Making the Invisible Hand Visible: Managers and the Allocation of Workers to Jobs
Winner, Best Job Market Paper Award 2022, European Economic Association and UniCredit Foundation
How do workers match with jobs inside firms? This paper provides evidence on the role of managers as matchmakers using administrative data from a large multinational firm. The data covers 200,000 white-collar employees and 30,000 managers over 10 years in 100 countries. Leveraging exogenous variation induced by the rotation of managers across teams, I find that good managers, as revealed by their own speed of promotion, cause workers to reallocate within the firm through lateral and vertical transfers. This leads to significant gains in workers' long-run career progression: a gap of 30% in annual pay persists for at least seven years after the manager transition. Workers also perform better on objective performance measures. In the aggregate, I estimate that the elasticity of output per worker to past exposure to good managers at the establishment level is 2.03. My results imply that the visible hands of managers match workers' specific skills to specialized jobs, leading to an improvement in the productivity of existing workers that outlasts their time at the firm.
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