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Optimizing Incentive Plan Design: A Case Study

  • 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)

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.

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Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 5985.

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Length: 51 pages
Date of creation: Sep 2011
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp5985
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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. 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.
  3. Paul Oyer, 1998. "Fiscal Year Ends And Nonlinear Incentive Contracts: The Effect On Business Seasonality," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(1), pages 149-185, February.
  4. 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 405-26, July.
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