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Optimizing Incentive Plan Design: A Case Study

Author

Listed:
  • Levenson, Alec R.

    () (University of Southern California)

  • Zoghi, Cindy

    () (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Gibbs, Michael

    () (University of Chicago)

  • Benson, George

    () (University of Texas at Arlington)

Abstract

We study effects of a firm's attempt to optimize an existing incentive scheme to increase sales growth for direct store delivery workers. Before optimization workers reported Ratchet Effects that lowered productivity. The altered incentive plan offered higher compensation for increased sales relative to a sales growth target, and lower compensation for failing to meet the target. We gathered data on performance and attitudes at pilot and control sites before and after the change. Relative to control sites, sales growth increased in the pilot sites by two percent, a meaningful contribution to firm profits. We find no change in distortion of effort or manipulation of the performance measure. Workers did not substantially change number of hours worked, though allocation of time across tasks changed slightly. Despite increased productivity, workers continued to report Ratchet Effects after the change. We also find that an unplanned price increase midway through a fiscal year affected the extent of Ratchet Effects that year.

Suggested Citation

  • Levenson, Alec R. & Zoghi, Cindy & Gibbs, Michael & Benson, George, 2011. "Optimizing Incentive Plan Design: A Case Study," IZA Discussion Papers 5985, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5985
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Paarsch, Harry J & Shearer, Bruce, 2000. "Piece Rates, Fixed Wages, and Incentive Effects: Statistical Evidence from Payroll Records," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(1), pages 59-92, February.
    2. Paul Oyer, 1998. "Fiscal Year Ends and Nonlinear Incentive Contracts: The Effect on Business Seasonality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(1), pages 149-185.
    3. Huberman, Michael, 1986. "Invisible Handshakes in Lancashire: Cotton Spinning in the First Half of the Nineteenth Century," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(04), pages 987-998, December.
    4. Xavier Freixas & Roger Guesnerie & Jean Tirole, 1985. "Planning under Incomplete Information and the Ratchet Effect," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(2), pages 173-191.
    5. Oyer, Paul, 2000. "A Theory of Sales Quotas with Limited Liability and Rent Sharing," Journal of Labor Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 405-426, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    Cited by:

    1. Kato, Takao & Kauhanen, Antti & Kujansuu, Essi, 2013. "The Performance Effects of Individual and Group Incentives: A Case Study," ETLA Working Papers 19, The Research Institute of the Finnish Economy.
    2. Charles Bellemare & Bruce Shearer, 2014. "Measuring Ratchet Effects within a Firm: Evidence from a Field Experiment varying Contractual Commitment," Cahiers de recherche 1418, CIRPEE.
    3. Gibbs, Michael, 2012. "Design and Implementation of Pay for Performance," IZA Discussion Papers 6322, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    incentives; ratchet effect;

    JEL classification:

    • M52 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Personnel Economics - - - Compensation and Compensation Methods and Their Effects
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods
    • M12 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Personnel Management; Executives; Executive Compensation
    • L81 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Services - - - Retail and Wholesale Trade; e-Commerce

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