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The Hidden Cost of Specialization

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Author Info

  • Fabio Landini

    ()
    (MEDAlics and CRIOS, Bocconi University)

  • Antonio Nicolò

    ()
    (University of Padua)

  • Marco Piovesan

    ()
    (Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen)

Abstract

Given the advantages of specialization, employers encourage their employees to acquire distinct expertise to better satisfy clients’ needs. However, when the client is unaware of the employees’ expertise and cannot be sorted out to the most competent employee by means of a gatekeeper, a mismatch can occur. In this paper we attempt to identify the optimal condition so an employer can eliminate this mismatch and offer a team bonus that provides the first-contacted employee with an incentive to refer the client to the correct expert. We show that the profitability of this referral contract increases with the agents’ degree of specialization and decreases with the clients’ competence at identifying the correct expert. Interestingly, a referral contract may be more profitable than an individual contract -that does not pay a team bonus- even if the former provides less incentive to the agents to improve their expertise. Thus, we provide a new rationale for the use of team bonuses even when the production function depends on a single employee’s effort.

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File URL: http://okonomi.foi.dk/workingpapers/WPpdf/WP2013/IFRO_WP_2013_9.pdf
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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Copenhagen, Department of Food and Resource Economics in its series IFRO Working Paper with number 2013/9.

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Length: 42 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:foi:wpaper:2013_9

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Web page: http://www.ifro.ku.dk/
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Related research

Keywords: Team and Individual Contracts; Matching Client-Expert; Incentives to Refer;

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References

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  1. Jonathan Levin & Steven Tadelis, 2005. "Profit Sharing and the Role of Professional Partnerships," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 120(1), pages 131-171, January.
  2. In-Uck Park, 2005. "Cheap-Talk Referrals of Differentiated Experts in Repeated Relationships," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(2), pages 391-411, Summer.
  3. William Fuchs & Luis Garicano, 2010. "Matching Problems with Expertise in Firms and Markets," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 8(2-3), pages 354-364, 04-05.
  4. Milton Harris & Artur Raviv, 2002. "Organization Design," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(7), pages 852-865, July.
  5. Thomas N. Hubbard, 2009. "Specialization, Firms, and Markets: The Division of Labor within and between Law Firms," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 25(2), pages 339-371, October.
  6. Macho-Stadler, Ines & Perez-Castrillo, J. David, 1993. "Moral hazard with several agents : The gains from cooperation," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 11(1), pages 73-100, March.
  7. Uwe Dulleck & Rudolf Kerschbamer & Matthias Sutter, 2011. "The Economics of Credence Goods: An Experiment on the Role of Liability, Verifiability, Reputation, and Competition," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(2), pages 526-55, April.
  8. Brent Boning & Casey Ichniowski & Kathryn Shaw, 2001. "Opportunity Counts: Teams and the Effectiveness of Production Incentives," NBER Working Papers 8306, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Andrew J. Epstein & Jonathan D. Ketcham & Sean Nicholson, 2010. "Specialization and matching in professional services firms," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 41(4), pages 811-834.
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