Job Design, Learning & Intrinsic Motivation

32 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2021 Last revised: 16 Apr 2021

See all articles by Michael Gibbs

Michael Gibbs

University of Chicago Booth School of Business; Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 11, 2021

Abstract

According to psychologists and neuroscientists, a key source of intrinsic motivation is learning. An economic model of this is presented. Learning may make work less onerous, or the employee may value it in and of itself. Multitasking generates learning: performing one task increases productivity on related tasks. Intrinsic motivation generates a new multitask incentive problem if the rate of learning varies across tasks. With no incentive pay, employee autonomy complements learning because expected output increases as the employee uses his or her knowledge to enhance learning. The second part of the paper adds a simple incentive. Incentive pay does not “crowd out” intrinsic motivation, but it does rebalance effort away from learning and towards output. Learning has complex interactions with performance measurement. A higher rate of learning tends to reduce performance measure distortion, especially for a very distorted measure. It also tends to reduce the potential for manipulation, as does multitasking. However, if job design is strongly imbalanced towards a few key tasks, or learning varies significantly across tasks, a higher rate of learning may increase the employee’s ability to manipulate the measure. In that case the firm might prefer an incentive with no autonomy, or autonomy with no incentive.

Suggested Citation

Gibbs, Michael, Job Design, Learning & Intrinsic Motivation (April 11, 2021). Chicago Booth Research Paper No. 21-11, University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2021-47, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3824874 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3824874

Michael Gibbs (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Booth School of Business ( email )

5807 S. Woodlawn Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
18
Abstract Views
83
PlumX Metrics