Knowledge sharing in projects: does employment arrangement matter?

Publication Date02 Mar 2015
AuthorTorstein Nesheim,Janne Smith
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Global HRM
Knowledge sharing in
projects: does employment
arrangement matter?
Torstein Nesheim
Institute for Research in Economics and Business Administration,
Bergen, Norway, and
Janne Smith
Google Inc., Dublin, Ireland
Purpose The core of project management is the management of a temporary task, often with a high
degree of uniqueness. The purpose of this paper is to address project management issues where
another type of temporality also prevails; when external consultants on short-term contracts cooperate
with the employees of the focal firm. The research question is: do external consultants and employees,
working together on a project, engage in different or similar knowledge sharing behaviors? What are
the impact of autonomous motivation, organizational support and trust on knowledge sharing?
Design/methodology/approach The empirical setting of the study is subsea activities, which is
part the oil and gas industry in Norway. The respondents are regular employees with a permanent
contract and external consultants employed by a third party; which is the most common external work
arrangement in the industry. The sample consists of employees of a focal firm, external consultants of
the focal firm and external consultants identified by their employer (two firms). The survey was
administered by e-mail to 323 possible respondents. Of these, 268 were from the focal firm (194
employees and 74 external consultants), and 55 from the two consulting companies. After four weeks of
collecting data, 138 responses had been registered. This is a response rate of 43 percent. The response
rates were similar in the three categories. The survey was designed using Qualtrics, an online survey
software tool and was administered by e-mail in the winter of 2012.
Findings The regression analysis found that there was no difference in knowledge sharing between
employees and external consultants. Thus the empirical analysis supports the project identity
hypothesis, rather than the employment mattershypothesis. Further, there were positive, significant
impacts of autonomous motivation and perceived organizational support on knowledge sharing.
The findings are similar across samples. R
is quite high in models B (0.447) and D (0.458), indicating
that a large share of the variation in knowledge sharing is explained by the full model.
Research limitations/implications Based on the empirical study here, the employment
arrangementthesis was not supported. The authors believe, however, that combining the two types of
temporality (work organization and employment arrangement) is a promising area of exploration and
it is not given that further studies will provide similar empirical findings. Further research should
explore under what conditions employment arrangements have an impact on knowledge sharing.
The research may be extended along three dimensions. First, the study of knowledge sharing when
employees and external consultants work together (on projects managed by the focal firm) should be
extended to include other firms, other types of competence as well as economic sectors outside petroleum.
Second, research on employment arrangements in projects, should consider project contexts that are
different from the type emphasized here, such as development projects and projects that have a
fundamentalinter-organizationalcharacter characterized by dualresponsibility.Third, a number of others
issues, in addition to knowledge sharing, are relevant. Combining the two aspects of temporality may
provide opportunitiesfor exploring the impactof organizational contextin the field of leadership studies.
Practical implications Management should strive to increase autonomous motivation and provide
organizational support for both employees and external consultants. It is possible to use external
consultants without negative effects on the level of knowledge sharing. Managers should be aware of
the challenges related to both types of temporality.
Personnel Review
Vol. 44 No. 2, 2015
pp. 255-269
©Emerald Group Publis hing Limited
DOI 10.1108/PR-11-2013-0203
Received 12 November 2013
Revised 12 May 2014
Accepted 14 June 2014
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
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