Panel 4: Strategic HRM in the public sector

Chaired by: dr. Sandra Groeneveld (EUR) & prof. dr. Peter Leisink (UU)

s.m.groeneveld@fsw.eur.nl & p.l.m.leisink@uu.nl

Public organizations are (again) under increasing pressure. The recent economic downturn with its consequences for the public budget, and the increasing influence of neo-liberal politics have prompted new calls for more efficient public organizations. However, the previous period of NPM-inspired public sector reforms has demonstrated that public sector performance cannot be increased by simply mimicking the private sector (Pollitt & Bouckaert 2004). Indeed, public sector organizations have multiple objectives, which are often ambiguous and may even conflict (Rainey 2009), as a consequence of which simple operational management approaches fail to contribute to realizing the mission of public organizations. This has led to a renewed interest in the concept of ‘public value’: “The mission of a non-profit and governmental organization defines the value that the organization intends to produce for its shareholders and for society at large” (Moore 2000: 189-190).

However, the public value management approach has so far treated the mechanisms that can help improve public sector performance as a sort of black box. In this respect a combination with strategic HRM studies would be promising. Rather than regarding HRM as a toolkit with personnel instruments, the strategic HRM approach starts from the strategic problem that the organization faces in achieving viability or superior performance, and identifies three critical elements: deciding on appropriate organizational goals, attracting capable people and relevant non-human resources, and managing these resources. Thus the fundamental idea of strategic HRM (and particularly of the Resource Based View) is that attracting and managing appropriate human resources are strategic to the organization’s success in achieving its mission. This abstract idea has been elaborated on by a vast number of studies of the HRM – Performance chain in private organizations, which are gradually used in public organization studies as well (e.g. Gould-Williams 2003; Steijn & Groeneveld 2009; Vermeeren & Kuipers 2009).

The integration of public value management issues into a strategic HRM framework frames the kind of topics that this panel wants to focus on. We are particularly interested in both theoretical and empirical papers that examine the relationship between HRM issues and the mechanism of delivering public value. We welcome papers that relate HRM issues such as managing diversity, recruitment and selection, public service motivation, work life policies, the organization of work (lean government), leadership et cetera to the mechanism of delivering public value.

The panel theme falls under the fourth sub-theme of the NIG research program ‘Public management’.