Original Research

Developing knowledge protective capacity through retention practices in South African state-owned companies

Malefetjane P. Phaladi
South African Journal of Information Management | Vol 25, No 1 | a1727 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v25i1.1727 | © 2023 Malefetjane P. Phaladi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 June 2023 | Published: 22 December 2023

About the author(s)

Malefetjane P. Phaladi, Library Services, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa; and Department of Information Systems, Faculty of Accounting and Informatics, Durban University of Technology, Durban, South Africa


Background: Extant knowledge management (KM) literature has established the importance of human resource management (HRM) practices and their relationship in support of the effective management of organisational tacit knowledge, albeit at a theoretical level. This study attempts to address this research gap by empirically exploring and focusing on specific HRM retention practices in support of knowledge transfer and retention efforts in the context of South African state-owned companies (SOCs).

Objective: The purpose of this study is to explore the extent to which HRM retention practices help to develop knowledge protection capacities in ensuring effective mitigation of enterprise tacit knowledge loss in South African SOCs.

Method: This study used an exploratory sequential mixed methods research (MMR) design to investigate knowledge retention practices in South African SOCs. Data were collected through in-depth interviews with 20 human resource managers and a survey with 585 randomly selected respondents, achieving a 25% response rate.

Results: South African SOCs lack knowledge-driven retention strategies, which could reduce labour turnover and knowledge loss risks. These issues include success management, incentive schemes, job rotation, post-retirement knowledge contracting, counter-offers and job shadowing. If unaddressed, these issues could threaten organisational performance and economic sustainability.

Conclusion: Insofar as human resource retention practices are concerned, this study concludes that they are not knowledge-driven, thus not helping SOCs in building the necessary capacities and capabilities for the protection of enterprise-specific knowledge assets.

Contribution: This study sought to close a gap in research and practice linking human resource retention and knowledge protective strategies to address knowledge loss risks in SOCs.


knowledge protective capacity; human resource retention practices; knowledge loss; knowledge retention; knowledge transfer; state-owned enterprises; South Africa.

JEL Codes

D83: Search • Learning • Information and Knowledge • Communication • Belief • Unawareness; J33: Compensation Packages • Payment Methods; J63: Turnover • Vacancies • Layoffs; L32: Public Enterprises • Public-Private Enterprises; O15: Human Resources • Human Development • Income Distribution • Migration

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 9: Industry, innovation and infrastructure


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