Personnel Management in North Carolina Municipalities: An Examination of Use, Size, and Structure

Article excerpt

While recruitment and selection techniques received extensive use among the Tarheel municipalities, the other three personnel categories were subject to what can only be deemed as moderate (compensation and benefits and employee rights and regulations) to marginal (performance appraisal) use. Size effects do tend to militate these impressions to some extent. The vast bulk of the public workforce is employed in the larger organizations which are themselves more likely to have adopted modern personnel practices. However, significant lapses serve as professionalizing agents. Municipal governments that employ them are clearly more likely to use and benefit from modern personnel management practices.

This study focuses on the extent to which modern personnel practices are used in North Carolina municipal governments. As such, it not only maps out the existence of these practices, but also the conditions and circumstances in which they occur. Recruitment and selection, compensation and benefits, employee rights and regulation, and performance appraisal practices are examined. In addition to examining the extent to which these practices are used, the effect of city and organizational size and that of governmental structure (the presence of a professional manager) on these personnel practices is studied. Although focused on North Carolina municipalities, this study may also serve to suggest relationships among municipal governments in general.

A renewed interest in local governments has been manifest in recent years. Frank Thompson's Personnel Policy in the City (1975) represents one of the first of these efforts devoted to the problems of municipal personnel management. On a practical level, the International City Management Association (ICMA) has made a regular and conscientious contribution with its Municipal Yearbook, Municipal Management and Practical Management series. In these efforts personnel management has received prominent attention. The International Personnel Management Association (IPMA) has also engaged in numerous activities focusing on municipal management.

Underlying these efforts is the realization of the substantial role which personnel management plays in organizational effectiveness. The modern personnel techniques examined in this study are linked to the efforts at administrative professionalization. As such, they are ultimately focused on enhancing individual and organizational productivity.

Size and Governmental Structure

The introduction of public administration practices, including those in personnel management, is often linked to the professionalization of the organization. Two factors that are seen to affect professionalization are size (in terms of population and number of employees) and the type of governmental structure (mayor-council versus manager).

Concern has only recently been raised with regard to small (and rural) municipalities. The literature, both academic and practical, has primarily been devoted to the problems and practices of the large, urban centers. Even ICMA's surveys generally stop at communities of 50,000 or 25,000 people.

Research indicates that size is related to structure (Pugh, Hickson, Hinings, and Turner, 1969; Blau, 1970, 1971; Meyer, 1972; Mintzberg, 1983). While there are studies questioning this, they tend to focus on the mediating interaction of technology on size (Aldrich, 1972; Dewar and Hage, 1978).

Size represents both a condition in which greater economic resources are generally available because of an enhanced tax base and one in which there is also a perceived need for a wider array of services and personnel to perform them (Morgan, 1989; Poister and Streib, 1989). Furthermore, it represents a cost savings in as much as the resultant economies of scale spread-out the costs associated with various personnel techniques.

Size is measured in two ways: municipal population and public workforce. This information was obtained from material previously collected by the League of Municipalities as part of its 1988 biennial salaries, fringe benefits, and personnel practices surveys. …