Should Workplace Programs Be Voluntary or Mandatory? Evidence from a Field Experiment on Mentorship

73 Pages Posted: 30 Aug 2021 Last revised: 22 Feb 2023

See all articles by Jason Sandvik

Jason Sandvik

University of Utah

Richard E. Saouma

Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University

Nathan Seegert

University of Utah - Department of Finance

Christopher Stanton

Harvard University - Business School (HBS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: August 2021

Abstract

In a field experiment, we find large differences in productivity treatment effects between voluntary and mandatory workplace mentorship programs. A significant portion of this difference is due to the best employees opting into the program when it is voluntary and these employees having the smallest treatment effects. Our findings suggest that pilot programs run on a voluntary group may obfuscate large potential gains. In our setting, the firm cannot rely on self-selection to help with program allocation because employees that benefit the most from the program are the least likely to participate. Our findings have implications for program evaluation, experimental design, productivity dispersion, and inequality.

Suggested Citation

Sandvik, Jason and Saouma, Richard E. and Seegert, Nathan and Stanton, Christopher, Should Workplace Programs Be Voluntary or Mandatory? Evidence from a Field Experiment on Mentorship (August 2021). NBER Working Paper No. w29148, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3913821

Jason Sandvik (Contact Author)

University of Utah ( email )

Richard E. Saouma

Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University ( email )

Agriculture Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824-1122
United States

Nathan Seegert

University of Utah - Department of Finance ( email )

David Eccles School of Business
Salt Lake City, UT 84112
United States

Christopher Stanton

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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