Incentive life-cycles: Learning and the division of value in firms

T. OBLOJ, M. Sengul

Administrative Science Quarterly

June 2012, vol. 57, n°2, pp.305-347

Departments: Strategy & Business Policy, GREGHEC (CNRS)

accepté le 30 mai 2012In this paper, we study the individual and organizational learning mechanisms leading to the evolution of the division of value between economic actors under a given contractual arrangement. Focusing on the division of value between a firm and its employees, we theorize that following a change in the organizational incentive structure, employees learn, over time and with experience, how to be more productive under the implied objectives of the incentive regime, as well as how to game or exploit it. Results, based on outlet-level data from a Polish commercial bank over a 13-month period, show that the bank outlets' value creation (sales revenue from primary loans) and value appropriation (the sum of outlet employees' monthly bonus) both increased, at a decreasing rate, over time as outlet employees gained experience under the new incentive regime. In parallel, the bank's share (the percentage of value created by outlets retained by the bank) increased at first, then, after reaching a plateau, decreased continuously, indicating that the ability of the incentive regime to induce the intended results evolved, giving rise to an incentive life-cycle. In exploring the underlying micromechanisms, we found strong quantitative and qualitative evidence for the presence and relative paces of productive and adverse learning in bank outlets, as well as for the role of prior experience. This is the first empirical study to show that individual and organizational learning processes can influence the evolution of the division of value between economic actors.Author-Supplied Keywords: adverse learning division of value incentive life-cycles Incentives learning