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The Impact of Management Practices on Employee Productivity: A Field Experiment with Airline Captains

Author

Listed:
  • Greer K. Gosnell
  • John A. List
  • Robert D. Metcalfe

Abstract

Increasing evidence indicates the importance of management in determining firms’ productivity. Yet, causal evidence regarding the effectiveness of management practices is scarce, especially for high-skilled workers in the developed world. In an eight-month field experiment measuring the productivity of captains in the commercial aviation sector, we test four distinct management practices: (i) performance monitoring; (ii) performance feedback; (iii) target setting; and (iv) pro-social incentives. We find that these management practices—particularly performance monitoring and target setting—significantly increase captains’ productivity with respect to the targeted fuel-saving dimensions. We identify positive spillovers of the tested management practices on job satisfaction and carbon dioxide emissions, and captains overwhelmingly express desire for deeper managerial engagement. Both the implementation and the results of the study reveal an uncharted opportunity for management researchers to delve into the black box of firms and rigorously examine the determinants of productivity amongst skilled labor.

Suggested Citation

  • Greer K. Gosnell & John A. List & Robert D. Metcalfe, 2019. "The Impact of Management Practices on Employee Productivity: A Field Experiment with Airline Captains," NBER Working Papers 25620, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:25620
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    Cited by:

    1. John T. Addison & Paulino Teixeira & Lutz Bellmann, 2020. "Management Practices and Establishment Performance under Non-Union Workplace Representation," CESifo Working Paper Series 8599, CESifo.
    2. Bloom, Nicholas & Lemos, Renata & Sadun, Raffaella & Scur, Daniela & Van Reenen, John, 2021. "World Management Survey at 18: lessons and the way forward," CEPR Discussion Papers 15898, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Girum Abebe & Marcel Fafchamps & Michael Koelle & Simon Quinn, 2019. "Learning Management Through Matching: A Field Experiment Using Mechanism Design," CSAE Working Paper Series 2019-11, Centre for the Study of African Economies, University of Oxford.
    4. Bloom, Nicholas & Lemos, Renata & Sadun, Raffaella & Scur, Daniela & Van Reenen, John, 2021. "World Management Survey at 18: lessons and the way forward," CEPR Discussion Papers 15898, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Bellet, Clément S. & De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel & Ward, George, 2019. "Does Employee Happiness Have an Impact on Productivity?," CEPREMAP Working Papers (Docweb) 1905, CEPREMAP.
    6. Jing Cai & Shing-Yi Wang, 2020. "Improving Management through Worker Evaluations: Evidence from Auto Manufacturing," NBER Working Papers 27680, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Yan Chen & Peter Cramton & John List & Axel Ockenfels, 2020. "Market Design, Human Behavior and Management," Artefactual Field Experiments 00685, The Field Experiments Website.
    8. Briscese, Guglielmo & Feltovich, Nick & Slonim, Robert L., 2021. "Who benefits from corporate social responsibility? Reciprocity in the presence of social incentives and self-selection," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 288-304.
    9. Tonke, Sebastian, 2020. "Imperfect Procedural Knowledge: Evidence from a Field Experiment to Encourage Water Conservation," VfS Annual Conference 2020 (Virtual Conference): Gender Economics 224536, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    10. Briscese, Guglielmo & Feltovich, Nick & Slonim, Robert L., 2021. "Who benefits from corporate social responsibility? Reciprocity in the presence of social incentives and self-selection," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 126(C), pages 288-304.
    11. Hoffmann, Christin & Thommes, Kirsten, 2020. "Can digital feedback increase employee performance and energy efficiency in firms? Evidence from a field experiment," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 49-65.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • R4 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Transportation Economics

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