AMMONNEWS - By Sa’ad Ali - A recent PhD study that explored the use of wasta to attain employment in the Jordanian banking sector found that wasta still has a substantial impact on the employee selection process in this sector.
The research was conducted at Nottingham Trent University in the UK and based on interviews with managers working in 14 banks operating in Jordan. During the interviews, the managers were asked about the HR and employee selection policies and processes in their organisation and their perception on how wasta impacts the hiring process in their organisations.
The findings of the research highlighted a negative view of most wasta attempts by applicants. These cases included trying to pressure the decision maker to hire an applicant regardless of their qualifications and fit with the job, using connections such as friends and tribe and family members. Reported negative outcomes of recruiting unqualified candidates because of their wasta included reduced workplace productivity, feeling of frustration from colleagues, lower service standards and tarnishing the organisation’s image.
One manager explained these negative outcomes, pointing out that this is particularly bad in the Jordanian context due to the fact that human capital is the main asset for most organisations in Jordan:
“It will affect the whole organisation that we don’t deliver a good quality of service that, you know, the human capital service is a major asset of the organisation. If you hire unskilled staff or people that don’t have the knowledge and skills we need [that] will affect the whole organisation, in terms of quality, and in terms of service, and in terms of everything”.
It was found, however, that not all wasta requests were viewed negatively, as many people refer qualified candidates who go through the employee selection process without any pressure on the management to accept this referral. One manager explained:
“The wasta that is here is a sort of acceptable wasta to us which is a ‘referral’, where you refer someone that you know is good (qualified) and we will give you money for referring that person. But this person goes through the routine selection process and you are just acting as a recruitment agent in that you brought me the CV and after that it goes through the regular selection process”.
The use of wasta as a referral system for qualified candidates without trying to enforce them on the manager was found to be particularly beneficial in Jordan, where the brain drain of qualified candidates to the countries of the Gulf leaves few qualified candidates to fill in some vacancies that need a particularly high level and specialised skills. A manager in a regional bank operating in Jordan highlighted:
“Good people in banks, mostly they are known in Jordan. I might sound a little bit ‘not very scientific’ in what I am saying but this is a fact about banking. For example if I want to hire a branch manager. Basically, branch managers are known in Jordan [as] Jordan is a very small market and I don’t need to look for more than four or five banks in the main branches or the area branches. I want to hire in order to attract some people you know”.
The study concluded that there is a need to educate stakeholders about the importance of eliminating negative uses of wasta in employee selection by reverting it to its origins as a referral and mediation system that takes into consideration the candidate’s skills and abilities to perform the job. Possible solutions to combating negative uses of wasta in employee selection include introducing a clear definition of wasta to set laws that restrict its negative use and setting forth firm punishment for any violations. It is also suggested that organisations encourage positive uses of wasta by providing incentives to employees for referring qualified candidates.