The study of knowledge employee voice among the knowledge-based companies: the case of an emerging economy.

AutorHosseini, Elahe


Nowadays, organisations must move in a turbulent environment, with uncertainty and unpredictability resulting from technological, social, political and economic changes (Salamzadeh, Tajpour, & Hosseini, 2019). That is why in today's evolving world, the foundations of industrial economies have shifted from the focus on resources to the focus on intellectual capital (Tajpour, Hosseini, & Alizadeh, 2021). In such situation, society needs new companies based on knowledge, basically called knowledge-based companies.

Knowledge-based companies, as knowledge-centred companies, attempt to be learning organisations where members strive to improve their knowledge production capacity as a group and individually (Salamzadeh, Tajpour, Hosseini, & Salembrahmi, 2021). Knowledge must be created and exchanged in different forms to create value for activating growth and development in knowledge-based companies (Bouncken, Kraus, & Roig-Tierno, 2019). As a result, knowledge-based companies are those that sell their knowledge (Sveiby, 1997). The growing number of knowledge-based companies has led to creating many novelty products and preparing the ground for investors and elites to be involved in the business (Salamzadeh & Kawamorita Kesim, 2017).

Knowledge-based companies' management is confronted with complexities in developing countries like Iran, such as the lack of trust among employees, little creativity and knowledge sharing, improper hierarchical and governmental structure, lack of a proper business model, lack of material and spiritual incentives to foster innovation, lack of enthusiasm for innovation, inadequate technical skills of employees, low level of hardware and software technology, and insufficient support by the government (Madhoshi & Kia Kojouri, 2018).

Similar to other companies, knowledge-based companies have financial, commercial concerns and aim to create wealth. However, these companies attempt to generate wealth through scientific research development and the upgrading of sophisticated and efficient technologies, which is known as the main difference between their goal and other commercial companies' (NawzadSabir, Othman, Al-Kake, & Rashid, 2019). Compared to mature firms, knowledge-based firms have the potential to grow more, expressing that they can have more workforce or the opportunity to grow with less capital than older companies (Epstein & Yuthas, 2017).

In this regard, it can be said that knowledge-based companies are looking for the best way to operate and strengthen relationships based on collaboration to achieve organisational perfection by searching for a superior position in the market (Wang & Ahmed, 2003). Therefore, due to the change in the concept and structure of knowledge, knowledge has become necessary in economics, as well as the whole knowledge society, and knowledge employees (Adelstein, 2007).

Then, successful organisations, especially knowledge-based companies, seek to use human capital as a competitive advantage, and discover innovation as a critical factor in achieving success (Kantur, 2016). In other words, according to resource-based theory, it might be difficult for organisations to access such resources and capabilities. However, since they cannot be imitated by other organisations, those resources play a significant role in the competitive advantage of organisations (Reed & DeFillippi, 1990). Consequently, knowledge workers were recognised as a great source of innovation and competitiveness (Chen, 2008).

Knowledge employees create new ideas, are engaged in knowledge dissemination and use knowledge as a resource. They also participate in research and development and are industriously involved in the advancement of knowledge (Otken & Cenkci, 2012).

Knowledge employees are responsible for their working lives. They are continually striving to better understand the world and improve their work practices and behaviours to achieve organisational and personal goals. They also have a self-motivating force (Greene, 2006). These unique features allow knowledge workers to find and solve problems. So, knowledge-based companies need the feedback of their knowledge employee in order to make successful organisational changes (Holland, Teicher, & Donaghey, 2019). Therefore, the opportunity to know employees through their opinions can play a significant role in organisational performance, innovation, security, and operational development process (Coule, 2013). Besides, the information provided to decision-makers promptly enhances the quality and accuracy of decisions (Kok, Sarikaya, & Coban, 2016).

According to the expectancy theory of motivation, if managers impose conditions on employees to make their voices heard, employees will realise that they are valued by management. It motivates them, which ultimately leads to high organisational productivity (Green & Tsitsianis, 2005). Therefore, mutual trust between employees and managers can create an atmosphere full of employee participation (Charkhkar, Hosseini, & Sabokro, 2021). As a result, it can help increase their motivation, provide creative suggestions and create the appropriate platforms and infrastructure for knowledge employees to achieve organisational goals, which are essential (Norman, Avey, Larson, & Hughes, 2019).

Knowledge-based companies face a great number of changes and challenges that oblige them to employ elite and talented people, thus diminishing the impact of these challenges, especially in occupations and positions crucial to move towards decision-making (Salamzadeh & Tajpour, 2021). Evidently, the closer the source of decision-making is to the problem, the more practical the solution is (Tajpour & Hosseini, 2021b). Indeed, knowledge-based companies can provide people with the opportunity to express their ideas or voices. And it will enable talented people to assist in understanding the organisation's problems and seek creative and new ideas to solve their problems. Nonetheless, the motivation for such behaviours cannot be found only in the context of organisational systems. Unfortunately, previous studies have not yet addressed this issue.

Therefore, the paper sought to provide a model for knowledge employee voice in Iran. The findings of this study can significantly help managers and owners of knowledge-based information technology companies to achieve competitive advantage. Insummary, this study contributes to the mainstream literature in four ways: First, it extends the employee voice literature and relates it to knowledge-based companies that are innovative in their own right. Second, it extends the employee voice literature to address the call for reconsidering the structures, processes and context change. It also covers the need for relating employee voice to some concepts, including organisation and management. Third, it contributes to a competitive advantage in the organisation through examining the impact of employee voice. Fourth, this study addresses the need for more empirical studies on the effectiveness of employee voice in developing countries such as Iran. In the continuation of this research, theoretical foundations and background on employee voice and knowledge worker are assessed. Then, the research method is expressed. Later, the pillars of the employee voice model of knowledge are extracted by presenting the voice components of the knowledge employee. In the end, a grounded theory of knowledge employee voice is presented based on the paradigm model, and the results and suggestions of the research are also stated.

Employee voice

The quick environmental changes are among the most critical challenges for organisations, as well as the extended and increasingly competitive environment, which permanently makes organisations strive for success (Hosseini, Saeida Ardekani, & Sabokro, 2021b). Therefore, the interaction based on trust--that is, between manager and employees--is required (Gao, Janssen, & Shi, 2011). Indeed, the employees' ideas of working hard to keep their position in a competitive environment are crucial for an organisation (Kok et al., 2016). Accordingly, employees are provided with opportunity for expressing their ideas using the concept of voice; however, it seems that they are now willing to do so in any circumstances. Hence, it is necessary to encourage them to voice their ideas.

Therefore, knowledge-based companies invest in programmes that can increase the participation of knowledge employees (Khanmoradi, Sajjadi, & Zardoshtian, 2020), since not all employees are known as a source of competitive benefit for the company (Kryscynski, Coff, & Campbell, 2021). Welbourne (2011) also asserts that when employees express activity knowledge and are not like robots doing just a simple, repetitive task, then it is clear that companies are growing and developing (Welbourne, 2011). The best term for voice goes back to the classics of Hirschman (1970), who observed voice as an attempt to change, rather than escape from a troublesome situation (Hirschman, 1970). Employee voice has been a long-standing research topic developed by Freeman and Medoff (1984), that traces its originstomore than two centuries ago and has only been known to be conservative in trade unions (Kaufman, 2015). Enthusiasm for studying employee voice has been increasing exponentially in recent years, and scientists have identified among the various disciplines the factors associated with employees involved in employee voice and its consequences for organisations (Mowbray, Wilkinson, & Tse, 2015). Employee voice is essential because it is a strong incentive for high-quality decisions and organisational success (Morrison, Wheeler-Smith, & Kamdar, 2011). Moreover, employee voice is beneficial for the early detection of serious problems (Detert & Burris, 2007). Therefore, the new forms of employee voice in organisations appeared quickly, including self-governing teams, proposals and open-door policies...

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