Behavioral and personnel economics

Articles in behavioral economics discuss the emotional and cognitive factors that influence the decisions of actors, in particular employers and employees. Personnel economics analyzes the internal organizational strategy of the firm and the human resource management practices chosen to pursue that strategy.

  • Digital leadership: Motivating online workers

    Which leadership techniques and tools should digital leaders use to communicate effectively with remote teams and gig workers?

    Petra Nieken, September 2022
    Remote work and digital collaborations are prevalent in the business world and many employees use digital communication tools routinely in their jobs. Communication shifts from face-to-face meetings to asynchronous formats using text, audio, or video messages. This shift leads to a reduction of information and signals leaders can send and receive. Do classical leadership and communication techniques such as transformational or charismatic leadership signaling still work in those online settings or do leaders have to rely on transactional leadership techniques such as contingent reward and punishment tools in the remote setting?
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  • How is new technology changing job design? Updated

    Machines’ ability to perform cognitive, physical, and social tasks is advancing, dramatically changing jobs and labor markets

    The IT revolution has had dramatic effects on jobs and the labor market. Many routine manual and cognitive tasks have been automated, replacing workers. By contrast, new technologies complement and create new non-routine cognitive and social tasks, making work in such tasks more productive, and creating new jobs. This has polarized labor markets: while low-skill jobs stagnated, there are fewer and lower-paid jobs for middle-skill workers, and higher pay for high-skill workers, increasing wage inequality. Advances in AI may accelerate computers’ ability to perform cognitive tasks, heightening concerns about future automation of even high-skill jobs.
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  • Does employee ownership improve performance? Updated

    Employee ownership generally increases firm performance and worker outcomes

    Douglas Kruse, May 2022
    Employee ownership has attracted growing attention for its potential to improve economic outcomes for companies, workers, and the economy in general, and help reduce inequality. Over 100 studies across many countries indicate that employee ownership is generally linked to better productivity, pay, job stability, and firm survival—though the effects are dispersed and causation is difficult to firmly establish. Free-riding often appears to be overcome by worker co-monitoring and reciprocity. Financial risk is an important concern but is generally minimized by higher pay and job stability among employee owners.
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  • Presenteeism at the workplace

    Working when sick is a widespread phenomenon with serious consequences for workers, firms, and society

    Claus Schnabel, May 2022
    Many workers admit that at times they show up for work even though they feel sick. This behavior, termed “presenteeism,” is puzzling since most workers do not incur financial losses when staying home sick. The various reasons behind presenteeism are person-related (e.g. individuals’ health or job attitude) or work-related (e.g. job demands and constraints on absence from work). Working when sick can have positive and negative consequences for workers’ performance and health, but it also affects co-workers’ well-being and firms’ productivity. There are various strategies as to how firms can address presenteeism.
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  • Gross domestic product: Are other measures needed? Updated

    GDP summarizes only one aspect of a country’s condition; other measures in addition to GDP would be valuable

    Barbara M. Fraumeni, April 2022
    Gross domestic product (GDP) is the key indicator of the health of an economy and can be easily compared across countries. But it has limitations. GDP tells what is going on today, but does not inform about sustainability of growth. The majority of time is spent in home production, yet the value of this time is not included in GDP. GDP does not measure happiness, so residents can be dissatisfied even when GDP is rising. In addition, GDP does not consider environmental factors, reflect what individuals do outside paid employment, or even measure the current or future potential human capital of a country. Hence, complementary measures may help to show a more comprehensive picture of an economy.
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  • Performance-related pay and productivity Updated

    Do performance-related pay and financial participation schemes have an effect on firms’ performance?

    A growing number of firms offer compensation packages that link pay to performance. The aim is to motivate workers to be more efficient while also increasing their attachment to the company, thereby reducing turnover and absenteeism. The effects of performance-related pay on productivity depend on the scheme type and design, with individual incentives showing the largest effect. Governments often offer tax breaks and financial incentives to promote performance-related pay, though their desirability has been questioned due to large deadweight losses involved. The diffusion of remote work will increase the relevance of performance-related pay.
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  • Gender differences in competitiveness Updated

    To what extent can different attitudes toward competition for men and women explain the gender gap in labor markets?

    Mario Lackner, November 2021
    Differences in labor market outcomes for women and men are highly persistent. Apart from discrimination, one frequently mentioned explanation could be differences in the attitude toward competition for both genders. Abundant empirical evidence indicates that multiple influences shape attitudes toward competition during different periods of the life cycle. Gender differences in competitiveness will not only influence outcomes during working age, but also during early childhood education. In order to reduce the gender gap in educational and labor market outcomes, it is crucial to understand when and why gender gaps in competitiveness arise and to study their consequences.
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  • Labor market policies, unemployment, and identity Updated

    Policies to help the unemployed can affect feelings of identity and well-being, so measures need to be evaluated carefully

    Ronnie Schöb, November 2021
    Unemployment not only causes material hardship but can also affect an individual's sense of identity (i.e. their perception of belonging to a specific social group) and, consequently, feelings of personal happiness and subjective well-being. Labor market policies designed to help the unemployed may not overcome their misery: wage subsidies can be stigmatizing, measures that require some work or attendance for training from those receiving benefits (workfare) may not provide the intended incentives, and a combination of an unregulated labor market and policy measures that bring people who became unemployed quickly back to work (flexicurity) may increase uncertainty. Policies aimed at bringing people back to work should thus take the subjective well-being of the affected persons more into consideration.
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  • Interaction between technology and recruiting practices

    While technology has improved sharing and managing information, there are legitimate concerns about the quality of information and its use in recruitment

    Vera Brencic, August 2021
    Employers are steadily increasing their reliance on technology when recruiting. On the one hand, this technology enables the wide dissemination of information and the management of large quantities of data at a relatively low cost. On the other hand, it introduces new costs and risks. The ease with which information can be shared, for example, can lead to its unauthorized use and obsolescence. Recruiting technologies are also susceptible to misuse and to biases built into their underlying algorithms. Better understanding of these trade-offs can inform government policies aiming to reduce search frictions in the labor market.
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  • Inequality and informality in transition and emerging countries Updated

    A bidirectional relationship between informality and inequality exists; in transition and emerging countries, higher informality decreases inequality

    Roberto Dell'Anno, April 2021
    Higher inequality reduces capital accumulation and increases the informal economy, which creates additional employment opportunities for low-skilled and deprived people. As a result, informal employment leads to beneficial effects on income distribution by providing sources of income for unemployed and marginalized workers. Despite this positive feedback, informality raises problems for public finances and biases official statistics, reducing the effectiveness of redistributive policies. Policymakers should consider the links between inequality and informality because badly designed informality-reducing policies may increase inequality.
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