POLITICS
06/16/2014 04:27 pm ET Updated Jun 16, 2014

World Bank Staff Anxious About Major Changes, According To Internal Survey

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WASHINGTON -- An internal survey of World Bank Group employees obtained by The Huffington Post indicates a significant portion of employees have concerns about how the group is run.

The survey found that 90 percent of employees said they were "proud" to work at the World Bank Group, which provides funding and technical assistance to developing countries with the aim of reducing poverty. The World Bank Group is made up of five related organizations -- the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Development Association, the International Finance Corporation, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency and the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.

Just over 13,000 World Bank Group employees took the survey in 2013. They were asked to give a rating in response to a number of statements, with 5 indicating strong agreement with the statement and 1 indicating strong disagreement with the statement. Responses were categorized as favorable, neutral or unfavorable based on that scale.

Seventy-two percent of staffers said the World Bank Group "inspires me to do my best work." But large percentages also expressed concerns about the priorities and confusion about the messaging from top management. The WBG is currently going through a reformation process under President Jim Yong Kim, who took the helm in 2012.

But the survey revealed concern among employees about the direction the WBG is heading overall, and about the messaging they are receiving from top leadership. Twenty-eight percent of employees disagreed with the statement that the WBG "prioritizes development results over the number and volume of transactions."

There were also logistical and ethical concerns expressed in the survey. Forty-five percent of respondents disagreed with the statement that the WBG "makes institutional decisions in a timely manner"; only 25 percent of employees agreed with that statement. Nearly a quarter of respondents also said they disagreed that they could "report unethical behavior without fear of reprisal."

There also appeared to be a lot of tension around the group's senior management. Less than half of respondents -- 42 percent -- said they agreed they "have a good understanding of the direction" in which senior management is leading the institution. Only 35 percent said senior management "creates a culture of openness and trust." And just 39 percent said they agreed that "senior management empowers staff to do their best."

World Bank Group spokesman David Theis said the group is "very pleased" that the majority of staff said they are proud to work there and feel the goals of the institution are clearly defined. He also noted that the results are "an indication of the seriousness of the change" that is happening at the WBG.

"As we implement the first major restructuring in a generation -- 17 years -- we are not surprised to see some discomfort reflected in the survey," Theis said in an email. "We believe we will come out of this change process as a stronger, more unified organization, better aligned to achieve our mission."

Theis also noted that the majority of staff agreed with the statement "my manager acts with honesty and integrity" and felt that their managers expected high levels of performance. As for the staffers that reported that they did not feel comfortable reporting unethical behavior, he said, "While we believe we have robust and safe reporting mechanisms in place, we can always work to do better. We have zero tolerance for wrongdoing or retaliation."

Under Kim's leadership, the WBG began a significant reorganization process last year. The process has apparently included a day of mindful meditation with Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. But, as The Huffington Post has previously reported, some staffers are worried the reorganization will change the priorities for projects the bank supports.

Theis said the bank is working to address the concerns raised in the survey. "That will make us a stronger institution better positioned to meet the needs of our clients," he said. "President Kim has asked senior management to identify immediate tangible actions. In his words, 'We can't wait on this.'"

Ryan Grim contributed reporting.

Are you a World Bank Group employee who expressed some "unfavorable" feelings on this survey? Please email us at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and ryan (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and tell us why.

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