Original Research

Mitigating risks of tacit knowledge loss in state-owned enterprises in South Africa through knowledge management practices

Malefetjane Phaladi, Patrick Ngulube
South African Journal of Information Management | Vol 24, No 1 | a1462 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v24i1.1462 | © 2022 Malefetjane Phaladi, Patrick Ngulube | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 September 2021 | Published: 01 February 2022

About the author(s)

Malefetjane Phaladi, Department of Library Services, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa
Patrick Ngulube, School of Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Studies, College of Graduate Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: State-owned enterprises (SOEs) in South Africa face a serious challenge of knowledge loss caused largely by resignations, the ageing workforce and a lack of knowledge management (KM) practices.

Objective: This article explores KM practices in the South African SOEs to mitigate the risks inherent in tacit knowledge loss.

Methods: The study adopted a mixed methods research strategy using an exploratory sequential design to identify KM practices and their effectiveness in addressing the issue of tacit knowledge loss. The qualitative data was collected through the interviews and document analysis of 2018 annual reports in nine SOEs across five market sectors. A survey questionnaire was distributed to 585 respondents, with a 25% response rate (145) for quantitative data in three SOEs.

Results: The results revealed that the majority of the SOEs lacked KM practices in their structures. The lack of KM practices implies that the SOEs are lagging behind in knowledge protective capacities to mitigate the risks inherent in the organisational tacit knowledge loss. With many South African SOEs, facing all these sorts of knowledge loss risks and a lack of KM practices to mitigate them, achieving the objectives of a developmental state remains a far-fetched idea.

Conclusion: The absence of KM practices negatively affected knowledge transfer and retention in most of the SOEs. A lack of KM practices will negatively affect their performance and their sustainability to deliver on their developmental mandate. Investment in KM practices will assist SOEs to mitigate the risks associated with loss of organisational tacit knowledge.


knowledge management practices; knowledge loss; South Africa; state-owned enterprises; knowledge transfer; knowledge retention


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