NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Greer K. Gosnell

London School of Economics
and Political Science

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NBER Working Papers and Publications

June 2016A New Approach to an Age-Old Problem: Solving Externalities by Incenting Workers Directly
with John A. List, Robert Metcalfe: w22316
Understanding motivations in the workplace remains of utmost import as economies around the world rely on increases in labor productivity to foster sustainable economic growth. This study makes use of a unique opportunity to “look under the hood” of an organization that critically relies on worker effort and performance. By partnering with Virgin Atlantic Airways on a field experiment that includes over 40,000 unique flights covering an eight-month period, we explore how information and incentives affect captains’ performance. Making use of more than 110,000 captain-level observations, we find that our set of treatments—which include performance information, personal targets, and prosocial incentives—induces captains to improve efficiency in all three key flight areas: pre-flight, in-fligh...
 
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