Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Recent Human Resources Developments in OECD Member Countries

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

Recent Human Resources Developments in OECD Member Countries

Article excerpt

During the past two decades, OECD governments have initiated bold public management reforms. Human Resources Management (HRM) has been the key area of these reforms. One of the fundamental reasons underlying these reforms can be attributed to the economic recessions all over the world in the 1980s and early 1990s. Economic recessions required a strong degree of structural change of the public as well as the private sector. Most OECD Member countries started to rethink the role of the state and the process of service delivery of the public sector. In this process, the public sector was widely criticised by people for its lack of efficiency and confidence in the institutions of government.

As one of the most important strategic management tools, human resources management has become one of the key areas for reform. By introducing a variety of new schemes, or by changing the existing systems, governments have placed a high priority on how to enhance the productivity of the civil service, and how to direct the civil service to become more customer-oriented.

From the experiences of OECD Member country governments, we can identify the following common reform trends:

* HR management in the public sector became similar to its private sector counterparts. Economic efficiency was one of the most important standards for reforms, for instance, by reducing the size of the public sector.

* Many efforts were made to give line ministries and/or line managers greater flexibility and freedom in HR management through various decentralization and devolution policies.

* In return for providing greater flexibility and freedom to agencies, governments tried to secure accountability of line ministries and/or line managers in HR management, by stressing performance and ethics of the civil service.

* On the other hand, governments also made it their priority to become the model of a good employer.

Despite these common trends, not all countries made the same reform policies. The pace and scope of the HRM reforms are very different from country to country, depending on their overall reform strategies, cultural and historical backgrounds, and the degree of economic recessions. OECD Member countries are spread across a wide spectrum in their HRM reform strategies. At one end of the spectrum are the most extensive reforms where fundamental public management reforms transformed the nature of public service employment and people management. The most salient case can be found in New Zealand. New Zealand doesn't have legislation governing employment status nor labour law specific to its public service. The same legal provisions apply to the public sector as to the private sector. Although to a lesser degree than New Zealand, many countries like Australia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Sweden would fall into this group.

In contrast, at the other end of the spectrum, there is a group of countries, where HRM reforms have been much more limited, leaving traditional (often centralised) systems and principles of people management relatively unchanged at the present. In those countries reforms have been mainly "project-based," responding to individual HRM concerns.

Between these poles, there are different mixes of the two extremes. Wide-ranging changes are underway in the Netherlands, the other Nordic countries and, to a lesser extent, in Canada and the US. Whereas, in many of the southern European countries, reforms are focused more on modernisation and rationalisation of personnel systems than on integrating new philosophies of management. In these countries, reforms have included greater use of competitive examinations and more centralised entrance procedures, designed to promote more rational, equitable and merit-based staffing systems.

In recent years, however, the focus of HRM issues has changed a lot. OECD Member countries are nowadays facing a different set of challenges in the new administrative environment of the 21st century. …

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