Category Archives: C.A.R.E.

17/4/16: Human Capital, Management & Value-Added


The value of management to a given firm rests not only in more efficient use of physical resources and financial capital, as well as corporate / business strategy, but also in the ability of the firm to identify, hire, retain and enable high quality human capital. This is a rather common sense conclusion that might be drawn by any analyst of management systems and any business student.

However, the question always remains as to how much of the firm value-added arises from managerial inputs, as opposed to actual human capital inputs.

Stefan Bender, Nicholas Bloom, David Card, John Van Reenen, and Stephanie Wolter decided to attempt to quantify these differences. In their paper “Management Practices, Workforce Selection and Productivity” (March 2016, NBER Working Paper No. w22101: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2752306) they note that “recent research suggests that much of the cross-firm variation in measured productivity is due to differences in use of advanced management practices.”

“Many of these practices – including monitoring, goal setting, and the use of incentives – are mediated through employee decision-making and effort. To the extent that these practices are complementary with workers’ skills, better-managed firms will tend to recruit higher-ability workers and adopt pay practices to retain these employees.”

The authors then use a survey data on the management practices of German manufacturing firms, as well as data on earnings records for their employees “to study the relationship between productivity, management, worker ability, and pay”.

Per authors: “As documented by Bloom and Van Reenen (2007) there is a strong partial correlation between management practice scores and firm-level productivity in Germany. In our preferred TFP [total factor productivity] estimates only a small fraction of this correlation is explained by the higher human capital of the average employee at better-managed firms. A larger share (about 13%) is attributable to the human capital of the highest-paid workers, a group we interpret as representing the managers of the firm. And a similar amount is mediated through the pay premiums offered by better-managed firms.”

Human capital value-added is neither uniform across types of employees, nor is it independent of the management systems, which means that increasing the value of human capital in the economy requires more emphasis on the structure of the overall utilisation of talent, not just acquisition of talent. This is exactly consistent with the C.A.R.E. framework for human capital-centric economy that I outlined some years ago, here http://trueeconomics.blogspot.com/2013/11/14112013-human-capital-age-of-change.html, the framework of Creating, Attracting, Retaining and Enabling human capital.

The study also confirms that “looking at employee inflows and outflows, … better-managed firms systematically recruit and retain workers with higher average human capital.”

Overall, the authors concluded that “workforce selection and positive pay premiums explain just under 30% of the measured impact of management practices on productivity in German manufacturing.”

These results should add to questions about the ability of the Gig-economy firms, e.g. online platforms providers for labour utilisation, such as Uber, to significantly improve productivity in the economy. The reason for this is simple: contingent workforce talent pool is at least one step further removed from management than in the case of traditional employees. As the result, it is quite possible that contingent workforce productivity does not benefit directly from management quality. If so, that sizeable, ‘just under 30% of the measured impact’ in terms of improved productivity, arising from better management practices, workforce selection and pay premiums can be out of reach for Gig-economy firms and their contingent workers.

Again, as I noted repeatedly, including in my recent presentation at the CXC Global “Future of Work” Summit (see here: http://trueeconomics.blogspot.com/2016/04/7416-globalization-and-future-of-work.html), the key to developing a productive and sustainable Gig-economy will be in our ability to develop institutional, regulatory and strategic frameworks for improving management of human capital held by contingent workforce.


17/4/16: Peer Effects in Classroom: The Value of Better Discipline?


In workplace, as well as in education, peer-pressure and competition, peer-linked cooperation and collaboration and other peer-linked effects of have been important contributors to work- and learning-related outcomes. Ditto for entrepreneurship, as collaborated by the effects of clusters, such as the Silicon Valley. However, we tend to think of peer effects as arising from more mature, adult-level interactions in either third level education, or career-linked workplaces.

As noted by Scott Carrell, Mark Hoekstra and Elira Kuka in their paper “The Long-Run Effects of Disruptive Peers” (February 2016 as NBER WP No. w22042: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2739567), “there is relatively little evidence on the long-run educational and labor market consequences of childhood peers.”

So the authors examined “administrative data on elementary school students” and students’ “subsequent test scores, college attendance and completion, and earnings” to identify any potential effects of childhood peers on educational outcomes.

“To distinguish the effect of peers from confounding factors, we exploit the population variation in the proportion of children from families linked to domestic violence, who were shown by Carrell and Hoekstra (2010, 2012) to disrupt contemporaneous behavior and learning.”

The end results show that “exposure to a disruptive peer in classes of 25 during elementary school reduces earnings at age 26 by 3 to 4 percent. We estimate that differential exposure to children linked to domestic violence explains 5 to 6 percent of the rich-poor earnings gap in our data, and that removing one disruptive peer from a classroom for one year would raise the present discounted value of classmates' future earnings by $100,000.”

These are striking numbers. Accumulated over life-cycle of employment, gains from reducing classroom-level disruptive behaviour of peers can lead to a significant uplift in both, economic welfare and individual financial wellbeing. It can also, potentially, help closing the income inequality gaps. The question, however, is how does one achieve such an outcome in the real world, where even disruptive students have a right to education.