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Zambia research provides lessons on recruitment

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An LSE economist has sounded a warning to governments not to rely exclusively on community spirit when recruiting people for the civil service.

Professor Oriana Bandiera, speaking at Growth Week 2013 in London on Tuesday, said research from Zambia showed that while community spirit can make people work harder, it can also worsen the selection of applicants to public sector jobs.

The professor, from the London School of Economics and Political Science, was delivering a paper on the selection and performance of health workers in Zambia, using it as a model for other civil service recruitment strategies in sub-Saharan Africa.

Her research, presented at the International Growth Centre’s flagship annual conference, was based on a three-year study to tackle the shortage of formal health workers in rural areas of Zambia.

“The recruitment and retention of qualified health workers is one of the most pressing challenges in developing countries today, especially in rural areas,” Professor Bandiera said.

“To get around this, the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Zambia is training community members in basic health practices to undertake preventative care in rural communities. It’s important, however, that the government attracts and retains competent individuals and provides the right incentives.”

Professor Bandiera and fellow researchers from the LSE-based International Growth Centre (IGC) collaborated with Zambia’s MOH, using three controlled trials to determine the ideal selection, training and retention processes for community health assistants.

Two different recruitment strategies were trialled to determine links between motivation and performance: half of the job advertisements made clear the mission of the CAHs was to help their community; the remaining 50 per cent focused on career advancement as the mission.

The results showed a marked difference in performance and skill levels between the two groups.

“Applications selected on the basis of helping their community were willing to stay in the job long term, but their skills and performance levels were much lower than those recruited on the basis of career opportunities.

“These findings suggest there is a trade-off between community attachment and skill level. It is possible to recruit strong, ambitious performers in communities for a shorter period or lower performers for a longer period,” Professor Bandiera said.

It is hoped the results will provide a basis for effective recruitment strategies across the civil service in other sub-Saharan African countries.

Notes for editors

Journalists are welcome to contact Professor Oriana Bandiera at +44 (0)20 7955 7519 or o.bandiera@lse.ac.uk| or Jeanett Rosbak, IGC communications office, on j.i.rosbak@lse.ac.uk|or +44 (0) 20 7955 6988.

For more information about Growth Week go to www.theigc.org/events/growth-week-2013|

Oriana Bandiera is a Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics. She specialises in the design of field experiments to evaluate how individual behavior is shaped by monetary incentives and social relationships. Recent work covers field experiments on the provision of incentives for pro-social tasks among community workers in Zambia and the randomized evaluation of large scale poverty reduction and female empowerment interventions in Bangladesh, Uganda and Tanzania.

25 September, 2013

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