Emotional Intelligence: Key to field staff retention in MFIs

By Wamiq Zia 


The Field Managers are the backbone of any Microfinance Institution (MFI), they are the main link between the MFI and the clients that the MFI caters to. However, often this field level staff has to work in extreme pressure environments due to issues such as disbursing more loans, new client’s selection etc. (Gray B, 2013). These pressures have a number of counter productive effects such as reduction in the staff’s output and lack of job satisfaction.[1] The tough job conditions have led to a problem of high attrition among the field staff in the Microfinance Institutions[2], which in turn, has high cost implications in terms of high frequency of recruitment-training cycle (Figure 1). The “Report on Human Resource management in Microfinance Institutions: The state of practice”[3] published by Access Assist lists creation of specialized courses for training in microfinance sector as a way of mitigating the attrition and control the hiring related costs.

Approach towards the Solution

Grameen Foundation India designed a training Module called LFTF, that looks specifically at the training of the field level staff of the microfinance sector, the course was piloted at a number of MFIs. The course looks at the behavioral training of the staff, wherein their emotional needs were kept as much in focus as the other components of any other training such as communication or work load. The pilots revealed that adding a module on emotional intelligence adds enormous value to the training program. There was a realization that even after being given the job-related trainings, frustration creeps into the staff, that leads to frustration.

The current piece looks at how awareness about Emotional Intelligence (EI) and the management of emotions can prove to be the significant missing piece in the training puzzle of the frontline staff as the participants of most of the pilots mentioned Emotional Intelligence as having the maximum value for them and the participants admitted that EI indirectly impacts both leading others and leading self.

The process of management begins with Leading Self, which then expands to Leading Others and eventually leading the whole organization. Emotional Intelligence is the most critical component of leading self, as it creates an analytical frame for the emotional aspects of decision making, hence, having control over emotional intelligence can become the important link for the process of organizational decision making.

Emotional Intelligence and it’s team effect

The participants revealed during the discussions, how Emotional intelligence helped them become stronger and more cohesive as a team, figure 2 illustrates how the emotional intelligence has multiplier effect on the team and leads to pragmatic decision making.

Need for Focus on Emotional Intelligence

Traditionally, the MFIs have focused on the training of field staff in terms of the business generation or the new clients to be reached. However, the industry wise reactions to the Emotional Intelligence module reveals that if the MFIs start focusing on building emotional intelligence among the field staff, then it can have a positive impact on the business along with the cost benefits of reduced staff attrition.


The whole understanding developed around the LFTF program in the various MFIs revealed that the emotionally satisfied field level employees are the best employees in an organization. Emotional satisfaction is one of the major motivations that enable the field level staff to work productively in an extremely competitive and pressurizing work environment. The need of the hour in the microfinance sector is to ensure that along with the technical training being imparted to the field level staff, it is equally important to train them in emotional intelligence to ensure that they are able to go through the different challenges without getting a sense of frustration (that eventually becomes the reason for the high level of attrition among the field level staff). The study finds that once a member of the staff has the awareness of self and can lead oneself in his/her functions, it becomes much easier for that individual to add to the synergy of the institution. Thereby reducing cost on servicing the high attrition and adding value in terms of the productivity of the staff.

[1] Debashish Sarker, Pressure on Loan Managers in Microfinance Institutions: An Ethical Perspective, 2013

[2] https://indiamicrofinance.com/human-resource-management-mfi-india.html

[3] http://indiamicrofinance.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Human-Resource-Management-in-Microfinance-India.pdf

Grameen Foundation India


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