September 22, 2016
Please note: This event is for invited researchers only.
Research is the heart of Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS), and we want to make sure that we support each other in developing high quality research. To that end, we created the Adderley Positive Research Incubator for sharing and encouraging POS-related research ideas that are at various stages of development.
Soft Skills to Pay the Bills: Evidence from Female Garment Workers
Non-cognitive (“soft”) skills — allocating time and money effectively, teamwork, leadership, relationship management, acquiring, and assimilating information — account as much for long-term economic success as cognitive ability and educational attainment. But these skills may be very difficult to teach in adulthood, especially to those with low baseline skill sets. Moreover, firms may be reluctant to invest in workers’ skills if attrition rates are high, which is particularly the case for garment workers.
We carried out a randomized experiment with female garment workers in Bengaluru, India to test whether it is possible to impart soft skills to these workers, and evaluate the labor productivity, retention, and profitability consequences for the firm.
Treated workers are less likely to leave during the program, and exhibit substantially higher productivity up to nine months after program completion. This leads to being assigned to more complex tasks and a greater likelihood of promotion. Treated workers are also more likely to enroll in workplace skill development and receive production awards and incentives.
Two-stage randomization allows us to estimate spillovers and production complementarities within production teams, and these are substantial and persistent for productivity. Combining these estimates with data on program costs, we find that the program pays for itself several times over by the end of the evaluation period, implying that teaching soft skills in the workplace can be profitable for firms even in high-turnover environments.
Achyuta Adhvaryu pursues a research agenda at the intersection of business economics, development, and health. His current work has focused on understanding determinants of worker productivity and measuring the impacts of interventions that increase productivity while improving key aspects of worker welfare. His work is funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health, the International Growth Centre, the Centre for Economic Policy Research, and the UK Government’s Department For International Development. In addition to this work, he also studies business models for health care delivery in very low-income contexts.