Is real also ideal? A Field Experiment on Inflation Adjustment in Employee Performance Measures

Last registered on February 14, 2024


Trial Information

General Information

Is real also ideal? A Field Experiment on Inflation Adjustment in Employee Performance Measures
Initial registration date
February 09, 2024

Initial registration date is when the trial was registered.

It corresponds to when the registration was submitted to the Registry to be reviewed for publication.

First published
February 14, 2024, 4:42 PM EST

First published corresponds to when the trial was first made public on the Registry after being reviewed.


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Primary Investigator

Ulm University

Other Primary Investigator(s)

PI Affiliation
Ulm University
PI Affiliation
Frankfurt School of Finance & Management
PI Affiliation
Ulm University
PI Affiliation
Frankfurt School of Finance & Management

Additional Trial Information

In development
Start date
End date
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Economic theory and the controllability principle both suggest adjusting performance measures for uncontrollable factors (i.e., exogenous shocks). Field experiments in this regard typically investigate the use of relative performance information. However, adjustments can also be based on exogenous developments such as inflation. To the best of our knowledge, the effect of such adjustments that explicitly correct for influencing factors that are uncontrollable by the actor has not yet been tested in the field with a randomized controlled trial. We will study a setting in a German retail chain where the firm introduces downward adjustments of sales change in the weekly report to make employees aware of the gap between nominal sales change and inflation-adjusted sales change. Therefore, we will randomly assign retail store employees to a control group receiving nominal sales reports that reflect sales without inflation adjustment and a treatment group receiving real sales reports that reflect inflation-adjusted sales. We intend to use this experimental setting to examine the effects on sales performance. In addition, we intend to conduct cross-sectional analyses if we find proxies for varying changes in demand due to inflation.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Kalla, Marvin et al. 2024. "Is real also ideal? A Field Experiment on Inflation Adjustment in Employee Performance Measures." AEA RCT Registry. February 14.
Experimental Details


We will collect data from a retail organization operating supermarkets in Germany. The experiment involves eleven supermarkets and focuses on department managers and their subordinates in the bakery, beverages & wine and spirits, dairy, fresh food counter (butchery, cheese, fish), food, as well as fruits and vegetables departments of each of the eleven stores. These department managers (and thus also their respective subordinates) will be randomly assigned to a control group and a treatment group. We will distribute two different sales reports (nominal and real sales) to them and observe their responses and measures to the inflation-adjusted reports.

To date, department managers receive a weekly sales report of their respective department from the store manager that shows department-level information on gross sales for the week, the percentage sales change compared to the previous year, and the absolute average receipt per customer, in each case compared to the ten other stores and without adjustment for inflation. Moreover, they receive, at the beginning of the report, the department’s own percentage sales change compared to the identical week of the previous year once again referred to separately without a market comparison and without inflation adjustment. Typically, the department managers display these sales reports in their department’s respective break rooms so that their subordinates can also access them.
Intervention Start Date
Intervention End Date

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Sales performance
Primary Outcomes (explanation)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Employee sick days and overtime
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
Control Group: No changes

Treatment Group: For the two months of the experiment the treatment group receives the identical information in the report as the control group, with the exception that instead of the separate percentage nominal sales change compared with the identical week of the previous year, the inflation-adjusted sales change (including the inflation adjustment rate and a comparison to the inflation-unadjusted value as a footnote) compared with the previous year is shown here at the beginning of the report.
The department managers also receive the sales reports from their store managers during the experiment to emphasize the significance of these reports. However, it is important to note that the reports, and thus also the inflation-adjusted sales numbers of the treatment group, are not further discussed in this context. For the inflation adjustment rates of the different departments of the retail industry, we rely on the retail chain’s in-house inflation indicators at the product category level.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Stratified Clustered Randomization: We stratify our randomization both across stores and within departments. On the one hand, this ensures that three departments of each store are randomly assigned to the treatment group and three departments to the control group. On the other hand, this ensures that 5 respectively 6 of the identical departments across all eleven stores are randomly assigned to the treatment group and the control group. Since the employees of the three fresh food counters (butcher, cheese, fish) have the same break room where the sales reports are laid out, they were combined into one department. The experiment is clustered on the department level, meaning that all employees within the same department receive the same treatment.
Randomization Unit
Store departments
Was the treatment clustered?

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
Eleven stores and six departments each (66 clusters)
Sample size: planned number of observations
Eleven stores and six departments each (66 clusters)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Control group: 33 departments
Treatment group: 33 departments
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
Frankfurt School of Finance and Management
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number