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Employee relations and innovation: an empirical analysis using patent data

James Brander and Wei Zhang

Economics of Innovation and New Technology, 2017, vol. 26, issue 4, 368-384

Abstract: This paper investigates the relationship between employee relations (ER) as tracked in the environment, social, and governance (ESG) database provided by MSCI Inc., and innovation as measured by patents and patent citations. Some ER policies, such as broadly based profit-sharing plans, stock option plans, and stock ownership, create a direct link between a firm’s performance and employee compensation and might therefore be expected to encourage successful innovation. In addition, some other aspects of ER, including good pension plans, good union relations, and a variety of specific benefits (such as flex time) might improve innovation performance through their effect on employee morale or institutional loyalty, or simply by creating incentives to stay with the firm. We find that both of these categories of ER – financial incentives and non-pecuniary motivations – have a positive effect on innovation as measured by patenting and patent citations.

Date: 2017
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