Motivating Low Performers with Input-Based Relative Performance Feedback: Evidence from a Field Experiment

54 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2021 Last revised: 24 Mar 2024

See all articles by Rainer Michael Rilke

Rainer Michael Rilke

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Victor van Pelt

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Sebastian Lehnen

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Christina Günther

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management

Date Written: March 13, 2024

Abstract

A significant challenge firms face is providing performance feedback that effectively motivates low-performing employees. In our field experiment, we examined the impact of an often-overlooked form of relative performance feedback that emphasizes comparing employees based on their inputs. Our results indicate that input-based relative performance feedback enhances the input-based performance of low performers without adversely affecting high performers. Furthermore, our field experiment demonstrates that carefully choosing the right type of input can substantially increase low performers' contributions to a firm's overall output. Together, our findings support our prediction that input-based relative performance feedback provides a viable strategy for low performers to narrow the performance gap with high performers by guiding them toward the crucial inputs high performers use to generate output. Our study adds an important refinement to our understanding of how relative performance feedback promotes upward social comparison and offers valuable insights for firms aiming to motivate low performers in their workforce.

Keywords: Relative performance feedback, performance evaluation, field experiment, social comparison, social status, inputs, ranking, performance measurement.

JEL Classification: C93, D91, M40, M41

Suggested Citation

Rilke, Rainer Michael and van Pelt, Victor and Lehnen, Sebastian and Guenther, Christina, Motivating Low Performers with Input-Based Relative Performance Feedback: Evidence from a Field Experiment (March 13, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3978948 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3978948

Rainer Michael Rilke (Contact Author)

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

Victor Van Pelt

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

Sebastian Lehnen

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

Christina Guenther

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

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