Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Paper Series,
Stockholm University, Swedish Institute for Social Research

No 6/2020: Worker reciprocity and the returns to training: evidence from a field experiment

Jan Sauermann ()
Additional contact information
Jan Sauermann: Swedish Institute for Social Research, Stockholm University, Postal: SOFI, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Abstract: Do reciprocal workers have higher returns to employer-sponsored training? Using a field experiment with random assignment to training combined with survey information on workers’ reciprocal inclinations, the results show that reciprocal workers reciprocate employers’ training investments by higher post-training performance. This result, which is robust to controlling for observed personality traits and worker fixed effects, suggests that individuals reciprocate the firm’s human capital investment with higher effort, in line with theoretical models on gift exchange in the workplace. This finding provides an alternative rationale to explain firm training investments even with risk of poaching.

Keywords: on-the-job training; reciprocity; worker performance; field experiment

JEL-codes: D03; J24; M53

32 pages, June 23, 2020

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