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Implications of Salesforce Productivity Heterogeneity and Demotivation: A Navy Recruiter Case Study


  • Vincent P. Carroll

    (Wharton Applied Research Center, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104)

  • Hau L. Lee

    (Department of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Management, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)

  • Ambar G. Rao

    (Graduate School of Business Administration, New York University, New York, New York 10006)


This paper describes a study of Navy recruiter productivity at the individual recruiter level. Timeseries of monthly contract production by each of 345 recruiters who served for six months or more during the period May 1977--December 1978 formed the basis of the study. A wide variation in job tenure was observed in this data with some recruiters beginning their normal three-year tour of duty, and others in their second or third years. Two key empirical findings are reported here: (1) in addition to the expected learning period at the beginning of a recruiter's tour of duty there was a severe and extended demotivational (or "delearning") period at the end of the tour. Production during these periods was very low. (2) substantial heterogeneity existed in recruiter productivity after controlling for the impact of tenure. Recruiter performance is predictable---good recruiters tend to stay good while poor recruiters continue to perform poorly. A stochastic model for heterogeneous production is developed and an early rotation policy for poorly performing recruiters is proposed. Under this policy a recruiter is observed for N months after the learning period. If total production in N months is less than c, the recruiter is rotated out and is replaced by a new recruiter. It is shown that the optimal selection of N and c can substantially improve recruiter force productivity. Productivity improves even when these parameters deviate somewhat from optimality. U.S. Navy Recruiting command initiatives that resulted from this and related studies are described. They included a change in the measure used for recruiter goal setting and an incentive system which led to rewards for superior recruiters and reassigning poorly performing recruiters to nonrecruiting duty. Finally the paper discusses the implications of the results obtained for industrial salesforces.

Suggested Citation

  • Vincent P. Carroll & Hau L. Lee & Ambar G. Rao, 1986. "Implications of Salesforce Productivity Heterogeneity and Demotivation: A Navy Recruiter Case Study," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 32(11), pages 1371-1388, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:32:y:1986:i:11:p:1371-1388

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    Cited by:

    1. De Grip, Andries & Sauermann, Jan & Sieben, Inge, 2016. "The role of peers in estimating tenure-performance profiles: Evidence from personnel data," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PA), pages 39-54.
    2. Banker, Rajiv D. & Lee, S.-Y.Seok-Young & Potter, Gordon & Srinivasan, Dhinu, 2000. "An empirical analysis of continuing improvements following the implementation of a performance-based compensation plan," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 30(3), pages 315-350, December.
    3. Chun, Young H. & Sumichrast, Robert T., 2007. "Bayesian inspection model with the negative binomial prior in the presence of inspection errors," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 182(3), pages 1188-1202, November.


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