Organizational and behavioral factors that influence knowledge retention

Ellen Caroline Martins (Director at Organisational Diagnostics cc, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Hester W.J. Meyer (Associate Professor in the Department of Information Science, University of South Africa, Tshwane, South Africa)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Publication date: 17 February 2012



The purpose of this article is to identify and explore the organizational and behavioral factors that influence knowledge retention, specifically in the tacit knowledge sphere.


A multidisciplinary approach focusing on knowledge management and organizational behavior was followed to develop a theoretical model that identifies the organizational and behavioral factors to be considered when addressing the issues relating to knowledge loss. A quantitative empirical research paradigm using the survey method was adopted to determine the organizational and behavioral factors that impact on knowledge retention. The survey was conducted electronically and on paper in the water supply industry. The exploratory principal component factor analysis technique (PCFA technique) was used to explore the factor structure underlying the variables. The theoretical model was compared with the newly proposed factor model to determine similarities and differences.


Nine key factors were identified through the factor analysis, of which knowledge behaviors, strategy implementation, leadership and people knowledge loss risks proved to be the most important. In comparing the factor structure of the theoretically derived model and the PCFA‐composed factor structure, some factors essentially remained the same with few changes, and a number of new factors emerged.

Research limitations/implications

The literature study reveals that little research has been conducted in the field of knowledge retention with a behavioral focus. However, a vast amount of literature is found on knowledge, knowledge management, knowledge retention with a focus on organizational challenges and solution driven knowledge retention initiatives, and the organizational behavior discipline as such, thus facilitating the application of the relevant concepts to knowledge retention from an organizational and behavioral perspective.

Practical implications

This study encourages practitioners to take cognizance of the fact that organizations are different and that enhancing and impeding organizational factors as well as behavioral factors of knowledge retention are to be considered.


The findings should provide insight into the organizational and behavioral factors that should be considered in implementing a knowledge retention strategy to retain critical tacit knowledge, thus ensuring organizational effectiveness and competitive advantage.



Ellen Caroline Martins and Hester W.J. Meyer (2012) "Organizational and behavioral factors that influence knowledge retention", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 77-96

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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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