The Center for Human Resources has been a leading academic contributor of human resources and labor relations research for almost a century, from pioneering studies on productivity in the 1920s to the groundbreaking series on the status of black workers in industry in the 1960s to today’s cutting-edge commentary and research on talent management challenges and labor market outcomes.

Current Research Highlights

Data Analytics and Human Resources

Prasanna (Sonny) Tambe, Valery Yakubovich, and Peter Cappelli are developing a research agenda to investigate the possibilities and limitations of applying sophisticated data science techniques to traditional human resource problems. The research question is Will new developments in data science fields such as managing small data sets make the use of more sophisticated techniques easier?

Employees and Business Performance in Retail

This project led by Liat Eldor makes use of unusually detailed data on employees, their supervisors, and very specific measures of performance of individual retail stores to examine the long-standing question of how individual workers affect organizational outcomes. What is unique in this context is that the data drills down into the attitudes of individual employees, their relationships with immediate supervisors, and an array of store performance measures – from secret shopper scores to financial performance to detailed measures of optimal efficiency, all of which are available over several years.

Performance Management

Claudine Gartenberg, Prasanna (Sonny) Tambe, and Peter Cappelli are examining the effects of different performance management regimes on employee behavior – a shift from extreme differentiation in rewards based on individual performance to a much more equal system – in a large organization. The project mirrors the rethinking of performance management taking place across many employers.

Agile Human Resources

Anna Tavis and Peter Cappelli continue their work featured in Harvard Business Review articles about how agile project management systems are changing the work organizations work but also how supportive functions such as human resources operate.

The Influence of Liquidity Constraints in Job Choice

This project led by Clay Featherstone seeks to understand how liquidity and lack of funding function as is a binding constraints for admits at Teach for America. His survey, based off of previous TFA research, addresses questions of why these aspiring teachers do not secure additional liquidity on their own, as well as why the neediest admits who did not become teachers through TFA due to lack of funds chose not to become teachers at all. This project has dramatic implications for addressing the teacher shortage in the United States.

The Detrimental Effect of Agency Workers on Business Results

A recent study “Agent Temps Hurt Business Performance,” published in 2021’s Academy of Management Journal, co-authored with Peter Cappelli, Liat Eldor shows  that constituting a blended workplace, where standard employees work side by side with temporary agency workers, hurts the bottom-line business results of firms. In contrast to the common assertion in Economics that the use of an agency workforce financially benefits organizations by allowing them to reduce labor costs, Liat finds greater use of agency temps actually hurts business performance because it damages the organizational identification and social identity of the conventional employees of the firm.

The Effect of External vs. Internal Hiring

Liat Eldor, currently involved in research study with Peter Cappelli and Shun Yiu to compare the common situation where vacancies are filled from within the organization by lateral moves versus when they are filled by bringing in an outsider. In contrast to what appeared to be the growing consensus, Liat, Peter and Shun find that external hiring is actually more effective measured by business results in these supervisory roles.

Pathways for Advancement: How Generalist and Specialist Jobs Shape Careers Within Organizations

In this study, Shun Yiu, Matthew Bidwell and JR Keller examine how generalist and specialist jobs shape advancement within organizations. They propose a new construct called “advancement breath”, which refers to the range of potential advancement destinations associated with a job. They argue and show that the level of advancement breadth of a job is positively associated with the breadth of skill content of the job. They theorize that there will be a tradeoff between the breadth of advancement opportunities associated with a job and the speed in which job incumbents will be promoted out of the job. They empirically demonstrate the presence of this tradeoff using 8 years of personnel data from a Fortune 500 healthcare company.

Acquisitions and Corporate Purpose

This study explores the relationship between boundary decisions and the sense of purpose within firms. Using data from approximately 1.6 million employees and 831 acquisitions, Shun Yiu and Claudine Gartenberg find that purpose is substantially weaker in companies in the three years following a transaction. This relationship is driven by transactions with information asymmetry, specifically those with opaque disclosed rationales or unique industry combinations. Moreover, this relationship has implications for the performance of the transaction. Unique transactions are met with outsized market returns upon announcement, consistent with market perception of the strategic value of uniqueness. However, they do not outperform over the long run. Only unique transactions that simultaneously sustain strong purpose ultimately outperform. Altogether, the evidence suggests a possible tension between strategic and motivational implications of firm boundaries: while firms benefit strategically from uniqueness, it may also erode the sense of purpose within firms, with consequences for downstream performance.

Sick Days and Organizational Performance 

In this study Shun Yiu with Liat Eldor and Peter Cappelli examine the effect of sick leaves taken by employees on organizational performance. Using data from an Israelis retail chain, we empirically establish that there is a negative effect of sick days on organizational performance. They explore mechanisms that might be driving this negative effect. They also explore practices that might alleviate this negative impact. In particular, they examine how the reallocation of work induced by sick days to different types of workers might moderate the negative effect of sick days on organizational performance.

Ph.D. Research Funded by Center for Human Resources

Authenticity in Work Interactions

Julianna Pillemer’s, a doctoral student explores how individuals communicate or “signal” authenticity in initial impressions at work. Her research also examines the mechanisms and outcomes driving whether being communicating and perceiving authenticity is beneficial for intrapersonal and interpersonal outcomes, and how these relationships evolve over social media and/or in person.

Becoming Established in the Project-Based Organization

Minseo Baek, a doctoral student explores the challenges that young professionals face in establishing themselves within project-based organizations. These project-based organizations are increasingly common in professional service and knowledge intensive industries, and pose unique challenges for new entrants. In project-based organizations, performing well in individual projects is not enough; workers also need to carefully gauge which projects or how many projects to take at a given time because these decisions over time will determine their overall career directions and workflows. Yet, without a manager that oversees their overall work assignments across different projects nor a set rule on what projects to take, how can workers pave their pathways to career success in such organizations?

Recommended Papers

Cappelli, P. & Eldor, L. (2022) Contracting-Lite: The Conflict between Gig Economy Contracting and Traditional Employment Practices and the Implications for Theory. Forthcoming. Academy of Management Annals

Monika Hamori, Rocio Bonet, Peter Cappelli, and Samidha Sambare (2022) Women Are Stalling Out on the Way to the TopMIT Sloan Management Review

Liat Eldor and Peter Cappelli (2021), The Use of Agency Workers Hurts Business Performance: An Integrated Indirect Model., Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 64 Issue 3, p824-850. 27p

Rocio Bonet, Peter Cappelli, Monika Hamori (2019), The Advancement of Women in Executive Careers, Strategic Management Journal.

Matthew Bidwell, Kira Choi, Isabel Fernandez-Mateo (2022), Brokered Careers: The Role of Search Firms in Managerial Career Mobility, Industrial and Labor Relations Review

Minseo Baek, Matthew Bidwell, JR Keller (2021), My Manager Moved! The Effects of Supervisor Mobility on Subordinate Career Outcomes, Organization Science. 

Matthew Bidwell (2020), No Vacancies? Building Theory on How Organizations Move People Across Jobs, Advances in Strategic Management , 41, pp. 153-174.

Tracy Anderson and Matthew Bidwell (2019), Outside insiders: understanding the role of contracting in the careers of managerial workers, Organization Science, (forthcoming).

Huang, V. Souitaris, Sigal Barsade(2019), Which matters more? Group fear versus group hope in entrepreneurial escalation of commitment to a losing ventureStrategic Management Journal, 40 (11), pp. 1852-1881.

Peter P. Reese, Iwan Barankay, Mary Putt, Louise B. Russell, Jiali Yan, Jingsan Zhu, Qian Huang, George Loewenstein, Rolf Andersen, Heidi Testa, Adam S. Mussell, David Pagnotti, Lisa E. Wesby, Karen Hoffer, Kevin G. Volpp (2021), Effect of Financial Incentives for Process, Outcomes, or Both on Cholesterol Level Change: A Randomized Clinical Trial, JAMA Network Open.

Iwan Barankay, Peter P. Reese, Mary E Putt (2020), Effect of Patient Financial Incentives on Statin Adherence and Lipid Control: A Randomized Clinical Trial, JAMA Network Open, 3(10): e2019429.

Nancy Rothbard, Arianna Beetz (Ulloa), Dana Harari (2021), Balancing the scales: A configurational approach to work-life balance, Annual Review of Organizational Psychology and Organizational Behavior.

Eldor, L. (2021). Leading by doing: Does leading by example impact productivity and service quality? Academy of Management Journal, Vol.64, No.2 Articles

Eldor, L. (2020). How collective engagement creates competitive advantage for organizations: A Business‐Level model of shared vision, competitive intensity, and service performance. Journal of Management Studies, 57(2), 177-209.

Eldor, L., Westring, A. F., & Friedman, S. D. (2020). The indirect effect of holistic career values on work engagement: A longitudinal study spanning two decades. Applied Psychology: Health and Well‐Being, 12(1), 144-165.

Tiantian Yang and Maria del Carmen Triana (2019), Set up to Fail: Explaining When Women-Led Businesses Are More Likely to Fail, Journal of Management, 45 (3), pp. 926-954.

Tiantian Yang, Jiayi Bao, Howard E. Aldrich (2020), The Paradox of Resource Provision in Entrepreneurial Teams: Between Self-interest and the Collective Enterprise, Organization Science, 31 (6), pp. 1336-1358