How to increase the adoption of civil service reform? The role of training and incentives

Many developing countries suffer from ineffective public service delivery. A growing literature sheds light on reforms which can improve public service quality. For instance, existing studies focus on showing how performance‐based incentives can improve the performance of frontline civil servants working in health facilities, schools, or collecting taxes. Also, a large literature shows the power of incentives to improve productivity in the private sector. However, few studies investigate the factors that affect the successful implementation or uptake of such reforms. In large organisations, such as public sector bureaucracies, successful implementation and full compliance is not always guaranteed: reforms are typically harder to implement and frequently slowed down or cancelled due to resistance from civil servants.

Designing an effective civil service reform thus not only requires understanding whether the reform has the potential to improve bureaucratic performance (conditional on successful implementation), but also understanding how to ensure and maximise its adoption. We evaluate the impact of trainings and incentives on reform adoption and civil servants’ performance. The trainings and incentives are provided to core civil servants, the crucial tier of officials who specialise in public administration, rather than frontline workers. A second contribution of our study is to provide new evidence on how to best structure incentive programs within hierarchical organizations

In collaboration with the Government of Liberia (GoL) and the Liberian Civil Service Agency, we propose to study the rollout of a new Performance Appraisal Reform that aims at establishing a more meritocratic public sector by introducing performance evaluations, goal‐setting and coaching in a context that is plagued by nepotism and cronyism. In addition to estimating the causal effect of the reform on workers’ performance, we propose to study how to increase its take‐up (first stage) by randomly assigning 450 administrative units to receive more information on the reform and monetary incentives to adopt it.


  • Research in progress.

    Project last updated on: 22 Jan 2018.