Knowledge Management in the Context of an Ageing Workforce: Organizational Memory and Mentoring
Type of content
Organizational memory has significant potential for companies’ competitive advantage, with mentoring considered a particularly effective method of transferring this knowledge. Older workers are often considered ideal mentors because of their experience and alleged willingness to pass on their knowledge. There is an associated assumption that these workers anticipate and experience positive outcomes from mentoring others. This thesis tested if these assumptions hold up in 21st century workplaces - some discriminatory practices towards older workers and a career contract that no longer guarantees employment, may discourage knowledge sharing. An organizational memory scale was constructed to help test the assumptions and an exploratory factor analysis involving 143 employees from eight companies resulted in 21 items and five correlated factors including socio-political knowledge, job knowledge, external network, history, and industry knowledge. Two confirmatory factor analyses, the first involving 287 employees and the second 115 retirees, found support for five correlated first-order factors and a second order factor, organizational memory. In a third study involving 134 employees, support was found for a model of organizational memory and empowerment. Age was found to relate to organizational memory but this relationship was mediated by organizational tenure. In turn, organizational memory was found to relate to psychological empowerment and the frequency with which participants were requested to share knowledge at work. Organizational memory, empowerment and request to train and mentor others also positively related to organization-based self-esteem. In the fourth study, an organizational case study involving 78 employees, support was found for a model of organizational memory and the intention to mentor within the context of an aging workforce. Generativity and the expected cost of the time and effort involved in mentoring mediated the relationship between organizational memory (specifically, socio- political knowledge) and the intention to mentor. Furthermore those participants with high scores on both organizational memory and occupational self-efficacy anticipated more cost in time and effort, and indicated less intention to mentor, than those with high organizational memory but low occupational self-efficacy. These findings challenge the assumption that experienced workers are, as a matter of course, willing to mentor others. In a final study involving 96 retired individuals, there were no significant differences found between retirees with and those without experience as a mentor, in career satisfaction and unwelcome work ruminations. However notably, the study showed that participants did experience unwelcome work ruminations even (as in the case of some) well into retirement. The thesis concludes with a summary of findings as they relate to the assumptions under examination, an outline of the overall implications of the findings for future research and for organizational practice, and closing remarks about the overall research contribution of the thesis.