An Exploration of Knowledge Transfer and Career College Executive Succession Planning
The career college sector of the post secondary education industry contributes more than $20 billion to the U.S. economy annually, but turnover in executive leader roles at career colleges is extremely high. Usually, such turnover occurs without succession planning or knowledge transfer for the new executive. The purpose of this exploratory case study was to explore the need for knowledge transfer when executive turnover occurs in career colleges. This single case study was framed on theories of knowledge addressing concepts such as knowledge stickiness, transfers, and gaps. The overarching research question concerned how lack of knowledge transfer during executive leadership succession at a career college influences stakeholder engagement, where stakeholders are executives, administrators, and faculty. The conceptual framework for this study was Szulanski's sticky knowledge concept, which pertains to how knowledge transfer from one executive leader to the next may be blocked. Knowledge attrition can be the basis for declining performance and outcomes in an institution such as a career college. In this bounded, exploratory case study using semistructured interviews with stakeholders, the aim was to understand how to improve knowledge transfer in these colleges so that they may remain available for the students they serve, who usually represent the first generation in their families to obtain any postsecondary certification. This aim is socially significant because completion of career education can be a factor leading individuals into the middle class. Social change for a portion of the underserved population can certainly emanate from educational opportunities that lead to career placement, which is why understanding executive succession in career colleges has significance in American society.