Get access

Nonfinancial Performance Measures and Promotion-Based Incentives


  • I thank George Baker, Srikant Datar, Chris Ittner, S.P. Kothari, Tatiana Sandino, and seminar participants at the AAA Management Accounting Section Annual Meeting, the EIASM 5th Conference on New Directions in Management Accounting, Boston University, the Harvard IMO Conference, the Journal of Accounting Research Conference, University of Southern California, and University of Washington for their comments. I also thank Richard Leftwich (editor) and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments.


In this paper, I examine the sensitivity of promotion and demotion decisions for lower-level managers to financial and nonfinancial measures of their performance and investigate the extent to which the behavior of lower-level managers reflects promotion-based incentives. Additionally, I test for learning versus effort-allocation effects of promotion-based incentives. I find that promotion and demotion decisions for store managers of a major U.S.-based fast-food retailer (QSR) are sensitive to nonfinancial performance measures of service quality and employee retention after controlling for financial performance. The likelihood of demotion in this organization is also sensitive to nonfinancial performance on the dimension of service quality, while the probability of exit is primarily sensitive to financial performance measures rather than nonfinancial performance measures. I also find evidence that the behavior of lower-level managers is consistent with the incentives created by the weighting of nonfinancial performance measures in promotion decisions. Managers in locations where there is a higher ex ante probability of promotion and a higher potential reward upon promotion demonstrate significantly higher levels and rates of performance improvement in service quality. Finally, consistent with promotion-based incentives inducing both effort-allocation and learning effects, I find that performance-improvement rates for service quality: (1) are higher in prepromotion periods in markets where promotions occur, (2) decrease immediately after the occurrence of a promotion in the same market area, and (3) remain higher than in markets where promotions do not occur. These findings provide some of the first empirical evidence on an alternative to the explicit weighting of nonfinancial metrics in compensation contracts as a mechanism for generating improvements in nonfinancial dimensions of performance.