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An experimental and social cognitive process analysis of the effects of incentive motivators on service work unit outcomes

Suzanne Joanna Peterson, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

In the past, research has focused on the general question of whether or not contingent incentives are related to general areas of work performance. This study goes a step further in theoretical development by seeking to examine more specific questions regarding the nature and underlying mechanisms behind the relationship between incentive motivators (i.e., money, social recognition, and performance feedback) and service unit outcomes. Specifically, this dissertation experimentally examines the relative effects of incentive motivators on service work unit financial performance and employee retention and job satisfaction. In addition, it examines the underlying social cognitive processes through which these effects are operationalized. Specifically, the study explores whether outcome utility, informative content, and the proposed regulatory mechanisms are the underlying processes driving the differential engagement of incentive motivators. ^ A sample of 685 employees in 24 service units (restaurants) of a large fast food chain completed a questionnaire about their views of the study's incentive motivators. For the field experiment interventions, the unit managers were systematically trained in the administration of the various incentive motivators. Findings suggest that all incentive motivators, both individually and in respective combinations, have a positive effect on work unit gross profitability and key service behaviors. Findings further demonstrate the positive effects of incentive motivators on employee retention and job satisfaction. Specifically, in all cases, money had the strongest effect on outcomes followed by social recognition, and finally feedback. The most effective combination was money with social recognition. These results not only extend past findings on the positive effects of incentive motivators on various measures of performance, but also represent first-time experimental support for the effects of incentive motivators on work unit financial performance as well as employee retention and satisfaction. Findings also offer initial support for the existence of the proposed social cognitive processes. Such results represent a first step in theory development and toward a method of testing social cognitive processes through which incentive motivator effects are operationalized. ^

Subject Area

Business Administration, Management|Psychology, Industrial

Recommended Citation

Peterson, Suzanne Joanna, "An experimental and social cognitive process analysis of the effects of incentive motivators on service work unit outcomes" (2001). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3028660.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI3028660

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