Original Research

Motivational theory and knowledge sharing in the public service

Nthabiseng N. Mosala-Bryant, Ruth G. Hoskins
SA Journal of Information Management | Vol 19, No 1 | a772 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v19i1.772 | © 2017 Nthabiseng N. Mosala-Bryant, Ruth G. Hoskins | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 31 May 2016 | Published: 23 May 2017

About the author(s)

Nthabiseng N. Mosala-Bryant, Department of Information Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Ruth G. Hoskins, Department of Information Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

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Background: Knowledge sharing has been identified as the core process of knowledge management for institutions which are interested in the retention of knowledge invested in their human capital in the event of their departure from the institutions. To this end, knowledge sharing has been the focus of research institution-wide, and less focus has been paid to communities of practice (CoPs) within the South African public service.

Objectives: This study aimed to explore factors that motivated knowledge sharing practices in a South African public service CoP.

Method: This study used the mixed methods design through the lens of the motivational theory. Primary quantitative data were collected by means of self-administered questionnaires returned by 23 of the 31 KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Provincial Human Resource Development Forum (PHRDF) members to whom the questionnaires were distributed. In addition, primary qualitative data were collected from the senior managers of Human Resource Development (HRD) units from 10 different KZN Provincial Departments of the 14 managers requested. The quantitative analysis was established using SPSS software, whereas qualitative analysis was established using thematic codes with the NVIVO software.

Results: The findings from the results revealed that PHRDF members were intrinsically motivated to share their knowledge rather than extrinsically motivated.

Conclusion: Although literature confirmed the main barrier to knowledge sharing in organisations as being the unwillingness to share, CoPs were likely to reduce the extent to which knowledge sharing was hindered. Members of a CoP ultimately related to one another as homogeneous groups despite representing different departments. To this end, hedonic intrinsic motivation occurred as members shared knowledge for the good of the whole regardless of the absence of extrinsic motivation. Departmental silos fell away, and there was no anticipation of rewards or incentives for knowledge sharing. It is, therefore, imperative that the South African public service strategically positions CoPs as knowledge sharing platforms to curb the loss of knowledge when employees leave its employ for whatever reason.


motivation theory; knowledge sharing; public service; communities of practice; PHRDF


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