Original Research

Knowledge management as a strategic tool for human resource management at higher education institutions

Loganathan N. Govender, Rubeshan Perumal, Sadhasivan Perumal
South African Journal of Information Management | Vol 20, No 1 | a966 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajim.v20i1.966 | © 2018 Loganathan Narayansamy Govender, Rubeshan Perumal, Sadhasivan Perumal | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 February 2018 | Published: 31 July 2018

About the author(s)

Loganathan N. Govender, School of Management, IT and Governance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Rubeshan Perumal, Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Sadhasivan Perumal, School of Management, IT and Governance, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa


Background: Higher education institutions (HEIs) the world over are beginning to recognise the importance of knowledge management; however, such institutions are still in their formative stages of addressing, evaluating and implementing the benefits of knowledge management with particular reference to human resource management (HRM). Knowledge management is a viable means through which HEIs could gainfully capitalise on their intellectual and social capital.


Objectives: This study explores knowledge management as a strategic tool for HRM in HEIs. Specifically, the dimensions such as organisational culture, organisational performance, technology, management support and the institutions’ mission and vision will be evaluated to understand knowledge management within HEIs.


Method: Using a cross-sectional survey design, a self-administered questionnaire was sent to 91 individuals representing senior, middle and junior human resource managers at selected HEIs in South Africa, Mauritius and India. The study investigated the impact of policies, systems and processes that the HEIs implemented in support of knowledge management and knowledge sharing.


Results: A total of 91 human resource practitioners responded to the survey, the majority of whom were male (56%). Respondents from the different countries have similar perceptions regarding the issues that encourage knowledge generation and knowledge sharing (p = 0.209), and how characteristics of their institutions compare with those applicable to learning organisations (p = 0.422). Respondents disagreed to differing extents across countries that organisational or departmental structures, political interference, communication channels between employees and command and control procedures retarded knowledge generation and sharing (p = 0.001). Respondents from the different countries have differing perceptions regarding the speed at which knowledge is transferred (p = 0.000), the reliability of the knowledge that is transferred as well as the extent to which decisions can be made in using the available knowledge (p = 0.000), the ease with which knowledge is transferred in their context (p = 0.016), the transfer of tacit knowledge in their organisations (p = 0.000), whether individual employees use personal knowledge as a source of power (p = 0.025) and the role of the information and communications technology (ICT), infrastructure in knowledge creation and sharing (p = 0.000).


Conclusion: The results provide convincing arguments to support the integration of HRM and knowledge management initiatives in HEIs. Whilst the HRM function at HEIs has demonstrated that it has the capability and resources to implement knowledge management initiatives, the results reflect that much ground needs to be covered to realise the full benefits of this endeavour. The study confirms that an effective knowledge management strategy for HRM that is aligned to the organisation’s strategic objectives is imperative for HEIs in South Africa.


knowledge management; knowledge sharing; higher education institutions; human resource management


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