Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

No Easy Path to HRM Performance Measurement Systems: Exploring the Introduction of the U.S. Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework and the Flemish Management Code

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

No Easy Path to HRM Performance Measurement Systems: Exploring the Introduction of the U.S. Human Capital Assessment and Accountability Framework and the Flemish Management Code

Article excerpt

In contemporary public administration, one can see clearly an increased focus on measuring performance in government and public organizations. (1) Performance measurement is an important issue in nearly every public management reform, and in the literature, great attention is paid to every aspect of performance measurement. (2) Behn identified the eight reasons managers might have for introducing performance management systems as evaluation, control, budgeting, motivation, promotion, celebration, learning and improvement. (3) But external stakeholders such as unions and legislative bodies can also benefit from the introduction of such systems and may therefore promote their introduction. (4)

Performance measurement is not making progress in fields that are obviously suited to measure performance, such as finance, goods production, or service delivery. (5) Even in what are traditionally considered as hard-to-measure areas of public management such as human resources management (HRM), performance measurement is gaining ground. (6)

Nevertheless, there is little knowledge about the practice of measuring the performance of HRM in government, especially on a governmentwide basis. Because interest in this field has only developed recently, very little is known about its empirical nature and underlying dynamics. Most of the knowledge, as far as there is any available, comes from the private sector and is often applied in the public sector without further consideration. However, an excellent way to learn more about the specific public administration dynamics is a comparative case study. (7) By applying a comparative methodology, this article tries to fill the vacuum by describing two cases studies of the introduction of a performance measurement system for HRM on a governmentwide scale.

A Comparison of Two Cases

This article presents a comparison of the introduction of a performance measurement system for HRM in the U.S. federal government and the state of Flanders in Belgium. The aim is to describe both cases within a similar framework. Although the cases seem to be very different in scope--there were 1.8 million civil servants in the United States versus 35,000 civil servants in Flanders when the respective measurement systems were introduced--there are various reasons why the cases can be compared. First, both cases are examples of decentralization, where power was shifted from the central administration to agencies. In this respect, they are both exemplary of the New Public Management trend. (8) Second, both cases are also actively developing and using HRM indicators, which is the focus of our research. In the United States, measurement of HRM is applied within the framework of the President's Management Agenda (PMA). This is a management reform aimed at achieving strategic HRM as one of its principal objectives, and using indicators is a central feature of the PMXs framework. In Flanders, measurement of HRM is taking place within the framework of Beter Bestuurlijk Beleid (BBB), which is a general government reform aimed at improving general government performance and increasing political accountability.

The Framework of Analysis: The Policy Cycle

Being one of the most comprehensive research strategies, case studies can be applied in an exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory way. (9) In this article, the emphasis of the case studies will be mainly exploratory. Because of the relative lack of theory building, an exploratory approach will yield the most interesting results. Therefore, no hypothesis testing is involved. In more general terms, the research question can be stated as follows:

* What are the dynamics in the conception, development, and implementation of performance measurement systems for HRM in government?

* What are the differences and similarities in both cases?

Although no explanatory approach was adopted, a framework of analysis, or protocol, can be useful for structuring the case study. …

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