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Alan Benson


Carlson School of Management

Alan Benson

Assistant Professor of Work & Organizations

Alan Benson is an assistant professor in the Work & Organizations group at the Carlson School of Management,University of Minnesota. Prior to joining Minnesota, Benson received his PhD from the Institute for Work and Employment Research at the MIT Sloan School of Management, where his dissertation advisors were David Autor (MIT Economics) and Paul Osterman (MIT Sloan). Benson's bachelor's degree is from the ILR School at Cornell University.

Benson's research is in empirical personnel and labor economics. Specifically, he analyzes “big data” for personnel management, using the analytical tools of microeconomics to make causal connections between firms' practices and outcomes. His research uses data from a cloud-based service for managing salespeople to analyze compensation, job performance, training, organizational structure, and managerial decision-making. In short, Benson aims to bring the tools of microeconomics to predictive analytics, and bring personnel data collected over "the cloud" to microeconomics. 

Previous research has more broadly examined how firms adapt their recruiting, training, incentive, and retention practices to compete in labor markets. Benson's papers have analyzed how firms' training practices adapt to local competition, how hospitals adapted their strategies for staffing registered nurses over the recession, how legislation mandating impasse arbitration affected collective bargaining, and how the co-location problem of dual career couples affects men's and women's careers. 

Past and current teaching includes compensation, statistics, management, business economics, and negotiations for undergraduates, MBAs, executives, and doctoral students. 

Research Interests

Benson's research uses economic theory and methods to analyze personnel data generated by "cloud"-based sales performance software. In doing so, he aims to bridge the theory and method-rich world of applied microeconomics and the data-rich world of on-demand personnel management services. Questions of interest include:

  • How do organizations choose whom to promote? Do these match with the predictors of managerial performance? 
  • How do you design a compensation system that motivates employees, and avoids costly and unintended "gaming" of its incentives? 
  • What makes a job a good candidate for pay-for-performance? 
  • How do organizational hierarchies mature?