Understanding differences in gainsharing performance: An interplant analysis

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Michael Schuster


Incentive compensation, Human resource development, Gain sharing

Subject Categories

Business | Economics | Labor Economics | Management Sciences and Quantitative Methods | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Gainsharing is a group based incentive reward system that has been associated with performance improvement in a wide range of firms. However, practitioner experience reveals that gainsharing is not always successful and that these plans may not lead to the expected outcomes. There are suggestions in the literature of contextual factors that might influence gainsharing outcomes but no studies have directly compared plans through which varying degrees of performance have been achieved.

This dissertation addresses the question of how human resource management practices influence the performance outcomes achieved from multiple Scanlon-type plans at one company. This research explores whether certain sets of human resource practices are necessary for the successful implementation of gainsharing and whether certain combinations of practices are more likely to lead to greater performance enhancement.

The strategic human resource management literature provides the theoretical foundation for this research and the basis for selecting the practices that are of greatest interest in a high performance or commitment type human resource system. Factors other than the human resource practices under study that might influence gainsharing outcomes are also considered.

Case study methodology is augmented by an interrupted time series deign. The impact of a single intervention, the implementation of gainsharing, is assessed for each of four divisions to reveal differences in the level and patterns of performance change. Data about the human resource management practices and other contextual factors was gathered through interviews with multiple informants from each division. Quantitative human resource data will provide additional information for cross divisional comparisons.

Within case analysis and cross case comparisons reveals the patterns of relationships of human resource practices to gainsharing outcomes. This research was designed to provide a rich, multi-perspective description of the human resource context associated with different levels of performance outcomes under gainsharing.


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