Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Capital Development


Interdisciplinary Studies and Professional Development

Committee Chair

Cyndi Gaudet

Committee Chair Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 2

Heather Annulis

Committee Member 2 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 3

Dale Lunsford

Committee Member 3 Department

Human Capital Development

Committee Member 4

Patti Philips

Committee Member 4 Department

Human Capital Development


Knowledge is a critical element of competitive advantage. More specifically, tribal knowledge developed by workers from on-the-job experiences is of significant value and is also one of the most difficult forms of knowledge to capture and leverage across the workforce. In an effort to capture, store, and share tribal knowledge, organizations have begun to adopt a concept of social learning known as communities of practice. However, low participation by community members in many organizations has resulted in mediocre results. This has been particularly evident in the contact center environment, which has its own unique culture and challenges. Without a solid knowledge and understanding of the motivators, enablers, and barriers of participation critical to the adoption of and participation in contact center communities of practice, organizations often struggle to achieve sufficient gains in competitive advantage and efficiencies to justify the investment in such an intervention.

Five research objectives guide the research in this study to identify the specific motivators, enablers, and barriers to participation in communities of practice in the contact center environment. The objectives break out participation in terms of passive use of information provided by others and active contribution of knowledge to the community. Through an exploratory-sequential, mixed methods design, the research presented serves as a cross-sectional, non-experimental study of a finite population of nearly 9,000 customer service representatives in a large organization with contact centers across the United States. The first stage involved qualitative focus group interviews with a small sample of participants across the different lines of business supported by the centers and was followed by a quantitative survey in the second stage.

The study revealed that contact centers have many factors of participation in common with other organizations studied previously. However, it also revealed some stark differences, especially in terms of enablers and barriers to participation. The type of work and the way in which time is managed in the contact center world represented key factors specific to the environment. In addition, the team structures and the infrastructure supporting a company-wide community of practice were also significant factors that drove participation either up or down.

The study provides initial research into the specifics of the contact center environment. However, additional research with other organizations and industries is needed to further validate the findings of this study.