I STUDY THE ROLE OF PEOPLE IN ORGANIZATIONAL PERFORMANCE

My research focuses on understanding the determinants of individual productivity for high knowledge and skill workers in organizations. Humans are the most valuable and costly resource for organizations, and regardless of the strategy an organization chooses it ultimately relies on people to carry it out. Yet humans are also the most difficult resource for organizations to manage because they respond to extrinsic motivations, such as incentives, compensation, and awards, as well as intrinsic motivations, social comparisons, cognitive biases, and social pressures. Moreover, unlike machines, a brand, or other firm resources humans may suddenly become sick, choose to voluntarily leave to a competitor, or choose to use their autonomy in ways counterproductive to organizational objectives. 

These micro-level challenges become even more complicated in organizations. Organizational-level design, resources, structure, and other choices often directly influence the productivity, decision-making, and happiness of individual employees. Individual productivity is also often directly influenced by the other workers present in the organization. Thus, organizations face significant challenges when seeking to leverage their human resources to successfully carry out firm objectives. 

I focus on helping firms understand how to design themselves to create and capture value more successfully through the efficient use of the people they employ. This work inherently requires a multi-level and multi-disciplinary approach, as I seek to understand individual-level decisions and productivity as well as micro-macro links that are important to individual decision-making and productivity. Empirically my research approach relies on the econometric analysis of archival field data, particularly longitudinal employer-employee matched panel data and natural experiments. To date my work has primarily focused on the following settings: 1) commercial laundry workers, 2) residential real estate, 3) emergency medical service crews and agencies (i.e., paramedics), 4) stack overflow contributors, and 5) US federal workers. 

My interests and expertise broadly fall in the following areas: Strategic Human Capital, Social and Relational Capital, Incentives and Compensation, Agency Theory, Labor Markets and Employee Mobility, and Organizational Strategy.

PUBLISHED WORKS

11. Cooper, R. and T. Gubler. (2020). "Specialized Human Capital in Professional Services: Task Specificity and Firm Performance", in Proceedings of the Eightieth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Guclu Antinc, Ed. Online ISSN: 2151-6561.

10. Gubler, T. and R. Cooper (2019). "Socially Advantaged? How Social Affiliations Influence Access to Valuable Service Professional Transactions." Strategic Management Journal, 40(13): 2287-2314. Find it on SSRN HERE.  

9. Gubler, T. (2019). “Connected, but Qualified? Social Affiliations, Human Capital, and Service Professional Performance." Organization Science, 30(5), 912-936. Find it on SSRN HERE.
         **Winner of Sumantra Ghoshal Best Paper Award, BPS Division, Academy of Management 2017
         **Previous Title: "When Social Capital Hurts: The Role of Human Capital Experience and Fit"
 
8. Gubler, T., Larkin, I., and L. Pierce (2018). “Doing Well by Making Well: The Impact of Corporate Wellness Programs on Employee Productivity.” Management Science, 64(11): 4967-4987. Find it on SSRN HERE.
         **Named top 100 business school paper by societal impact by the Financial Times

7.  Gubler, T. (2017). "Connected, but Qualified? Social Affiliations, Human Capital, and Service Professional Performance", in Proceedings of the Seventy-seventh Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, Guclu Atinc, Ed. Online ISSN: 2151-6561. 

6. Gubler, T., Larkin, I., and L. Pierce (2016). “Motivational Spillovers from Awards: Crowding Out in a Multitasking Environment”, Organization Science, 27(2), 286-303. Find it on SSRN HEREPreviously titled “The Dirty Laundry of Employee Award Programs: Evidence from the Field”

5. Gubler, T. (2015). "Social Affiliations and Performance of Experts in Organizations", in Proceedings of the Seventy-fifth Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, John Humphreys, Ed., 1:15058.

4. Gubler, T. and L. Pierce (2014). “Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Retirement Planning Predicts Employee Health Improvements,” Psychological Science, 25(9), 1822-1830. Find it on ResearchGate HERE.

3. Zenger, T. and T. Gubler. (2013). "Agency Problems," in Palgrave Encyclopedia of Strategic Management, David Teece and Mie Augier, Eds., Palgrave Macmillan. 

2. Nickerson, J., T. Gubler, and K. Dirks. (2013). “Trust and the Economic Theory of the Firm," in Handbook of Advances in Trust Research, Aks Zaheer and Reinhard Bachman, Ed., Edward Elgar (Cheltenham). Find it on ResearchGate HERE.

1. Butler, R., W. Johnson, and T. Gubler. (2009). "Economic Burden," in Work and Cancer Survivors, Michael Feuerstein, Ed., New York: Springer

CURRENT WORKING PAPERS AVAILABLE BY REQUEST
 

12. Anchoring on Historical Round Number Reference Points: Expert Experience Corrects for Pricing Bias While Market Forces Do Not" (with Scott Wiltermuth and Lamar Pierce). Revision Requested, Organization Science. Available on SSRN HERE.

Buyers typically strive to negotiate low prices for durable goods. Psychologically-salient round number reference points (e.g., $10,000) influence these purchasing decisions. However, existing research does not capture how these historical reference points influence the anchoring effect of previous sales prices on future valuations. We argue that the anchoring effect of prior sales prices on subsequent prices is discontinuous at round numbers, such that it matters disproportionately whether a previous sales price reached a round-number threshold. Buyers paying a price just below a round number may sacrifice money because they receive disproportionately less when reselling the good. We further argue that while market forces are unlikely to attenuate this effect, highly-experienced professional intermediaries may. Using data on over 13,000 repeat real estate transactions, we find that home buyers who previously paid just under a $10,000 reference point subsequently list and sell their homes for about 1.3 percent (over $2000) less on average than do buyers selling comparable homes who previously paid at or above a round number threshold. This drop is observable controlling for home characteristics and the general relationship between previous and current prices. Buyers who cross a $10,000 threshold by paying $1000 more therefore would earn a return of 215%. An experiment with 1010 participants replicates these findings and increases confidence in causality. Market mechanisms, the negotiation process, and organizational support provided to intermediaries does not correct substantively for these discontinuities: Lower initial listing prices persist to final sales prices. However, using a highly-experienced agent attenuates intergenerational pricing bias.

13. "Employee Dilemmas From Competing Organizational Objectives: Insights from Emergency Medical Services" (with Haibo Liu and Alexandru Roman). Revision Requested, Strategic Management Journal. Available on SSRN HERE. Prior health-focused version on patient ability to pay HERE.  

Organizations face unique challenges when simultaneously pursuing conflicting organization-level objectives. We study how frontline employees deal with competing financial and social objectives within the context of Emergency Medical Services. Using data from 31 US states, we find that even in the absence of direct financial incentives, emergency crews are responsive to the financial objective of their agencies by providing differential service to patients based on their ability to pay. Private insurance and Medicare patients receive more procedures (6.1% and 1.9%) and have longer transport times (5.3% and 4.0%) than Medicaid patients after controlling for call and patient characteristics. Importantly, we also find evidence suggesting that EMS crews vacillate between the financial and social objectives between calls, depending on the relative salience of the objective. 

14. "Combining Individual and Firm-level Human Capital Resources: The Creation and Performance Benefits of Human Capital Alignment" (with Ryan Cooper and David Kryscynski). Revising for submission. Available on SSRN HERE and ResearchGate HERE.

We investigate how alignment between firm and individual-level human capital resources influences firm performance. We argue that a high degree of alignment between the firm and individual levels increases human capital utilization, coordination, and transfer. Drawing on Utah residential real estate data from 1996-2014, we find that brokerages with higher brokerage-agent human capital alignment engage in more transactions than brokerages with lower alignment. These benefits increase with firm size. We also find that individual-level human capital similarity in the first year significantly influences firm-individual alignment in subsequent years. These results suggest that managers from founding onward must carefully craft and manage alignment in individual and firm-level human capital resources to generate persistent performance advantages that are resistant to turnover and difficult for competitors to replicate.

15. "Specialized Human Capital in Professional Services: Task Specificity and Firm Performance." (with Ryan Cooper). Working Paper. 

This paper examines the relationship between the autonomous specialization decisions of service professionals and the tacit human capital they develop. As individuals specialize in production in response to market and organizational factors, they develop task-specific human capital which induces them to continue to specialize. Task specificity of human capital benefits the firm due to its higher productivity, even after negative shocks to the market. Individual specialization in response to market forces also leads to human capital overlap, or shared expertise among co-workers, which may have positive and negative impacts on the firm. Using a novel approach that draws on longitudinal data from the Utah real estate industry, we examine these forces empirically and find that task-specific human capital does benefit firms, even after widespread negative market shocks. Overlap also benefits firms, though it is a substitute for task specificity rather than a complement. 

WORK IN PROGRESS (but not yet full working papers)
 

16.  “Social Affiliations, Ethical Dilemmas, and Mortgage Risk in Utah" (with Lamar Pierce). Data analysis stage.

In this paper we investigate whether social affiliations and relational capital between real estate agents and buyers leads agents to provide better advice and reign in potentially self-destructive buyer impulses or if it leads agents to enable buyers to achieve their dreams, regardless of the risks. 

17.   "Coping with Tragedy: EMS Team Productivity Following Encounters with Death" (with Alexandru Roman and Haibo Liu). Data analysis stage.

We explore how encounters with tragic incidents (death) influences subsequent performance of Emergency Medical Service personnel. 

18.  "Human Capital, Discrimination, and Stigma within the Federal Workforce" (with Joe Raffiee and Ryan Cooper). Data analysis stage.

In this project we investigate how exogenous natural shocks to perceptions of race influence the promotion, turnover, and hiring of minority workers. We explore these questions using a database of all federal workers in the US government from 1974-2014. 

19. “Organizational Structure, Incentives, Sorting, and Emergency Medical Service Crew Performance” (with Haibo Liu and Alexandru Roman).  Data gathering stage.

20.  "How Badges and Awards Influence Contributor Reputation and Performance: Evidence from Stack Overflow" (with Inna Smirnova). Data analysis stage.

21.  "The Evolution and Growth of Silicon Slopes in Utah: A Human Capital Story" (with David Kryscynski, Jim Oldroyd, Shad Morris, and Troy Nielsen). Data gathering stage.

NOTABLE MEDIA MENTIONS

EDITORIAL BOARDS AND REVIEWING

  • Editorial Review Board member, Organization Science (current term 2021-2023)

  • Ad hoc reviewer: Management Science, Strategic Management Journal, Organization Science, Administrative Science Quarterly, Academy of Management Journal, Production and Operations Management, Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Review of Economics and Statistics, and Human Relations. 

MAJOR HONORS AND AWARDS

  • Innovative Learning Technology Initiative Grant Recipient, University of California, Riverside (with Marlo Raveendran), 2018. $107,000

  • Winner of Sumantra Ghoshal Best Paper Award, Academy of Management, 2017, Atlanta, Georgia.

 

  • MBA Golden Apple teaching award, University of California, Riverside. Student-voted award for best MBA teacher in MBA core courses for 2016-2017.

  • Winner of Robert J. Litschert Best Doctoral Student Paper Award, Academy of Management 2015, Vancouver, Canada.

  • Finalist: Strategic Human Capital interest group best paper award, Strategic Management Society 2015, Denver, Colorado.

  • Moog Scholar, Washington University in St. Louis, 2013-2014.