193 – No recognition without participation: a field experiment in the workplace

Luca Savorelli, University of St Andrews

Giulio Ecchia, University of Bologna

Raimondello Orsini, University of Bologna

Firms are increasingly pursuing employees’ participation programmes, yet field evidence on their impact on performance is scant. To study their effect on quality provision, we conduct a field experiment that exogenously determines whether workers participate or not in the design of a recognition scheme. With no awareness of being part of a research study, some workers vote on the scheme’s format and ranking system, whereas others have
no voice.

The results show that the scheme backfires without employees’ participation: mistakes increase by around 50% in comparison with a control group and with employees who participated in the design of the scheme.

The experiment also exogenously determines the timing of the onset and of the withdrawal of the recognition scheme, showing that adverse outcomes persist even after the scheme’s end. These adverse effects are driven by mistakes affecting the organization’s management, rather than end-users or colleagues. Employees’ performance responds directly to experimental manipulation and Hawthorne-type effects operate separately from the participation mechanism.

Keywords: natural field experiment, participation, recognition, incentives, persistence, Hawthorne effect.

JEL: D23, J32, I19, M52


Paper pubblicato anche nella Collana dell’University of St Andrews.