Professor Carolyn Deller is an Assistant Professor of Accounting at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research focuses on the design and outcomes of management control systems used by organizations to enhance employees’ motivation, ability, and opportunity to reach their full potential. The control systems explored in her research include employee selection, incentive plans, employee evaluation systems, and the balanced scorecard. Professor Deller’s research typically involves the econometric analysis of within-firm archival data, though she has also utilized experimental methodologies.
Professor Deller enjoys teaching the undergraduate core course, Strategic Cost Analysis. She received a DBA (Accounting and Management) from Harvard Business School, and a Bachelor of Commerce (Honors) from the University of Melbourne in Australia. She was previously a Chartered Accountant at KPMG.
Research interests: management accounting and control systems, performance measurement, organizational design, chain organizations
Abstract: We examine how a specific external and uncontrollable factor—the day’s weather— influences subjective performance evaluations. We use an experiment to test if weather introduces a directional bias to subjective evaluations and if weather interacts with a decision bias documented by prior literature: spillover from performance on an objective measure to the subjective evaluation of an unrelated performance dimension. In contrast to conventional wisdom, we find no evidence that sunny weather results in more positive evaluations. However, we find evidence that cloudy weather mitigates spillover effects in subjective evaluations. Specifically, we find that spillover effects are significantly less pronounced on cloudy days vis-à-vis sunny days in geographic locations where the weather is more likely to influence evaluators. Moreover, we find that, at least in our study, sunshine is a necessary condition for the spillover effect first documented by Bol and Smith (2011). We examine and rule out various channels through which weather may affect the spillover effect, concluding that our results are most likely attributable to cloudy weather inducing a more detailed and systematic cognitive processing style.
Carolyn Deller, Pablo Casas-Arce, Francisco de Asis Martinez-Jerez, Jose Manuel Narciso, Knowing That You Know: Incentive Effects of Relative Performance Disclosure.
Abstract: This paper studies differential employee responses to the public disclosure of individual performance information throughout an organization. We argue that, to the extent that employees care about their colleagues’ perceptions of their productivity, public disclosure will increase motivation. Moreover, the effect should be stronger for employees whose colleagues expect them to have higher performance. We obtained data from a bank that transitioned from private to public disclosure of employee rankings and, consistent with our hypothesis, find heterogeneity in employee responses to public disclosure. Employees with a history of poor performance increase their output more than past good performers when rankings become public. Additionally, more highly educated employees react more strongly to the change. However, contrary to the literature that finds gender differences in competitive environments, we do not find systematic differences in the response to public disclosure on this dimension. Overall, the results suggest that public disclosure is an important dimension to consider when designing a compensation system.
Carolyn Deller, Christopher D. Ittner, Hami Amiraslani, Thomas Keusch (Working), Board Risk Oversight and Environmental and Social Responsibility.
Abstract: Risk oversight has emerged as an important responsibility of corporate boards. At the same time, firms are increasingly recognizing the risks that social and environmental issues pose to investors and stakeholders. In this study, we examine the relation between board risk oversight and firms’ environmental and social (E&S) ratings. Using proprietary data on the board risk oversight practices of firms from 29 countries, we show that firms with more robust risk oversight have higher E&S ratings, are more likely to integrate E&S issues into their strategies and executive compensation contracts, and ultimately experience better E&S outcomes.
Carolyn Deller and Tatiana Sandino (2020), Who Should Select New Employees, Headquarters or the Unit Manager? Consequences of Centralizing Hiring at a Retail Chain, The Accounting Review, 95 (4), pp. 173-198.
Abstract: We examine how changing the allocation of hiring decision rights in a multiunit organization affects employee-firm match quality, contingent on a unit’s circumstances. Our research site, a US retail chain, switched from a decentralized hiring model (hiring by business unit managers—in our case, store managers) to centralized hiring (in this study, by the head office). While centralized hiring can ensure that enough resources are invested in hiring people aligned with company values, it can also neglect the unit managers’ local knowledge. Using difference-in-differences analyses, we find that the switch is associated with relatively higher employee departure rates and thus poorer matches if the business unit manager has a local advantage; that is, if the store serves repeat customers, serves a demographically atypical market, or poses higher information-gathering costs for headquarters. In these cases, the unit manager may be more informed than headquarters about which candidates best match local conditions.
Carolyn Deller and Tatiana Sandino (2020), Effects of a Tournament Incentive Plan Incorporating Managerial Discretion in a Geographically Dispersed Organization, Management Science, 66 (2), pp. 911-931.
Abstract: Using retail chain data, we study the effects of a tournament incentive plan based primarily on objective performance, but incorporating managerial discretion in the selection of winners. In principle, such plans could motivate employees to perform both at a high level, based on objective criteria, and in accordance with company values, considered via managerial discretion. However, such plans could be counterproductive if enough participants (especially those who don’t win) perceive that subjectivity (introduced via discretion) adds unfairness. We show that, on average, the tournament incentive plan was associated with improved store sales. We also find that such plans can be more beneficial for geographically distant participants, where the potential for improving alignment is greater. Lastly, we find some evidence that participants’ resource constraints (potentially affecting unfairness concerns) can impact outcomes under the plan.
Carolyn Deller and Santiago Gallino (Working) Pay for Quantity or Time? Implications for Work Speed and Quality.
Carolyn Deller (2019), Reflections on Obtaining Archival Data from the Field, Journal of Financial Reporting, 4 (1), pp. 25-36.
Abstract: This article draws on my experiences conducting field research utilizing archival company data and provides a roadmap for such projects. Specifically, I provide an overview of the main stages typically involved in a field study utilizing archival company data: finding a suitable research site; visiting the research site; receiving the data; processing the data; and completing the research project. In so doing, I highlight many of the opportunities as well as challenges involved in such projects. My hope is that sharing my experiences will prove useful for other researchers embarking on, or considering, field research of this nature.
Carolyn Deller (Working), Beyond Performance: Does Assessed Potential Matter to Employees’ Voluntary Departure Decisions?.
Carolyn Deller, Susanna Gallani, Tatiana Sandino (Working), Using a 360-Degree Assessment System to Promote Core Values: A Field Experiment in a Retail Chain.
Abstract: We analyze the effects of a field experiment introducing a values-based 360-degree assessment system at an Indian retailer. The director intended to encourage store managers, rewarded based on high-powered incentives linked to financial results, to behave according to the organization’s long term values and goals. Surprisingly, we find that the intervention drove even higher effort on performance associated with pre-existing monetary incentives, but, on average, did not affect nonfinancial performance dimensions linked to long term goals. We integrate our statistical results with qualitative information from interviews, which highlighted the importance of reinforcing the organizational goals’ message and providing support for their attainment. We also show more favorable effects for stores with tenured managers and higher availability of inventory (a proxy for support). Our findings highlight important factors for successful implementations of 360-degree systems as complements to explicit incentives. Finally, we share some lessons learned with respect to performing field experiments.
Strategic Cost Analysis is the process of analyzing and managing costs in orderto improve the strategic position of the business. This goal can be accomplished by having a thorough understanding of which activities and costs support an organization's strategic position and which activities and costs either weaken it or have no impact. Subsequent cost management efforts can then focus on reducing or limiting expenditures on activities that add little or no strategic value, while increasing expenditures on activities that support the strategic position of the organization. Performance can then be evaluated to ensure that the chosen actions are taken, and that these actions are yielding improved strategic performance. Throughout the course, a strategic cost analysis and management framework will be applied across functions and organizations to highlight the cost analysis and performance evaluation methods available to forecast financial performance and improve strategic position.