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Identification of knowledge: A research to develop a tool to map the present and required knowledge of Eaton’s employees

Nijenhuis, Maarten te (2013) Identification of knowledge: A research to develop a tool to map the present and required knowledge of Eaton’s employees.

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Abstract:This research is carried out at the plant of Eaton Industries B.V. located in Hengelo, with about 900 employees. Eaton Industries B.V. focuses on the development, production and selling of products for switching, distributing and protecting energy both low and medium voltage. In other words, the activities of Eaton Industries B.V. are in the field of electrical power energy and technology. Problem definition The plant of Eaton Industries B.V. in Hengelo has to deal with changes in the workforce. The most common issues are an aging population within the company; the difficulty to find (young) technically skilled employees; and a natural outflow. The changes are determined based on factual data showing that the average age is 47 years; there is an average inflow of 2,25 %; and an average outflow of 4,64%. A consequence of the low inflow is that Eaton is more dependent on the current employees and their knowledge. The most important issue is the outflow, which can cause a potential loss of knowledge. Therefore, it becomes more important to know what the present knowledge is. Thus, the problem is related to the inflow and outflow of employees, which influence the knowledge level within Eaton. At the moment, there is no tool to map the knowledge of employees. This leads to the following research question: How can a new tool be developed in order to map the present and required knowledge of the employees of Eaton Industries B.V.? Analysis and diagnosis The analysis and diagnosis part contains a literature review, which is conducted to get more insight in the topic and the related aspects. Two approaches, knowledge management and intellectual capital, are described to decide which aspects are useful for the tool. The main idea of knowledge management is to unlock and use knowledge of employees (Anand & Singh, 2011). It is a process consisting of knowledge creation; knowledge storage and retrieval; knowledge transfer; and knowledge application. The focus of this study is on knowledge mapping, part of knowledge creation, to identify where the knowledge stocks and possible knowledge gaps are located. Intellectual capital is focused on intangible resources, the potential to create value and the growth effect of collective practice (Martín-de Castro et al., 2011). The three core elements of intellectual capital are: human capital, structural capital and relational capital. Human capital is composed of knowledge, skills and expertise of employees. Aspects of structural capital are operating process; organization structure; policies; information systems and databases; culture; and rewards. Relations inside and outside the organization belong to relational capital (Marr, 2008). On the basis of the literature review, it is determined that the identification of knowledge and experiences is central in this research. Plan of action The plan of action is dedicated to the design of the tool. Existing tools to map knowledge are discussed to determine whether they have aspects, which can be applied to the new tool. In addition, the specifications of the design are partly based on interviews with HR employees, managers of the front-end departments and the plant manager. The most important requirement is to develop a simple tool, which is easy to use. In advance the target group, the departments of front-end, is determined from which the knowledge is mapped. The intention is that employees indicate their knowledge level, difficulty to transfer knowledge, experience level and difficulty to transfer experiences in relation to knowledge areas. The final result is a function matrix that represents the available and required knowledge and experiences of employees. An addition, the individual matrix also shows how difficult it is to transfer knowledge and experiences of employees. Intervention and evaluation The tool is tested at the front-end departments. The knowledge areas for three functions of the target group are established with specific knowledge that is crucial for Eaton. In total, six application engineers, three order manager and three order processing managers fill in the matrix. After the tool is completed the usefulness is partly evaluated with the manager, supervisors and employees of the test phase. The manager and supervisors argue that the tool can add value, because it is a representation of the knowledge and experience levels within the department. However, more value can be created by developing a central system to combine existing systems and where knowledge becomes available to others. The most common remark of employees is that the knowledge areas are too general. Furthermore, the results are evaluated with the supervisors. A few adjustments are made, because the supervisors found that some employees scored lower or higher than expected. Discussion The tool results in an overview of knowledge areas; the identification of employees with high knowledge and experience levels; the detection of risks and knowledge gaps; a simple tool to maintain the levels; and a first step in knowledge management. The reflection of the tool has led to the following suggestions: required knowledge can be determined for each knowledge area; the established knowledge areas can be discussed in work meetings; managers can determine the knowledge and experience levels of employees before they complete the matrix; and managers and employees can discuss the scores with each other. It is advisable to test the matrix again taken the suggestions into account. In addition, changes in an organization’s environment can ensure that the content of the tool needs to be adjusted. To conclude, it is not a static, but a dynamic tool. Recommendations Finally, recommendations are given to Eaton based on the results and evaluation of the conducted research. - The HR department can begin with the implementation of knowledge management process. Therefore, it is important that they create one vision on knowledge management. - After the creation of a knowledge management vision the responsibility can be allocated to employees who form a project group. This group can proceed to embed knowledge management in the organization. - There are practical issues that can influence managers to perform HR activities, such a lack of desire and capacity. HR can convince managers that knowledge management is relevant. Managers can delegate tasks to experienced employees to have more time to work on knowledge management. - The project group can create commitment among employees to make clear that knowledge management is important. - Eaton can start with mapping knowledge of key functions. A guideline regarding the numbers of knowledge areas is 10 to 12. This ensures that managers focus on the specific knowledge within an area. - To store and share knowledge Eaton can make use of a digital system, for example Microsoft SharePoint. The system makes it possible for employees to share information, manage documents and publish reports. The maintenance of the tool can be improved by using SharePoint. It gives employees the possibility to search, change or add information.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Eaton Industries B.V.
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
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