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Social Comparison, Employee Attrition and Productivity: Evidence from a Field Experiment at Workplace
Last registered on July 09, 2019

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Social Comparison, Employee Attrition and Productivity: Evidence from a Field Experiment at Workplace
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0004281
Initial registration date
June 23, 2019
Last updated
July 09, 2019 9:11 PM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Stanford University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Stanford University
PI Affiliation
University of Toronto
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2019-04-01
End date
2020-06-21
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In many workplaces, newly-employed workers are usually assigned to teams where most teammates are more senior to them. As a result, new workers may be relatively well-informed about the current performance of senior workers, but not so much about the past performance of senior workers and the current performance of other new workers. This differential visibility of co-workers' performance may affect the well-being, productivity, and attrition of new workers through its interaction with two behavioral phenomena. First, new workers may set their reference point at the high level of the current performance of the senior workers, resulting in high stress and high attrition. Second, new workers may misattribute the current high performance of senior workers to their innate ability rather than the outcome of learning, and hence have a dim outlook about their own future performance.

In a field experiment at a leading multi-national spa chain, we study how information about co-workers' performance affects workers' well-being, productivity, and attrition. First, we study how workers' outlook about their future performance and their reference points for performance comparison depend on their knowledge about their co-workers' current and past performance. Then, we provide workers with information about their co-workers' performance. In Treatment 1 (T1), we provide information to each worker about the current performance of co-workers with similar work experience. In Treatment 2 (T2), we provide information to each worker about the performance trajectory of their senior co-workers. We measure the treatment effects on the workers' beliefs about their own future productivity, reference points, stress levels, productivity, attrition, and pro-social behaviors.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Liang, Yucheng, Shannon X. Liu and Hugh Xiaolong Wu. 2019. "Social Comparison, Employee Attrition and Productivity: Evidence from a Field Experiment at Workplace." AEA RCT Registry. July 09. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.4281-2.0.
Former Citation
Liang, Yucheng et al. 2019. "Social Comparison, Employee Attrition and Productivity: Evidence from a Field Experiment at Workplace." AEA RCT Registry. July 09. http://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/4281/history/49596.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
We send biweekly messages to workers through an app.

T1: For each worker, we select her coworkers in the same region who join the firm in the same three-month window. In each message, we randomly select one such coworker and send his/her performance information of the last month through the app.
T2: We select the workers who have worked at the firm for at least 12 months ("senior workers"). For each worker, in each message, we randomly select one senior coworker in the same region and send his/her performance information in his/her 1st, 3rd, 6th, 12th work month as well as the performance of the last month through the app.
Intervention Start Date
2019-06-22
Intervention End Date
2019-12-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
workers' productivity, attrition rate, and well-being
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Productivity: number of return customers and sales revenue
Well-being: self-reported stress level, etc.
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
beliefs about own and coworkers' current and future productivity, self-reported reference points for productivity comparison, prosocial behaviors
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
prosocial behaviors: sales revenue that a worker helps his/her coworkers generate
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
We conduct the experiment at a large spa chain in China. The chain has around 160 stores. About 5000 spa workers participate in the experiment. Before the intervention, we use a workplace info system app to conduct surveys on the workers to elicit their beliefs about their own future performance, the current performance of their coworkers with similar work experience, and the performance history of their senior coworkers. In the first stage of the intervention, we randomize all the stores into 3 groups. All workers in Group 1 (40 stores) undergo Treatment 1; all workers in Group 2 (40 stores) undergo Treatment 2; the rest of the stores (control group) do not receive intervention at this stage. Throughout the intervention, we track the outcome variables listed above.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Store
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
160
Sample size: planned number of observations
5000 workers
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
2 treatment groups (40 stores each), one control group (80 stores)
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
Stanford IRB
IRB Approval Date
2019-06-14
IRB Approval Number
waived
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports, Papers & Other Materials
Relevant Paper(s)
REPORTS & OTHER MATERIALS