Alan Webb

Retired - Deloitte Professor; Approved Doctoral Dissertation Supervisor; Managerial Accounting

Alan Webb

Brief biography

My primary research interests relate to the behavioural consequences of management control system elements such as targets, incentive schemes, and the motivational effects of non-cash rewards (e.g., gift cards, merchandise and 'games'). I use multiple research methods including field and lab experiments, questionnaires, field interviews and archival analysis of field data. I teach an introductory doctoral seminar on accounting research.

Education and certifications

  • Bachelor of Commerce (Mount Allison)
  • Ph.D. (Alberta)
  • Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) (Nova Scotia)
  • Fellow Chartered Professional Accountant (FCPA) (Ontario)

Recent publications

  • Presslee, A., G. Richins, S. Saiy and A. Webb. 2022. Small sample field study: The effects of team-based recognition on employee engagement and effort. Management Accounting Research. Forthcoming. 
  • Mitchell, T., A. Presslee, A. Schulz and A. Webb. 2022. Needs versus wants: The mental accounting and effort effects of tangible rewards. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 34(1): 187-207.
  • Huo, K., K. Kelly and A. Webb. 2021. The beneficial learning effects of combining a hypothesis-testing mindset with a causal model. The Accounting Review,97(5): 325-348.
  • Kelly, K., D. Valtchanov and A. Webb. 2021. Behavioral implications of using a slot machine game to motivate employees; A cautionary tale. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 89 (February).
  • Armitage, H., D. Lane and A. Webb. 2020. Budget development and use in small and medium-sized enterprises: A field investigation. Accounting Perspectives, 19(3): 205-240.
  • Fisher, J., T. Mitchell, S. Peffer and A. Webb. 2019. Inequity aversion, incentives and social norms: The effects on budget preparation and use. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 31(1): 105-128.
  • Berger, L., T. Libby and A. Webb. 2018. The effects of tournament horizon and the percentage of winners on social comparisons and performance in multi-period competitions. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 64: 1-16.
  • Kelly, K., A. Presslee and A. Webb. 2017. The effects of tangible versus cash rewards in consecutive sales tournaments: A field experiment. The Accounting Review, 92(6): 165-186.
  • Armitage, H., A. Webb and J. Glynn. 2016. The use of management accounting tools and techniques by small and medium size companies: A field study. Accounting Perspectives, 15(1): 31-69.
  • Kelly, K. A. Webb and T. Vance. 2015. The interactive effects of ex post goal adjustment and goal difficulty on performance. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 27(1): 1-26.
  • Presslee, A., T. Vance and A. Webb. 2013. The effects of reward type on employee goal selection, goal commitment and performance. The Accounting Review, 88(5): 1805-1831.
  • Berger, L., K. Klassen, T. Libby and A. Webb. 2013. Complacency and giving up across repeated tournaments: Evidence From the Field. Journal of Management Accounting Research, 25:143-167.
  • Webb, A., M. Williamson and M. Zhang. 2013. Productivity-target difficulty, target-based pay and outside-the-box thinking.  The Accounting Review, 88(4): 1433-1457.

Working papers

Courses taught

  • Accounting (ACC) 685: Performance Management
  • ACC 781: Introduction to Accounting Research (doctoral seminar)
  • ACC 702: Introduction to Management Accounting Research (doctoral seminar)
  • ACC 784: Behavioural Research in Accounting (doctoral seminar)

Selected Awards

  • 2023.  Best Paper Award, Journal of Management Accounting Research, with T. Mitchell, A. Presslee and A. Schulz.
  • 2021. Deloitte Professorship
  • 2015. Deloitte Professorship
  • 2014. Best Paper Award, Journal of Management Accounting Research, with J. Kennedy and T. Vance.
  • 2013 Outstanding Management Accounting Paper Award, Management Accounting Section, American Accounting Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, with J. Fisher, S. Peffer and T. Mitchell
  • 2011 Outstanding Management Accounting Paper Award, Management Accounting Section, AAA Annual Meeting, with A. Presslee and T. Vance
  • 2011 FCA, Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario
  • 2011 L.S. Rosen Outstanding Educator Award, Canadian Academic Accounting Association
  • 2009 Notable Contribution to the Auditing Literature Award, AAA, with M. Gibbins and S. Salterio. "Evidence About Auditor-Client Management Negotiation Concerning Client's Financial Reporting."

Selected funding

  • SSHRC 2015. $126,663 (Principal Investigator). The Effects of Non-Cash Rewards on Motivation and Performance. With K. Kelly and A. Presslee.
  • SSHRC 2009. $58,610. The Effects of Providing Strategic Performance Information to Corporate Directors: A Field Study. With T. Atkinson and N. Kotchetova.
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) 2005. $68,654. Factors Affecting Goal Difficulty and Performance in Participative Goal Settings.
  • Copperthwaite Centre for Professional Accounting Education 2004. $31,330. The Effects of Group Response Systems on Student Engagement and Exam Performance. With C. Carnaghan.
  • CICA/CAAA 2001. $10,000. The Balanced Scorecard: The Effects of Assurance and Process Accountability on Managerial Judgment.

Professional service

  • Management Accounting Section, American Accounting Association: President (August 2019-August 2020)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario: Council Member (June 2009 - 2013)

News Story

What motivates employees to perform better: cash or a flat-screen TV?

In a recent study, SAF Professor Alan Webbexamined how the type of reward (cash versus tangible) influenced the difficulty of the performance goals employees selected for themselves; how committed they were to their chosen goal and, ultimately, the effect on overall performance.
Read more.