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Cultural differences in motivating global knowledge workers

Ingo Forstenlechner (Higher Colleges of Technology, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates)
Fiona Lettice (Norwich Business School, University of East Anglia, Norwich, UK)

Equal Opportunities International

ISSN: 0261-0159

Article publication date: 13 November 2007



The purpose of this paper is to present and discuss the findings of research into the different means of motivating knowledge workers to participate in and contribute to knowledge exchange and creation.


A survey was conducted among more than a quarter of the 2,500+ strong lawyer multinational law firm with 25+ offices in 15+ countries and analysed to provide insight into the differences on motivation and value perception across the cultural dividing lines. The results were analysed at regional level as well as organisational/generation level and analysed by statistical means and descriptive statistics. The key outcomes were analysed against literature to provide an in‐depth understanding on how to foster knowledge sharing.


Respondents showed distinct reactions towards the means to motivate them to share knowledge. Career prospects, authority, provision of charge codes, recognition among peers or one‐time incentives have a very diverse impact around the world.

Research limitations/implications

This survey itself was limited to one law firm. Thus, even though this firm is among the largest three firms in the world and considered a leader in knowledge management, this research is therefore not representative of the entire professional service sector or the law firm sector.

Practical implications

The results have been used within the case study organisation to improve the efficiency in motivating lawyers to share knowledge and lessons can be drawn for comparable organisations operating on a global scale.


Prior to this paper there has been little research into the motivation of global knowledge workers within the professional service environment.



Forstenlechner, I. and Lettice, F. (2007), "Cultural differences in motivating global knowledge workers", Equal Opportunities International, Vol. 26 No. 8, pp. 823-833.



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Copyright © 2007, Emerald Group Publishing Limited