The objectives of the Euroconferences on "Personnel Economics" are the following. First, empirical evidence on the personnel policies of firms has, until recently, been scarce. More economists are now pursuing empirical research, but most of the work is still in progress. Bringing together these researchers would provide an excellent opportunity to promote empirical research, in particular, that based on large European data sets that match employee and firm information. Here, Europe has a unique advantage over the United States, where data of such good quality and quantity are not available.
Second, personnel economics has tended to focus its attention on a small subset of real-world personnel issues, and, in particular, on top managers. The conferences will put emphasis on arrangements inside, and at lower levels, of organisations. In particular, we will look at practices such as teamwork, job rotation, employee participation, and, more generally, the problems of the optimal allocation of responsibilities inside firms. We also plan to confront the views of economists with those of management theorists and practitioners.
Third, personnel economics has been criticised for taking a static perspective on firms and for analysing the internal working of the firm in isolation from the environment that surrounds it. The focus of the first conference is to respond to this alleged weakness by putting empirical work in a comparative perspective, and to look at theories that address the impact of the business environment on the internal structure of firms.
The study of European firms, in particular those in transition economies, promises valuable insights into the dynamic aspects of personnel economics, since these firms have been subject to important changes in their environment. Fourth, there have been many interesting attempts to enrich the theoretical basis of personnel economics: the theory of incentives, by taking into account a broader range of determinants of individual and group behaviour. There is now a growing body of work, in particular from European authors, which aims to integrate concepts from behavioural sciences into the incentive paradigm.
This work, expected to contribute to a more realistic theoretical framework for personnel economics, will be discussed in the second conference. Personnel economics is a rather new, but rapidly growing subfield of labour economics. It makes use of tools developed in other fields of economics, e.g. game-theory based models introduced to IO in the 1980s and the incentive models developed by Mirrlees and Vickrey, and developed by others, many of whom will participate in the conferences. In recent times personnel economics has taken off; in particular since there are both new econometric methods and data available. The field has also recently been inspired by findings in other behavioural sciences, in particular psychology and organisational behaviour. These conferences will provide a platform for the cross-fertilisation of these currents."