Oriana Bandiera, John Van Reenen, Nava Ashraf, Robin Burgess
This thesis studies the determinants and consequences of workers’ allocation, coordination, and selection within organizations in countries at different levels of economic development.
The first chapter provides evidence of the critical role of managers in matching workers to jobs within the firm using the universe of personnel records on 200,000 employees over ten years of a multinational firm. Leveraging exogenous variation induced by the rotation of managers across teams, I find that successful managers cause workers to reallocate within the firm through lateral and vertical transfers. This leads to large and persistent gains in workers’ career progression and productivity. The results imply that the visible hands of managers match workers’ specific skills to specialized jobs, leading to an improvement in the productivity of existing workers that outlasts the managers’ time at the firm.
The second chapter continues the study of leadership in a very different context: Myanmar’s labor movement. We conduct multiple field experiments by collaborating with a confederation of labor unions as it mobilizes garment workers in the run-up to a national minimum wage negotiation. First, we document that union leaders differ from the other workers along several traits that psychologists and sociologists have associated with the ability to influence collective outcomes. Second, by randomly embedding leaders in group discussions, we find that they help coordinate workers’ views to build consensus around the unions’ preferred minimum wage levels. Third, by conducting a mobilization experiment that features collective action problems, we show that leaders play a coordinating role also for workers’ actions.
The third chapter starts with the fact that women’s labor force participation varies widely across countries at every level of development. We ask how this affects gender diversity among employees, gender gaps, and firm productivity using five years of personnel records on over 100,000 employees of a multinational firm combined with the female to male labor force participation rate in the 101 countries where the firm operates. Structural estimates show that in a counterfactual world with no gender-specific barriers to labor force participation, firm productivity would be 32% higher for the same level of employment and the same wage bill. The findings suggest that selection is a powerful lens to understand the link between diversity and productivity.