Knowledge sharing in dynamic labour environments
: a case study of hotels in Darwin, Australia's Northern Territory

  • Kalotina Halkitis

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    The lack of labour stability in the hospitality industry of the Northern Territory suggested the need for research to understand: How is knowledge shared in dynamic labour environments? Dynamic labour environments in this study were tourism businesses experiencing frequent changes in the composition of teams of employees within departments and across the organisation.

    The findings revealed that a combination of factors facilitated knowledge in this context. The hotel chain offered a supportive structure, infrastructure and practices for knowledge sharing. Moreover, the hotel chain promoted labour stability through staff and/or knowledge retention strategies to protect the aforementioned. In addition the employees used a multi-adaptation strategy to promote knowledge sharing in dynamic labour environments. This strategy focussed on the adaptation of employees to the place (Darwin), its hospitality industry, the hotel chain and their peers through people knowledge.

    The successful execution of the multi-adaptation strategy relied heavily both on employee’s and hotel chain’s efforts. Employees developed learnt relationship characteristics, referred to as people knowledge. People knowledge emerged from their professional and non-professional interactions and enabled them to adapt to each other’s different style of collaboration. Both the hotel chain and employees triggered these professional and non-professional interactions. The hotel chain offered opportunities for staff to interact through their formal organisational socialisation or social interactions practices and formal communication structure. Similarly, employees developed people knowledge both during their professional and non-professional interactions through voluntary behaviours matching the organisational citizenship profile such as helping or social interaction behaviours.

    People knowledge appeared to be instigated by employees’ employment motivations, their hospitality experience and most importantly their tenure in Darwin. Careeroriented employees ensured labour instability did not affect their own or their team’s performance, as the latter was critical to fulfil their career progression aspirations. Moreover, having industry experience meant they were familiar with labour instability and the importance of ensuring collaboration and knowledge sharing in both short timeframes and with colleagues they had not worked with for a sufficient length of time. Non-career-oriented employees did not suffice to solely obtaining a professional understanding of their peers. Gaining a non-professional understanding of their peers was also an important factor influencing their quality of collaboration but also helped them fulfil their experiential motivations. These differences in participant’s employment motivations suggested differences in the ways employees achieved the common goal of collaboration. Therefore, participant’s employment motivations played an important role in supporting knowledge sharing in dynamic labour environments.

    Employees living and working in Darwin appeared to be positively influenced by the inevitability of labour instability in Darwin. This influence helped them develop or reinforce the importance of voluntary behaviours towards collaboration in such an unstable labour environment. Voluntary behaviours to facilitate collaboration suggested the need for certain levels of flexibility towards collaboration and knowledge sharing with peers because teams were more than likely to change through labour instability. For career-oriented employees, voluntary behaviours towards collaboration were not new because they had been exposed to such situations before. For all employees (career and non-career-oriented) with no industry experience, their tenure in Darwin helped them develop and understand the importance of voluntary behaviours. Indeed voluntary behaviours were perceived as an important survival strategy. Survival in the sense of coping with labour instability, the importance of knowledge sharing and the difficulty to create durable social networks.

    The findings of this research contribute to the understanding of how knowledge is shared in the dynamic labour environment of hospitality. Studies on hospitality knowledge sharing (chapter two) focused on the role of organisational culture, leadership, individual attitudes, trust, social interactions as well as highlighted the fact that knowledge sharing appeared to be informal. It could be argued that both this research and the hospitality studies converge on the role of attitudes to knowledge sharing, social interactions, social networks, Information and Communication Technologies, job design and organisational socialisation on knowledge sharing. However, diverge on the role of organisational hierarchy and leadership styles, organisational culture, job satisfaction, organisational commitment, motivation and rewards, recruitment and social identification. This convergence and divergence could be explained by the differences in the geographical contexts of studies.

    This study differed from the rest of the hospitality studies due to the prevalence and consideration of labour instability as a contextual characteristic. The research constructs and scales used by the empirical hospitality knowledge sharing studies seem to not have considered explicitly the issue of labour instability that is so typical of hospitality in the Northern Territory. Further, even in cases where labour instability was recognised as a contextual factor, it was controlled and thus researchers did not allow it to potentially influence the study (Srivastava et al. 2006). Another reason could relate to the studies research samples and study designs used. For example, 68 per cent of the sample used by Hu et al. (2009) had been employed by the hotels for up to three years. This could suggest that, perhaps, the issue of labour dynamism was not typical of the Taiwanese hospitality context and therefore not included in the study.

    This research contributes to the hospitality knowledge sharing literature by providing a better understanding of how dynamic labour environments operate and how they influence critical organisational practices such as knowledge sharing.

    Date of AwardJun 2010
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorDean Carson (Supervisor), Aggie Wegner (Supervisor) & Martin Young (Supervisor)

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