. Management Science Letters, 6(4), 259–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kochan, T. A. (2006). Taking the high road. MIT Sloan Management Review, 47(4), 16–23.Google Scholar
  34. Lepak, D., & Snell, S. A. (2007). Employment subsystems and the ‘HR architecture’. In Boxall, J. Purcell, & P. Wright (Eds.), Oxford handbook of human resource management (pp. 210–230). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Lepak, D., Jiang, K., & Ployhart, R. E. (2017). HR strategy, structure and architecture. A research agenda for human resource management. In P. Sparrow & C. Cooper (Eds.), A research agenda for human resource management. New York: Edward Elgar.Google Scholar
  36. MacKenzie, I., Meyer, C., & Noble, S. (2013). How retailers can keep up with consumers. Consulting report. Accessed 18 Sep 2017.
  37. Magnier-Watanabe, R., Yoshida, M., & Watanabe, T. (2010). Social network productivity in the use of SNS. Journal of Knowledge Management, 14(6), 910–927.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Manhart, M., & Thalmann, S. (2015). Protecting organizational knowledge: A structured literature review. Journal of Knowledge Management, 19(2), 190–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Martinez-Conesa, I., Martinez-Conesa, I., Soto-Acosta, P., Soto-Acosta, P., Carayannis, E. G., & Carayannis, E. G. (2017). On the path towards open innovation: Assessing the role of knowledge management capability and environmental dynamism in SMEs. Journal of Knowledge Management, 21(3), 553–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McDermott, R. (1999). Why information technology inspired but cannot deliver knowledge management. California Management Review, 41(4), 103–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. McKinlay, A. (2006). Knowledge management. In S. Ackroyd (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of work and organization (pp. 242–262). Oxford: Oxford Handbooks.Google Scholar
  42. Moustaghfir, K., & Schiuma, G. (2013). Knowledge, learning, and innovation: Research and perspectives. Journal of Knowledge Management, 17(4), 495–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Neely, A., & Bourne, M. (2000). Why measurement initiatives fail. Measuring Business Excellence, 4(4), 3–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Newell, S., Scarborough, H., & Swan, J. (2001). Explaining the diffusion of knowledge management. British Journal of Management, 12(1), 3–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Newman, N., & Newman, D. (2015). Learning and knowledge: A dream or nightmare for employees. The Learning Organization, 22(1), 58–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. O’Reilly, C. A., & Pfeffer, J. (2000). Hidden value: How great companies achieve extraordinary results with ordinary people. Boston: Harvard Business Press.Google Scholar
  47. Penrose, E. (1959). The theory of the growth of the firm. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  48. Peteraf, M. A. (1993). The cornerstones of competitive advantage: A resource-based view. Strategic Management Journal, 14(3), 179–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Pettigrew, A., & Whipp, R. (1993). Managing change for competitive success. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  50. Pollert, A. (1988). TheFlexible firm’: Fixation or fact? Work, Employment and Society, 2(3), 281–316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC). (2015). Future-proofing Australia’s workforce by growing skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (Report April 2015, pp. 1–24). Accessed 10 Oct 2017.
  52. Ritter, T., & Gemünden, H. G. (2004). The impact of a company’s business strategy on its technological competence, network competence and innovation success. Journal of Business Research, 57(5), 548–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Scarbrough, H. (2002). The role of intermediary groups in shaping management fashion: The case of knowledge management. International Studies of Management & Organization, 32(4), 87–103.Google Scholar
  54. Schiff, M. (1992). Social capital, labor mobility, and welfare: The impact of uniting states. Rationality and Society, 4(2), 157–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schminke, M., Ambrose, M. L., & Cropanzano, R. S. (2000). The effect of organizational structure on perceptions of procedural fairness. Journal of Applied Psychology, 85(2), 294–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Schwab, K. (2017). The fourth industrial revolution. New York: Crown Business.Google Scholar
  57. Serrat, O. (2017). Building a learning organization. In Knowledge solutions (pp. 57–67). Singapore: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Shipton, H., Budhwar, P., Sparrow, P., & Brown, A. (2016). Human resource management, innovation and performance: Looking across levels. In P. Sparrow, H. Shipton, P. Budhwar, & A. Brown (Eds.), Human resource management, innovation and performance. UK: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Tiwana, A. (2002). The knowledge management toolkit: Orchestrating IT, strategy, and knowledge platforms. India: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  60. Tsai, W. (2002). Social structure of “coopetition” within a multiunit organization: Coordination, competition, and intraorganizational knowledge sharing. Organization Science, 13(2), 179–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Van Esch, E., Wei, L. Q., & Chiang, F. F. (2016). High-performance human resource practices and firm performance: The mediating role of employees’ competencies and the moderating role of climate for creativity. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 27, 1–26.Google Scholar
  62. Wasko, M. M., & Faraj, S. (2000). “It is what one does”: Why people participate and help others in electronic communities of practice. The Journal of Strategic Information Systems, 9(2), 155–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Wenger, E. C., & Snyder, W. M. (2000). Communities of practice: The organizational frontier. Harvard Business Review, 78(1), 139–146.Google Scholar
  64. Wick, C. W., & Leon, L. S. (1995). From ideas to action: Creating a learning organization. Human Resource Management, 34(2), 299–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zheng, W., Yang, B., & McLean, G. N. (2010). Linking organizational culture, structure, strategy, and organizational effectiveness: Mediating role of knowledge management. Journal of Business Research, 63(7), 763–771.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Troy Sarina
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Marketing and ManagementMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations