New Horizons in Management series
Edited by Ronald J. Burke, Andrew J. Noblet and Cary L. Cooper
Chapter 10: Managing human resources in the public sector during economic downturn
Human resources management (HRM) in the public sector has attracted considerable attention among academics and practitioners, especially over the past three decades (Bach, 2005). Much of this attention has been driven by the switch from a ‘rule-bound culture’ associated with traditional personnel administration to a ‘performance-based culture’ of strategic HRM and the potential benefits of such a change (Llorens and Battaglio, 2010; Morris and Farrell, 2007; Brown, 2004). Over this period, there was widespread managerial reorganization and restructuring across many parts of the world, from Anglo-Saxon countries (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK to continental Europe, Asia Pacific, and Latin America (Skelly, 2002). Public sector organizations, like private firms, began to focus on the need to recruit, employ, train and develop employees, while compensating and rewarding them for behaviours that help the organizations achieve their goals. It became evident, however, that managing people in the public sector had additional complexities versus the private sector. For instance, it was challenging to manage the public sector with the intent of ‘achieving organizational competitiveness and business outcomes’ (Brown, 2004: 305), while focusing on the public’s interest at the same time. With additional pressures from the public to deliver essential (and sometimes non-essential) services, and with politicians and administrators’ jobs on the line during elections, these complex tasks become even more problematic during times of economic downturn (Burke and Cooper, 2000).
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