Public Personnel Policies – Current Theme

Current theme: “How can personnel policies contribute to improving public services?”

The key question “How can personnel policies contribute to improving public services?” relates to issues that are highly relevant and topical in various fields of research. First, it is relevant for the field of personnel policies or Human Resource Management research itself. It is now commonly accepted that HRM contributes to organizational outcomes (e.g. Combs, Liu, Hall & Ketchen, 2006), but the ways in which HRM impacts on organizational performance is still regarded as a black box (e.g. Guest, 2011) although theoretical models converge on the idea that the contribution of HRM is mediated by its impact on the attributes and behaviours of employees (Purcell & Kinnie, 2007; Wright & Nishii, 2006). Related core areas of interest concern the importance of HRM systems, the devolution of HR responsibility and the role of line managers in the implementation of HR policies. This has generated research of specific HR policies such as talent management as well as of High Performance Work Systems (HPWS) (e.g. Boon et al. 2011; Gould-Williams, 2003) and people management (Gilbert, de Winne & Sels, 2011; Knies 2012; Purcell & Hutchinson, 2007).

Second, the key question of public personnel policies’ contribution to improving public services relates to the field of public service performance research. The recognition that public organizations have multiple, sometimes even conflicting goals (Rainey, 2009), does not contradict the notion of performance if this is understood as a multidimensional concept as for instance, Boyne (2002) has elaborated. However, the measurement of performance is still a moot issue (e.g. Boyne, Meier, O’Toole & Walker, 2006) not only in a technical sense but also as regards the fundamental question whether the missions of public organizations are really adequately captured by (quantitative) research. Another example is whether and how performance can be managed (e.g. Forbes, Hill & Lynn, 2006).

Third, the key question relates directly to challenges for public management today. The notion of ‘improving public services’ has been the rhetoric that has accompanied two decades of public management reform and is also invoked today by government programs that want to frame austerity measures as more than just cutbacks. Thus, the key question in the new programme will be relevant both to researcher and public management practitioners.

If the following questions are of interest to you, please contact the co-chairs and find out how you can get involved.


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