Knowledge sharing quality on an ESN: The moderating effect of bridging members
Bas Reus, Christine Moser, Peter GroenewegenKnowledge sharing in organizations is key for an organization to create value and has often been seen as its most important strategic resource. For many years now, technology plays an important role in facilitating knowledge sharing. Since the end of the previous century this resulted in the increase of using Knowledge Management Systems (KMSs). These tools often were limited to sharing documents which could be searched and retrieved. Nowadays, many organizations have adopted the usage of Employee Social Networks (ESNs) to foster knowledge sharing. These software tools allow the creation of communities or groups where knowledge can not only be retrieved, but also discussed and shared.
Sharing knowledge not necessarily leads to the creation of new or useful knowledge. While it is useful for knowledge to be validated, elaborated upon and discussed with others, it does not by definition add to the usefulness and quality of the knowledge for the organization. How employees perceive the quality of the shared knowledge is often contextual. Despite the high expectations organizations often have when implementing an ESN, there are numerous obstacles to overcome in order to stimulate employees to actually use ESNs. There are many reasons for employees to act in ways that might frustrate knowledge sharing, such as selective sharing or protecting knowledge. Consequently, employees may believe that when the ESN knowledge is of high quality, they might be more motivated to share knowledge on the ESN. In addition, they might be more engaged on the ESN in terms of knowledge retrieval.
We argue here that an important antecedent of perceived knowledge quality is an employee’s position in the overall online network as evidenced by their participation in different interest groups. Some employees participate only in one group, while others participate in multiple groups. As a result, employees that are active in multiple groups on ESNs establish a network of groups.
In this paper, we contribute to the understanding of how network contextual values influence employees’ perceived knowledge quality. We do so by examining the structural position of what we call “bridging members”, and the number of bridges between groups on which they participate on an ESN. Specifically, we investigate how the structural position and number of bridges moderate the positive effect of trust, inter-team interaction, knowledge sharing behavior and pro-sharing norms on perceived knowledge quality. To test our hypotheses, we combined data from a survey and log file data from a Dutch youth-care organization using an ESN.