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The influence of investors’ opinions of human capital and multitasking on firm performance: a knowledge management perspective

Shashank Vaid (DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
Benson Honig (DeGroote School of Business, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 25 June 2020

Issue publication date: 3 September 2020




The purpose of this study is to examine the disruption-adaptation associated with knowledge management (KM) of entrepreneurial multitasking of top strategy and tactics executive (TSTE) succession in positions responsible for both S and T. This provides insight into KM and firm performance during turbulent periods.


The study examines investor’s opinions of human capital in the context of managerial succession. The data was based on 900 publicly available appointment announcements between 2006–2014, allowing for the examination of 459 observations of succession in 51 industries.


The findings indicate that the relationship between KM of entrepreneurial multitasking and firm performance was more positive for high innovation firms than for low innovation firms. As well, the relationship between investors’ opinions of a top executive manager’s human capital and firm performance is more positive for small firms than for large firms and more positive for high innovation firms than for low innovation firms.

Research limitations/implications

The study contributes to the literature by systematically examining the announced appointment of executives in one context where KM of entrepreneurial multitasking is prevalent – across marketing strategy and sales tactics (hereafter, S and T) responsibilities – for multiple firms listed at major US stock exchanges across a wide range of industries, using lagged performance data to discern performance outcomes. It highlights important issues related to organizational structure and human capital for firm performance and KM in dynamic environments. Further research could examine the impact on firm performance of a change in structure – from a joint sales and tactics position to a sales or tactics position and vice versa. By studying the impact of change to and from an intertwined position, future scholars can determine the level of risk stemming from coordination uncertainty changes with time.

Practical implications

Of practical relevance, the study shows that vesting dual responsibility for S and T in one executive during managerial succession may not be as universally valuable or adaptive as previously thought. One practical extension of this research may also be that larger firms that are more likely to have clearly defined silos may find that such vesting of multitasking responsibility not as valuable. High innovation and small firms may gain from new executives’ multitasking responsibility for S and T. Thus, firms should think twice before vesting S and T responsibilities with one incoming executive during the leadership change.

Social implications

Responsibility for both S and T compounds ambiguous accountability, frequently leaving the locus of customer-related problems unclear, and therefore unsolved.


Extant research has overlooked the relationship between the top management team’s (TMT) abilities to multitask firm performance over time across contexts of external and internal change, operationalized as firm innovation and firm size. Nor have studies explored the firm performance implications of external stakeholders’ opinions of such human capital across these contexts. A novel measure of executive-specific human capital – abnormal returns generated the appointment announcement, is introduced. Understanding the capability of a top executive to simultaneously multitask both S and T responsibilities is a critical component of KM; also relevant are investors’ opinions of their human capital, a particular oversight given the challenge of the “great transformational leader” with servant leadership theory (Carayannis et al., 2017; Gregory Stone et al., 2004).



Vaid, S. and Honig, B. (2020), "The influence of investors’ opinions of human capital and multitasking on firm performance: a knowledge management perspective", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 24 No. 7, pp. 1585-1603.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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