Jim Kim cites 'extremely good discussion' with disgruntled staff

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim answers questions earlier this week at the opening press conference of his institution’s annual meeting. Photo by: World Bank / CC BY-NC-ND 

Jim Yong Kim’s biggest takeaway from Tuesday’s World Bank staff-only town hall is the need for more dialogue with colleagues.

The World Bank president, in response to a question from Devex, told reporters Wednesday that his number one takeaway from staff complaints — and the impromptu town hall meeting they provoked Tuesday — is the need for more direct communication between the bank chief and his employees.

“They want to talk to me more,” Kim said.

Staff at the world’s largest international financial institution have been raising — with increasing volume — concerns and criticisms about the implementation and communication of Kim’s reform package, including a perceived lack of information about potential staff cuts, among other issues.

Kim called the reform “the most thorough, the most ambitious reorganization in close to 20 years” and added that while he has “done reorganizations before,” the complexity of the World Bank is “just enormous.”

With regard to problems staff brought to the table, Kim said Wednesday, “I was aware of some of them, there were some that were new to me, but we had an extremely good discussion.” There will be another town hall next week after the annual meetings and, he said, “as many as we need until people feel that they're being heard.”

Kim also responded to a Devex question about the ongoing “strategic staffing exercise,” which seeks to map employees and expertise to the new “global practices” organizational structure, while also helping to achieve $400 million in budget cuts.

Many outside and inside the bank — where concerns about job security have contributed to staff anxiety — have asked how reform leaders can possibly know where expertise will be required before they have seen demand for the bank’s services under the new organizational structure.

Kim responded: “In terms of a strategic staffing, we know a lot from what we've already been doing. So we have some ideas about the kinds of staff that we will need and we won't need.”

The bank president also noted that expenditure reviews and strategic staffing reviews are exercises that healthy organizations must go through periodically, and which the bank has neglected to do “for quite a few years.”

“Every organization should ask itself, ‘Do we have the right staff and are we fit for purpose for what we're trying to do?” Kim said.

In response to the same question, Kim pointed to the bank’s achievements since the reform measures were initiated: Lending capacity to middle-income countries is set to double, for instance, and last year saw a record replenishment for the International Development Association.

Kim faces opposition on a number of other fronts, though. An ongoing revision to the institution’s social and environmental safeguards policy has galvanized civil society groups, many of which have rejected the current draft version as a “dilution” of the bank’s protections against potential harm caused by investments.

Kim defended the strategic reviews he has implemented so far.

“I am glad that we've done it and we will continue,” he said. “And the good news is that we're almost done; we're going to be finished soon.”

What’s Jim Kim’s biggest achievement so far as World Bank Group president? How would you rate his performance? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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About the author

  • Igoe michael 1

    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.