Human Capital Management
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Types/topics of Bachelor/Master theses

  1. Topics within our current research areas and research projects
  2. Empirical topics, depending on the availability of data
  3. Industry projects

Topics within our current research areas and research projects

Topic Area A: Pay and performance management

Pay Transparency and the Gender Pay Gap

Compensation is a core process to motivate, develop, and control employees in organizations. However, it also contributes to the rising inequality and pay gaps observed in many (Western) societies. In this field, we take a multisource approach, and analyze the effectiveness of pay transparency regulations (the German "Entgelttransparenzgesetz"), employee preferences for and perceptions of pay fairness, and cooperative and competitive behaviors, both in the field and in the lab. Our research is supported by a 2.5 years grant of the German Research Foundation (“Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft”, DFG project 416607985: “Die Auswirkungen von Entgelttransparenz auf Beschäftigte, Betriebe und den Gender Pay Gap“). Based on extensive and longitudinal plant-level and employee-level data, we offer interesting opportunities for empirical theses.

Executive Compensation

Executive compensation is another hot topic in research on pay, especially because views differ greatly regarding the appropriateness of executive pay levels. The literature focuses on different parts of the pay setting process, for instance on the role of consultants, on how the Board of Directors shapes executive pay, or on the relation between pay and performance. Based on rich panel data, our research examines the role of compensation and performance peer groups for executive pay and performance processes.

Compensation Complexity and Communication

Compensation consists of a multitude of elements – base salary, variable pay, pensions, and insurance, as well as other benefits – often referred to as total rewards. One major characteristic of both the elements themselves and their interplay as a total rewards system is complexity (e.g. measurability, uncertainty, ambiguity). Employees, however, face limitations in their capacity to rationally evaluate and interpret the intended goals and values of complex reward systems, which, in turn, potentially undermines their effectiveness. We study communication as an organizational mechanism that affects complexity and the perception of complexity in total rewards systems.

Performance Management

While Performance Management (PM) is subject to debate, change, frustration and emotion in academia and practice alike, it is one of the most important and prevailing HR processes. A frequent subject of discussion is the mode of performance assessment as well as the role of transparency and accountability for attenuating PM related biases and challenges. We are particularly interested in the roles of transparency and accountability in PM. Our research aims at illuminating these roles conceptually and empirically.

Topic Area B: Matching

Matching is the process by which individuals are dynamically aligned with roles, jobs, situations, and tasks across and within organizations. Matching facilitates a strong person-environment fit, and thereby creates potential for positive individual- and organization-level outcomes like satisfaction, commitment, performance, health, value creation, and sustained competitive advantage. We encourage theses that seek to understand the broad and diverse mechanisms that underlie matching – conceptually and empirically. Promising research questions could address transparency in internal selection mechanisms, talent management, effects of employer mobility on those who move and those who stay, boundary conditions of tournaments, complementary HR practices, or a further elaboration of the dynamic matching lifecycle model.

Moreover, research questions addressing the effects of corporate responsibility (CSR) on both potential and current employees represent fruitful avenues for theses and correspond to ongoing research projects at the institute.

Topic Area C: Networks in organizations

One of the most powerful ideas in the social sciences is that individuals are connected to one another through networks of social relations. Research and practice have demonstrated how social networks are crucial in determining the effectiveness of information flows in organizations, the dynamics of individual careers and internal labor markets, and the structure of coordination and collaboration within and across organizational boundaries. Our research draws from behavioral theories of organizations and network theory to specify models that relate individual problem solving activities to structured pattern of action through emergent work practices. In the models that we specify and test, we emphasize processes of relational coordination – i.e., the interaction among participants, rather than the mechanisms for supporting or replacing such activities – as central to our understanding of the dynamics of problem-solving in organizations.

Topic Area D: Organization design and open collaboration

The rise of the internet popularized new forms of work based on distributed collaboration and open participation. These new arrangements rely mostly on volunteer participants who are willing to participate, produce, and bear private costs in order to provide a public good. However, our theoretical understanding of the drivers of sustained engagement in such novel work arrangements is still limited. In this project, we focus on open collaborations (e.g., Open Source Software and Wikipedia) as a growing form of these novel work arrangements. How are these arrangements possible? How may they be sustained in a world of elaborate hierarchical organizations? One way to address these questions is to look at how open collaborations solve problems that are common to all production organizations such as, for example, problems in the division of labor, allocation of tasks, collaboration, coordination, and maintaining balance between inducements and contributions. In particular, our goal is to investigate the organizational design features (e.g., authority/delegation, modularity, task/job design) that help to explain how open collaborations try to stabilize, coordinate and incentivize contributions of their participants.

Topic Area E: People Analytics

People Analytics occupies the intersection of practice and science. As a research field, it tries to understand how firms evaluate and continuously improve their people management activities. A main function is to apply and promote methodologies that separate correlation from causation: To create a business case, causal knowledge is needed. We entertain research partnerships with renowned firms in this area.

Empirical Topics

Your thesis can be empirical and use one of the available data sets of the institute for HCM. Currently, the following data sets are available for thesis projects

  • Individual differences in pay preferences: Data from a policy capturing study
  • Pay transparency. Establishment- and individual-level data
  • Executive Compensation data

Industry Projects

Under this category, you find current announcements of topics for Bachelor and Master theses that can be written in cooperation with an industry partner. Alternatively, you may use your own contacts and suggest a topic. Please note that we need to check if the topic is suitable for a Bachelor or Master thesis.

At the moment, we do not offer any current cooperations, but encourage you to get in touch, when you have the opportunity to conduct empirical research through your own contacts.