We develop a simple model of task allocation for knowledge workers over their career within an organization. The human capital theory initiated by Becker (1962, 1964) has offered a rich analysis of an individual’s life cycle investment in human capital. One of the main result of this literature states that human capital investments are undertaken at the early stage of the career because workers have then a longer period of time over which they can beneﬁt from the return of their investments. In this paper, we consider a knowledge accumulation problem within an organization that cannot prevent the worker from quitting and using the knowledge outside the organization. In the ﬁrst best situation, we show a similar result as in the human capital theory, i.e. the share of time allocated to knowledge creation tasks decreases overtime. We then ask how this pattern is affected when the knowledge worker can leave the organization and beneﬁt from this knowledge outside the organization. In this case, we obtain the novel result that the time path of the fraction of working time allocated to knowledge creation tasks is non-monotone. This fraction is highest at the early career stage, falls gradually, then rises again, before falling ﬁnally toward zero. We also show that an increase in the ﬁrm-speciﬁcity of knowledge can increase or decrease the life-time income of the knowledge worker.
Knowledge accumulation within an organization
14 January 2014