This article addresses the challenges of R&D–sales cross-functional cooperation by exploring how HR practices encourage knowledge transfer, minimising peer-to-peer friction and maximising the effectiveness of the exchanges for performance innovation. We combined document analysis of professional HR management magazines and semi-structured interviews at a Finnish digital media firm, in order to identify manifestations of institutional work expressing and legitimising knowledge transfer-focused HR management practices, and how employees make sense of them. Our findings identify manifestations of institutional work expressing, sustaining and legitimising knowledge transfer and relate these manifestations to distinct dimensions of human resource management practices. We integrate prevailing institutional expectations and employees' attributions of knowledge transfer-focused human resource practices, which highlights the connections between human resource management and the knowledge management field, as well as the dichotomy between the more humanist knowledge transfer strategies and those that are information technology-oriented. Our original integration of institutional expectations and a case analysis of employees' attributions of knowledge transfer-focused human resource practices contribute directly to management practice dealing with the effects of organising strategically for knowledge-based innovation outcomes. This has implications in terms of the development of interpersonal skills, the engagement and development of cross-team work; the design of participative mechanisms; and the implementation of knowledge transfer principles, practices and systems.