The Consequences of Scaling Knowledge Resources to Strategic Human Capital Management: Evidence from the Brazilian Private Higher Education Sector

11:00 am March 17, 2021



This paper addresses how the high scalability of knowledge resources reshape unit-level performance and human capital management in multi-unit organizations. It advances that strategies focused on transferring knowledge resources to geographically-dispersed units affect the local value of worker-level tasks, knowledge, skills, and abilities, reshape the nature of the worker-firm relationship, and enable units to increase the scale and scope of their activities. Empirically, this paper studies the context of Brazilian private higher education, where large educational groups deploy strategies based on scaling pedagogical resources, promoting distance learning, and professionalizing the management of geographically-dispersed units. The paper examines how a 2007-2014 wave of acquisitions by these large private higher educational groups affected the scale, scope, and human capital management of acquired universities. The main analyses rely on a unique combination of a hand-collected dataset on all acquisitions and ownership changes in the Brazilian private higher education sector between 2007 and 2014, detailed administrative panel data on universities across municipalities university-level data, and a large restricted panel dataset on the characteristics of labor contracts across universities. Results support that, following an acquisition by a large group, acquired universities specialize the tasks demanded from faculty, become less dependent on experienced faculty, and increase the use of professional managers. The analyses also show that acquired universities substantially increase the scale and scope of their services. Theoretically, the main contribution of this paper is to connect the strategic human capital literature to the knowledge management literature in the context of multi-unit organizations. Empirically, it contributes by showing that the high scalability of knowledge resources, which are expected to gain even more prominence in the future-of-work, change the nature of human capital management.

This event is open to faculty, doctoral students, academic researchers, and graduate students.

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