Industry Companies Life

Incentive structures

Tournaments Much of the discussion here has been in terms of individual pay-for-performance contracts; but many large firms use internal labour markets (Doeringer and Piore 1971, Rosen 1982) as a solution to some of the problems outlined. Here, there is “pay-for-performance” in a looser sense over a longer time period. There is little variation in pay within grades, and pay increases come with changes in job or job title (Gibbs and Hendricks 1996). The incentive effects of this structure are dealt with in what is known as “tournament theory” (Lazear and Rosen 1981, Green and Stokey (1983), see Rosen (1986) for multi-stage tournaments in hierarchies where it is explained why CEOs are paid many times more than other workers in the firm). See the superstar article for more information on the tournament theory. Workers are motivated to supply effort by the wage increase they would earn if they win a promotion. Some of the extended tournament models predict that relatively weaker agents, be they competing in a sports tournaments (Becker and Huselid 1992, in NASCAR racing) or in the broiler chicken industry (Knoeber and Thurman 1994), would take risky actions instead of increasing their effort supply as a cheap way to improve the prospects of winning. These actions are inefficient as they increase risk taking without increasing the average effort supplied. A major problem with tournaments is that individuals are rewarded based on how well they do relative to others. Co-workers might become reluctant to help out others and might even sabotage others' effort instead of increasing their own effort (Lazear 1989, Rob and Zemsky 1997). This is supported empirically by Drago and Garvey (1997). Why then are tournaments so popular? Firstly, because – especially given compression rating problems – it is difficult to determine absolutely differences in worker performance. Tournaments merely require rank order evaluation. Secondly, it reduces the danger of rent-seeking, because bonuses paid to favourite workers are tied to increased responsibilities in new jobs, and supervisors will suffer if they do not promote the most qualified person. Thirdly, where prize structures are (relatively) fixed, it reduces the possibility of the firm reneging on paying wages. As Carmichael (1983) notes, a prize structure represents a degree of commitment, both to absolute and to relative wage levels. Lastly when the measurement of workers' productivity is difficult, e.g., say monitoring is costly, or when the tasks the workers have to perform for the job is varied in nature, making it hard to measure effort and/or performance, then running tournaments in a firm would encourage the workers to supply effort whereas workers would have shirked if there are no promotions. Tournaments also promote risk seeking behavior. In essence, the compensation scheme becomes more like a call option on performance (which increases in value with increased volatility (cf. options pricing). If you are one of ten players competing for the asymmetrically large top prize, you may benefit from reducing the expected value of your overall performance to the firm in order to increase your chance that you have an outstanding performance (and win the prize). In moderation this can offset the greater risk aversion of agents vs principals because their social capital is concentrated in their employer while in the case of public companies the principal typically owns his stake as part of a diversified portfolio. Successful innovation is particularly dependent on employees' willingness to take risks. In cases with extreme incentive intensity, this sort of behavior can create catastrophic organizational failure. If the principal owns the firm as part of a diversified portfolio this may be a price worth paying for the greater chance of success through innovation elsewhere in the portfolio. If however the risks taken are systematic and cannot be diversified e.g., exposure to general housing prices, then such failures will damage the interests of principals and even the economy as a whole. (cf. Kidder Peabody, Barings, Enron, AIG to name a few). Ongoing periodic catastrophic organizational failure is directly incentivized by tournament and other superstar/Winner take all compensation systems. [Holt 1995]. [edit]Deferred compensation Tournaments represent one way of implementing the general principle of “deferred compensation”, which is essentially an agreement between worker and firm to commit to each other. Under schemes of deferred compensation, workers are overpaid when old, at the cost of being underpaid when young. Salop and Salop (1976) argue that this derives from the need to attract workers more likely to stay at the firm for longer periods, since turnover is costly. Alternatively, delays in evaluating the performance of workers may lead to compensation being weighted to later periods, when better and poorer workers have to a greater extent been distinguished. (Workers may even prefer to have wages increasing over time, perhaps as a method of forced saving, or as an indicator of personal development. e.g., Loewenstein and Sicherman 1991, Frank and Hutchens 1993.) For example Akerlof and Katz 1989: if older workers receive efficiency wages, younger workers may be prepared to work for less in order to receive those later. Overall, the evidence suggests the use of deferred compensation (e.g., Freeman and Medoff 1984, and Spilerman 1986 – seniority provisions are often included in pay, promotion and retention decisions, irrespective of productivity.)

Industry Companies Life