We investigate the relationship between a firm's compensation structure and the extent to which its innovation is more exploration versus exploitation oriented. Specifically, we assess two aspects of a firm's compensation design—horizontal dispersion within job levels and vertical tournament incentives between job levels. A six-year panel of compensation records of 671,028 employees working at 81 U.S.-based high technology firms between 1997 and 2002 are used to construct measures that characterize a firm's pay structure, which are linked to these firms’ patents filed in the U.S. We find that firms with higher-powered tournament incentives in vertical compensation structure report higher fraction of innovation directed towards exploration. Horizontal pay dispersion, on the other hand, shows a negative relationship with the exploration in firms where R&D employees’ age variance is low. In firms where R&D employees’ age variance is high, the negative relationship between horizontal pay dispersion and exploration is muted.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Strategy and Management
- Management Science and Operations Research
- Management of Technology and Innovation