Bryan Caplan  

Work Experience and Job Performance: A Few Lessons For Labor Economists From Industrial Psychology

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When labor economists say "work experience," they usually just mean (Age-Education-5).  Industrial psychologists are far more subtle.  QuiƱones, Ford, and Teachout, "The Relationship Between Work Experience and Job Performance: A Conceptual and Meta-Analytic Review.(Personnel Psychology, 1995) begins by distinguishing three measures:
Time-based measures are perhaps the most familiar to researchers. These include typical measures such as job and organizational tenure (e.g., months or years in the job). Amount measures refer to numerical counts such as the number of times a task was performed or the number of different jobs held in an organization. Finally, measures that categorize experience qualitatively (e.g. management, accounting, etc.) are referred to as type measures.
Measure matters:
The meta-analyses results also revealed some variation in the relationship between work experience and job performance as a function of measurement mode. The strongest relationship occurred between amount of experience and performance. Time and type measures showed the weakest relationships. Finally, variability in the relationship between experience and performance as a function of level of specificity was found. Task-level experience had the strongest relationship with performance whereas organizational level showed the weakest.
Also of note:
The relationship was stronger when hard performance measures such as work samples were used as compared to soft performance measures such as supervisory ratings.
Plausible explanation:
[I]ndividuals may rate an employee's performance relative to his or her level of job experience. A poorly performing newcomer may be rated the same as an average performing veteran. Thus, subjective ratings may attenuate actual performance level differences which are captured by more objective "hard" performance criteria.
This article is yet another reason why economists should stop laughing at psychologists and start listening to them.  They have so much to teach us.



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COMMENTS (3 to date)
ThomasH writes:

One needs to look at the monetary policy that goes along with the increase in public/private expenditure. If policy allows the new wage to increase ngdp and there are unemployed resources, both increase real output and income, though the government employee may result in more as measured. Of course neither the public nor private sector usually employs people who wind up doing nothing. The fall in public sector employment is an important factor in the slow recovery from the recession.

Les Cargill writes:

Organizations are notoriously *awful* at hiring and evaluation. Firms vary from being relatively effective at being able to understand what matters in employee behavior to actively training employees in how to game the system.

Organizations will also collectively resist formal measurement very nearly to the point of failure. Key players will likely be significant rent-seekers within the organization and be experienced in infighting.

There is massive shear between human perception and what is measurable. As George Orwell says, it takes constant diligence to see what is under your nose. A commonly served Big Lie will serve to bind people; a commonly served Big Truth will spawn a million heresies.


MingoV writes:

The fancy industrial psychologists' analyses can be condensed to this question about an employee: Does he have ten years of experience or one year of experience ten times?

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