Academic journal article Management Revue

What's So Special about Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer? Identifying Challenges of Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer **

Academic journal article Management Revue

What's So Special about Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer? Identifying Challenges of Intergenerational Knowledge Transfer **

Article excerpt

Introduction Studies on diversity topics and knowledge management abound in the management and psychology literature. Research has focused on either different aspects of knowledge transfer (e. g. Foss, Minbaeva, Pedersen, & Reinholt, 2009) or differences between generations in the workplace (e. g. Lyons & Kuron, 2013). However, research that combines these two fields is still limited. From a knowledge management perspective, scholars have explored antecedents (e. g. interpersonal trust, examined by Lee, Gillespie, Mann, & Wearing, 2010; Mooradian, Renzl, & Matzler, 2006), and potential outcomes (e. g. performance, examined by Levine & Prietula, 2012) of knowledge transfer. Furthermore, scholars have demonstrated that potential obstacles such as conflicts (Chen, 2011) can reduce the exchange of information between individuals.

Scholars in the field of diversity have looked at age-heterogeneous teams, and how younger and older individuals are distinct from each other (e. g. Costanza, Badger, Fraser, Severt, & Gade, 2012). For instance, younger generations appear to have a stronger learning orientation; they prefer learning new skills and handling new situations compared to older generations (D'Amato & Herzfeldt, 2008). Other findings revealed that these differences might also hinder the interaction between employees due to increased potential for conflicts (Jehn, Northcraft, & Neale, 1999).

Although prior research has reported evidence in each field, little attention has been paid to how specifically the fields of knowledge transfer and generational diversity are interrelated (Ellwart, Bündgens, & Rack, 2013; Harvey, 2012; Noethen & Voelpel, 2011). From a knowledge-based perspective, we seek to combine these two streams in order to address the question whether employees who participate in intergenerational knowledge transfer are confronted with different situations than employees who exchange information with same-generation colleagues (Lauring & Selmer, 2012; Noethen, 2011; Noethen & Voelpel, 2011).

Since research on this topic is still limited, the aim of this paper is to summarise results of empirical research on intergenerational knowledge transfer based on a systematic review of studies, which deal explicitly or implicitly with various aspects of intergenerational knowledge transfer (Table 1). Based on this review of the literature, and integrating the existing, still highly limited empirical literature that directly addresses intergenerational knowledge transfer with related insights from studies at the interface of the literature on age/generational diversity and on knowledge transfer (e. g. co-worker support is a topic discussed in both streams) we developed a set of propositions. Figure 1 demonstrates how the propositions were developed based on the three different streams of literature. Finally, we incorporated our propositions into an existing, comprehensive conceptual framework relating to knowledge transfer in general (Figure 2). In so doing, we adapted and extended the theoretical framework suggested by Wang and Noe (2010).

Therefore, our analysis is methodologically based on a two-step research process. First, we build our literature review on a search of eight major management/psychological databases with 21 keywords related to knowledge transfer and/or intergenerational aspects in organisations, such as 'knowledge transfer' and 'intergenerational contact'. A list of the keywords is provided in the appendix. We were inspired by the paper by Richter (2014) for our database selection because her article also focuses on demographic issues. We applied our keywords to the following databases: ISI Publica, IZA, Ifo Institute, JSTOR, Social Science Research Network (SSRN), EconStor, PsychINFO, and Econbiz. A selection of the databases have been used among published literature reviews as well (e. g. Burmeister & Deller, 2016; Schneid, Isidor, Steinmetz, & Kabst, 2016; van Wijk, Jansen, & Lyles, 2008). …

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