Three Questions to Leading House Alumnus Dr. Jan Sauermann

  1. Where are you currently employed and what position do you hold?

I am currently assistant professor at the Swedish Institute for Social Research (SOFI) at Stockholm University.


  1. What was your dissertation subject?

In my dissertation, I analysed learning and incentives in firms. More specifically, I was interested in finding evidence for how workers learn and which factors help the learning process. For this purpose, I gathered personnel data from a multinational telecommunications firm located in the Netherlands, which include detailed information on performance of each individual call agent in each week the agent is working. One important element within my PhD project was the organisation of a field experiment with randomised training participation, which allows to estimate the effects of participation in training programmes with randomised treatment and control groups.


  1. What is the main conclusion of your research for practice and/or for future research?

One of the main conclusions of my research for practice is the importance of peers for learning and performance in the workplace. In one study, I have shown that workers benefit from training courses that their peers participated in. I.e., through social interactions, such as asking questions when performing their task, through team meetings or discussing issues during breaks, workers regularly exchange information and knowledge. These social interactions can lead to peer effects that in turn lead to improvements in worker performance. A second example can be found when looking at new hires, which typically show very strong learning within the first months working in a new job. When placed in teams with more experienced peers, new hires are shown to have a steeper learning curve in the first months. For firms, these two findings have important implications: peer effects generate an additional benefit for the firm in terms of improved performance. When making decisions about training investments, these additional benefits should be taken into account.


  1. If you would choose only one piece of advice to give to students and/or doctoral students, who have their first day at university, what would you tell them?

I would advise PhD students to get in touch with researchers outside their own department early on. Talking to PhD students and professors from other universities in your home country and abroad can help you to get feedback on your own research projects, but also give you ideas about possible future projects. One relatively easy way to get in touch is to participate not only in seminars in your university, but also to talk to the speakers in a meeting afterwards. This also help you to make concise summaries about your own research, which might help you later in the job market when you need to explain others about your research. And quite often you also have a nice chat with somebody that you might meet later again at a conference.