Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Impact of Peer Mentor Training on Creating and Sharing Organizational Knowledge

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

Impact of Peer Mentor Training on Creating and Sharing Organizational Knowledge

Article excerpt

Researchers in applied psychology and management have recently argued that mentoring relationships provide a means for firms to share knowledge, encourage learning, and build intellectual capital (Allen et al., 1997; Eddy et al., 2005; Hezlett, 2005; Lankau and Scandura, 2002; Mullen and Noe, 1999; Swap et al., 2001). Peer mentors can provide some of the same functions as traditional mentors, such as psychosocial support (e.g., talking, listening, expressing concern) and career- or job-related support (tangible assistance such as physical resources, one's time, advice, or knowledge that aids another in doing their jobs) (Kram, 1985; Young and Perrewe, 2004). Peer mentoring is an intentional one-on-one relationship between employees at the same or similar lateral level in the firm that involves a more experienced employee providing support and teaching new knowledge and skills to a less experienced employee (Ensher et al., 2001). Recent organizational trends, including downsizing, flattening hierarchies, and increased use of work teams, have reduced the number of senior managers in organizations available to be mentors. In this situation, newer employees may seek mentoring from experienced employees in their organization who are at the same level in the firm--a process called peer mentoring (Eby, 1997; Ensher et al., 2001).

Recent studies have examined information sharing through traditional mentoring relationships (e.g., Borredon and Ingham, 2005; Hezlett, 2005; Mullen and Noe, 1999). There is little research on the relationship between peer mentoring and knowledge sharing, although Eddy et al. (2005) examine a continuous learning environment as an antecedent to peer mentoring. The primary benefits of traditional mentoring relationships are typically career- or job-related support and psychosocial support. We would suggest that knowledge sharing is one of the primary benefits of the peer mentoring relationship (Eddy et al., 2005). The peer mentoring process is qualitatively different from traditional mentoring, and the primary difference is the level of experience and power that the mentors have. Traditional mentors are able to provide career advice, political support, access to inside information, opportunities for advances, etc. This qualitatively changes the nature of the relationship--both the content of what knowledge is shared and how that knowledge is shared. The purpose of this study is to provide an empirical test of whether peer mentoring facilitates organizational knowledge sharing and to explore whether employees can be trained to be more effective peer mentors.

CONCEPTUAL BACKGROUND AND HYPOTHESES

In knowledge-intensive firms, such as the software firm used in the present study, managers place a premium on technical competence, making job-related knowledge extremely valuable to employees and to the firm. Therefore, in the present study, we examine the sharing of job-related and technical knowledge in the peer mentoring relationship. Next we examine the strategic value of organizational knowledge before exploring how peer mentoring facilitates the sharing of knowledge between peer mentors and apprentices.

Organizational Knowledge and Peer Mentoring

Creating and sharing knowledge more effectively than competitors provides the possibility for creating competitive advantages (Boisot, 1998; Grant, 1996; Kogut and Zander, 1992; Teece, 1998). Organizational knowledge includes all the tacit and explicit knowledge that individuals possess about products, systems, and processes and the explicit knowledge codified in manuals, databases, and information systems. There are many processes that researchers have identified, but they tend to fall into one of three main categories: creating knowledge (March, 1991; Nonaka, 1994; Crossan et al., 1999), sharing knowledge (Grant, 1996; Nonaka, 1994; Szulanski, 1996) and exploiting knowledge (Boisot, 1998; March, 1991; Nonaka, 1994). …

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