Organisational learning & training based on knowledge management: A case study of a Chinese company

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This dissertation proposal aims to present a rough research process about the application of knowledge management in a practical organisational learning & training system in the era of knowledge-based economy. The research methods of secondary data (critical analysis previous data, relevant information of the company online), primary data (direct observation and interview) in the case study will be adopted, which make effort to answer the research questions that why do enterprises need to combine organisational learning & training with knowledge management; How to optimise or improve the organisational learning & training system that based on knowledge management.

1. Background

With the advent of the era of a knowledge-based economy, knowledge has become an important strategic resource and plays an important role in the survival and development of organisations (Kundu, 2016). Many features of this era, such as rapid growth in information and knowledge, short knowledge-renewing cycles, and high frequency of knowledge innovation compel learning more knowledge to become an urgent need for individuals and organisations. In this context, whether organisations can make the useful knowledge for the development, and achieve a higher degree of sharing and innovation, creating new knowledge that is beneficial to the development, will determine the competitiveness of organisations (Giurgiu, 2015). Knowledge management, as the process or practice of creating, acquiring, capturing, sharing and using knowledge, plays vital roles to enhance learning and human development (Scarborough et al, 1999). Thus, knowledge management activities that around knowledge discovery, storage, sharing, application and innovation have become important parts of organisation management system design (Brajer-Marczak, 2016). 

On the other hands, the root of knowledge competition is talent competition. As an important factor in human resource management, learning & training takes the responsibility of enhancing the competitiveness of organisations by improving the abilities of employees. One of the core contents of learning & training is to enable employees master and utilise the useful knowledge for the development of organisations (Hanaysha & Tahir, 2016). However, the information revolution — digitalisation, networking and breakthrough of information technology has brought the human society into a knowledge-centred era, and the demanding of knowledge in organisational development is increasing, which changes the environment of learning & training significantly. The traditional learning & training approaches, which based on employees’ passive learning and instillation training methods in organisations, are poor efficiency. Besides, they also cannot meet the requirement of organisational development in the knowledge explosion age (Giurgiu, 2015). The more effective learning & training method should provide employees with a convenient and open platform for knowledge acquisition and knowledge sharing thus enables employees to obtain communication and information exchange opportunities in the knowledge explosion age, and eventually achieving the organisation’s knowledge innovation (Ciobanu, 2009). That is why knowledge management is important in organisation learning & training. Moreover, knowledge management provides effective conditions based on advanced information technology and open platform for organisation learning & training in this era of knowledge economy, ranging from the flexibility of time, space, content and assessment modes. Therefore, the idea of learning & training based on knowledge management will bring new development to organisations.

Knowledge can be classified in to explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is expressed in numbers and words, and it is easy to share and communicate in the form of information. Tacit knowledge is hard to format and highly personalised knowledge. Subjective understanding, intuition and premonition belong to tacit knowledge (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). The classification of knowledge attracts people’s attention on the roles of tacit knowledge. Easterby and Prieto (2008) state that one of the missions of knowledge management is using various means to tap the latent knowledge in the minds of employees, transferring and sharing them, and finally turn the tacit knowledge attached to the individual’s mind into organisational knowledge asset. As to the relationship between organisational learning &training and knowledge management, the book “Knowledge Management and Training: The  Value  of  Collaboration” written by Carlile (2002) summarised the definition of knowledge and knowledge management. It also expounded the mutual promotion role between knowledge management and training. The synergy of the two parts can facilitate the organisational development. Thus, training needs to be combined with knowledge management (Carlile, 2002). Noruzy and other researchers (2013) use data collected from 50 manufacturing firms’ managers, testifying the hypothesis that organisational learning positively influences knowledge management (Noruzy et al., 2013). Sprinkle and Urick (2017) believe organizational learning needs to utilize various knowledge management methods to meet the development requirement of individuals and organizations. Many previous research explain the importance of knowledge management utilized in organizational learning & training and why should combine those two parts, however, there are few research emphasis on how to implement this process based on the practical case studies. Besides, most the research took part in western context. This dissertation will focus on the theoretical importance of organizational learning & training and knowledge management as well as the practical application in a Chinese company, which dedicates to make up those gaps.  

2. Research question

The research questions of this dissertation are why do enterprises need to combine organisational learning & training with knowledge management (necessities and positive functions)? How to optimise or improve the organisational learning & training system that based on knowledge management (improve weaknesses)? This dissertation will take a company ‘s learning & training system as an example, analysing the necessity of implementing new learning & training system based on knowledge management (the former one has some problems); what positive roles knowledge management plays in organisational learning & training when compared with the former traditional system; which processes in the new learning & training system based on knowledge management still need to be perfected to establish a more effective system. Gourlay (2001) states that there are two levels of knowledge management, one is people-oriented, and the other is technology-focused. People-oriented means that the organisational culture, team working, and other human management issues are vital for knowledge management projects while technology-focused indicates the breakthrough of technology information and Internet promote the knowledge management (Gourlay, 2001). So, when considering the advantages and disadvantages of current learning & training system that based on knowledge management, I will try to analyse those issues from two aspects of people-oriented and technology-focused. 

This research is doable during three months. One year before I did the internship in the HR department learning & organisation development team in LB company (Because of the ethics consideration, I haven’t got permission for this company, so I will use LB company to replace the real name of this company) taking part in various learning & training projects and building a good relationship with the training manager who was my superior. Besides, LB company currently utilises knowledge management in learning & training system. Thus some useful data and information can be obtained effectively to support this research. Moreover, this research might be meaningful because it has the sense of originality by analysing a specific knowledge management learning & training system under the background of knowledge-based economy. 

3.Overall Research Approaches

This dissertation will adopt qualitative research that combines the primary data with the secondary data in a case study to analyse the practical application of knowledge management in an organisation learning & training system because qualitative research is based on the social phenomenon or the properties of things and the contradictory changes in the movement, which is suitable for small samples but can analysis in context and in-depth (Miles et al., 2014). I’m going to take LB company’s learning & training system based on the concept of knowledge management as a case study and analysis it in depth because case study comes from practice, which is comprehensive and real responses to objective facts. Case study can increase the effectiveness of empirical research (Yin, 2014). The logic of this dissertation can be divided into what is the learning & training system based on knowledge management? Why does this kind of system is important? How to establish and optimise this system? The analytical approach is information induction and the aim of those questions is to understand and interpret this social phenomenon. 

In the part of literature review, secondary data (critical analysis previous journals, books, articles et al) will support the theoretical foundation and former research results of the topic. In the processes of data collection and analysis, the best approach to illustrate research questions — why do enterprises need to combine organisational learning & training with knowledge management? How to optimise or improve the organisational learning & training system that based on knowledge management is take a specific practical case of organisational learning & training system based on knowledge management in a company. The case study not only gives a detailed description of the phenomenon, but also makes an in-depth analysis of the reasons behind the phenomenon. It not only answers the question of “how” and “why”, but also helps the researchers to grasp the origin and essence of the event (Starman, 2013). In the case study, firstly, secondary data (finding relevant data of LB company online) and primary data–interview will be utilised to collect the information of the previous learning & training system in LB company, identify what reasons or problems prompt the revolution on learning & training system based on knowledge management. In other words, what are necessities to apply knowledge management in learning & training system. Secondly, methods of direct observation and interview will be adopted to gather the primary data of the current learning & training system that based on knowledge management, realising the particular operational modes of this new system from the perspectives of people-oriented and technology-focused; What advantages do this new system have when compared with former traditional learning & training system; What deficiencies still need to be perfected. Thirdly, according to those factors that still need to be optimised in the new learning & training system, I will try to come up with some solutions in terms of those knowledge management theories and models mentioned in the literature review section to improve the current learning & training system based on knowledge management in LB company.

4. Methods and Data

During the process of data collection, sourcing relevant official documents of LB company’s online and interviews will be mixed up to realise the previous learning & training system in LB company. When searching the official company’s information online, I will focus on the general situation, organisational structure, and employee composition on LB company’s official website as well as the 2017 annual report. That kind of information can show the basic operational status of LB company, which lays the foundation for the further research. Then interviews will be used to collect the information of former learning & training system. This kind of data is important because only analysis the drawbacks of the former system, can understand why knowledge management needs to be embedded in leaning & training system to improve that. Interview is a popular method of collecting qualitative data, which will be used to obtain primary data of the case company (Bryman & Bell, 2015). Interviews can clear focus on research topic and is insightful (Yin, 2014). The person whose I am going to interview is a senior training manager. The reasons why I interview her are she is very familiar with and grasps the amount of data about the former system because she has long working age and she is also the design participant of the former system. The purpose of this research required asking questions on specific topics (Bryman & Bell, 2015), I’m going to use semi-structured and face-to-face interview to ask her questions mainly about how did the previous learning & training system operate; what were the advantages/ disadvantages of it; what were employees’ reflection about that (the specific questions need to be considered carefully later). The semi-structured interview can be more flexible and encourage improvisation, which allows interviewees to present some new questions (Myers, 2009). Face-to-face interview is an effective method to collect information from interviewees’ conversations, facial expressions and body languages in a good interview environment. After that, I will analyse necessities that applying knowledge management on learning & training system according to those data.

In the next step, the direct observation will be adopted to collect the data of current learning & training system that based on knowledge management. I will ask for permission to stay in LB company for one to two weeks to observe the operation models and effects of the new learning & training system based on knowledge management. Direct observation is immediacy to see events in action and in context (Yin, 2014). This is the most direct and effective way to know how this new system operates. Next, I will interview five employees in different departments but at the same positions to realise their feelings and opinions about this new learning & training system based on knowledge management. They are the participators of this new system so their perspectives are valuable. I will still use semi-structured interview by face-to-face. The specific questions need to be considered carefully later. I will also interview the senior training manager again to realise the official feedbacks about the new system operation effectiveness. After collecting those kinds of data, I can analyse the effects, advantages and deficiencies of the learning & training system based on knowledge management in LB company.

Finally, I will try to come up with several solutions to deal with those deficiencies and optimise the new system based on knowledge management theories and models mentioned in the literature review section. This part is the combination of theories with the practical case. 

This research is feasible. I still keep in touch with the senior training manager in LB company, and I will explain to her that I want to collect some primary data in LB company about the learning & training system based on knowledge management to complete my dissertation and ask for permission to stay in LB company for one to two weeks to observe and interview in June, 2018.

I believe the resources and data can be accessed and time is available.

5. Chapter Outline

1. Introduction: This part needs to include the background, the importance, and the purpose of researching this topic, the research questions and the structure of the dissertation. 

2.literature review: This part provides the theoretical framework, previous research results of the topic and critical analysis about them, which generally includes the definition of knowledge, knowledge management, the model of knowledge management…… The theories of learning & training, learning & training system…… The relationship between knowledge management and organisational learning & training ……

3. Methodology: This section explains what methods and data will be applied in the further research and why adopting those methods, which includes research approach, research methods, research design……

4&5. Empirical findings and analysis: The part shows the secondary and primary data that obtain from the LB company in the case study by document analysis, semi-structured interview and observation. Those data and analysis need to answer the research questions that why do enterprises need to combine organisational learning & training with knowledge management (necessities and positive functions)? How to optimise or improve the organisational learning & training system that based on knowledge management (improve weaknesses)?

6. Conclusion: This part wills analysis the outcomes of those research questions, highlighting the implications of research.


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