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The Effect of Labor on Profitability: The Role of Quality

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  • Zeynep Ton

    ()
    (Harvard Business School, Technology and Operations Management Unit)

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    Abstract

    Determining staffing levels is an important decision in retail operations. While the costs of increasing labor are obvious and easy to measure, the benefits are often indirect and not immediately felt. One benefit of increased labor is improved quality. The objective of this paper is to examine the effect of labor on profitability through its impact on quality. I examine both conformance quality and service quality. Using longitudinal data from stores of a large retailer, I find that increasing the amount of labor at a store is associated with an increase in profitability through its impact on conformance quality but not its impact on service quality. While increasing labor is associated with an increase in service quality, in this setting there is no significant relationship between service quality and profitability. My findings highlight the importance of attending to process discipline in certain service settings. They also show that too much corporate emphasis on payroll management may motivate managers to operate with insufficient labor levels, which, in turn, degrades profitability.

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    File URL: http://www.hbs.edu/research/pdf/09-040.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 09-040.

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    Length: 33 pages
    Date of creation: Sep 2008
    Date of revision: Jul 2009
    Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:09-040

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    Related research

    Keywords: Labor Capacity Management; Quality; Retail Operations;

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    References

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    1. Andreas Soteriou & Stavros A. Zenios, 1999. "Operations, Quality, and Profitability in the Provision of Banking Services," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 45(9), pages 1221-1238, September.
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    3. Frances X. Frei & Ravi Kalakota & Andrew J. Leone & Leslie M. Marx, 1999. "Process Variation as a Determinant of Bank Performance: Evidence from the Retail Banking Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 45(9), pages 1210-1220, September.
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    11. Christopher D. Ittner & David F. Larcker, 1997. "The Performance Effects of Process Management Techniques," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 43(4), pages 522-534, April.
    12. William S. Lovejoy & Kannan Sethuraman, 2000. "Congestion and Complexity Costs in a Plant with Fixed Resources that Strives to Make Schedule," Manufacturing & Service Operations Management, INFORMS, vol. 2(3), pages 221-239, February.
    13. Andrew King & Michael Lenox, 2002. "Exploring the Locus of Profitable Pollution Reduction," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 48(2), pages 289-299, February.
    14. Beach, Charles M & MacKinnon, James G, 1978. "A Maximum Likelihood Procedure for Regression with Autocorrelated Errors," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(1), pages 51-58, January.
    15. Banker, Rajiv D. & Lee, Seok-Young & Potter, Gordon, 1996. "A field study of the impact of a performance-based incentive plan," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 195-226, April.
    16. Sunil Gupta & Valarie Zeithaml, 2006. "Customer Metrics and Their Impact on Financial Performance," Marketing Science, INFORMS, vol. 25(6), pages 718-739, 11-12.
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