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Do They Stay or Do They Go? Investing in Human Capital of Humanitarian Employees

Miranda Visser
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Liesbet Heyse
Department of Sociology/ICS, University of Groningen, the Netherlands
Melinda Mills
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Miranda Visser
Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Open Panel

Abstract

Following the increased importance of the non-profit sector in many countries, demands for better governance and greater accountability have increased significantly. These demands resulted from the widely expressed criticism on NGOs, and more specifically humanitarian organizations for being inefficient. The extreme levels of turnover, and the resulting loss of human capital in this sector are detrimental for efficiency. In order to meet demands various professionalization initiatives have been launched in the last two decades. To professionalize their employees, humanitarian organizations invest more and more in the human capital of their employees by providing training. The training is meant for their employees to be better prepared for their job, and create career opportunities within the organization thereby decreasing turnover and improve efficiency. The question is: do these investments in training result in less turnover? Even though the field is now firmly on the global agenda, this cannot be said for quantitative empirical research in humanitarian organizations. While the research agenda has expanded significantly over the last decade our understanding of professionalization in humanitarian organizations is still limited. By utilizing unique quantitative longitudinal data on almost 2500 field workers of one of the largest humanitarian aid organizations in the field, this paper will empirically examine the consequences of these investments in training on the turnover level of humanitarian employees. Two mechanisms are tested. On the one hand the rational reasoning of Becker (1964) which states that employees will leave their employer after receiving general human capital. On the other hand the reciprocity reasoning; in exchange for general training employees would reciprocate this gift by sticking to the firm, decreasing the turnover level.