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Understanding employee knowledge: the development of an organizational memory scale

Annette Dunham (Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)
Christopher Burt (Department of Psychology, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 8 April 2014




The aim of this study is to develop a psychometrically sound self-report scale of organizational memory. The scale is planned for use in future research to test the relationship between what employees know and their attitudes to passing on their knowledge.


A total of 72 organizational memory scale items representing six hypothesised dimensions of organizational memory were developed and tested with 143 participants using exploratory factor analysis. The resulting five-factor model was tested with a further sample of 288 employees using structural equation modelling, and the test-retest reliability was examined.


Five factors of the organizational memory scale were identified. These were: socio-political knowledge, job knowledge, external network, history, and industry knowledge. The dimensions correlated with tenure variables often used as proxies for experience. Structural equation modelling confirmed the five-factor model and the scale achieved adequate test-retest reliability.

Research limitations/implications

The five organizational memory factors are not an exhaustive list. While the scale enables employees to evaluate their own organizational memory, it may not necessarily be an accurate indicator of their knowledge.

Practical implications

The scale can be used as a knowledge audit instrument for examining attitudes to mentoring and knowledge sharing, as well as for auditing knowledge that may potentially be lost when experienced employees leave organizations.


The scale is a valid and reliable self-report measure of organizational memory. It is an innovative tool for examining employee attitudes to knowledge sharing initiatives. The scale also recognises the contribution made to organizational memory by those with industry knowledge outside the organization.



Dunham, A. and Burt, C. (2014), "Understanding employee knowledge: the development of an organizational memory scale", The Learning Organization, Vol. 21 No. 2, pp. 126-145.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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