Middle Managers, Personnel Turnover, and Performance: A Long‐Term Field Experiment in a Retail Chain

Guido Friebel, Matthias Heinz, Nikolay Zubanov, 2021,
Management Science, 68(1), [published online: 22. Feb 2021]

In a randomized controlled trial, a large retail chain’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO) sets new goals for the managers of the treated stores by asking them to “do what they can” to reduce the employee quit rate. The treatment decreases the quit rate by a fifth to a quarter, lasting nine months before petering out, but reappearing after a reminder. There is no treatment effect on sales. Further analysis reveals that treated store managers spend more time on human resources (HR) and less on customer service. Our findings show that middle managers are instrumental in reducing personnel turnover, but they face a trade-off between investing in different activities in a multitasking environment with limited resources. The treatment does produce efficiency gains. However, these occur only at the firm level.