Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Career Mobility and Branding in the Civil Service: An Empirical Study

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Career Mobility and Branding in the Civil Service: An Empirical Study

Article excerpt

This article is concerned with recruiting, mobility patterns, exploring organizational conditions that influence career dimensions such as promotion stress, and predicting intended turnover. Human resource management is challenged by demographic trends as "baby boomers" approach retirement to be replaced by "new age" employees, and labor demand exceeds supply, exacerbating existing concerns about the age distribution within the civil service. (1) These trends magnify the effects of an increasingly calculative individual--organization relationship, and concerns about career security and mobility, including voluntary turnover. (2) Understanding career issues helps in developing and retaining employees and, by improving practices, contributes to organizational image and the ability to attract applicants.

A brand evokes emotional and rational expectations of a product or service, and provides information that distinguishes the brand from its competitors (e.g. the Nike logo in sports products). (3) The brand concept, extended to human resource practices, enables organizations to differentiate themselves from their competitors in the labour market. For example, 3 M supports its innovation strategy through such HR practices as allowing individuals to devote up to 15% of their time on their own projects. These practices, publicized through the media, facilitate recruiting applicants attracted by such work environments. Moreover, organizations may seek to change public perceptions about the reality of their human resource practices and the nature of the work environment. To be effective, branding must reflect the reality of the work environment and HR policies, otherwise, the contradictions may be viewed as unethical and serve to discourage potential applicants.

Some answers to the following questions may help organizations in the public sector to improve the career opportunities of their staff and to help develop a "brand strategy" to enhance the effectiveness of recruitment and retention policies.

* What aspects of civil service careers may help attract applicants and to retain existing staff?.

* What are some characteristics of careers and mobility patterns in the civil service?

* How can organizations improve the opportunities for meaningful careers?

The Study

This paper is based on a sample drawn from technical, professional, and managerial staff, where recruitment and retention pose the most concern, from several Government Departments in Western Canada. The sample size of 310 respondents consists of 172 non-supervisory staff, 88 first-line supervisors or managers, and 49 second-line managers or above. Of the sample, 291 were permanent employees, and 19 were term employees. For other information see content note 1. A majority of the questions have been employed verbatim or slightly modified from other studies. The remaining items were written specifically for this study based upon the literature and on discussions with HR professionals. Most of the items were measured on a 5-point scale, with only the end points described. These were 1 = strongly agree; 5 = strongly disagree and 1 = very great extent; 5 = very little extent. In the analysis, the mean of the scores is presented, followed by the percentage scoring either (1) or (2). The sample characteristics are provided in the content footnote 1. they are quite similar to those found in a 1999 publication on career development in the Canadian federal public service. Many of the questions regarding seeking positions and mobility in the public service were either taken or deduced from statements in this publication. (4)

Seeking Positions in the Public Service

In investigating why people are attracted to the public sector, some studies use easily communicated factors such as income, job security and the desire to help others and be useful to society. (5) Other studies concern organizational conditions that are hard to describe to the public (e. …

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