Strengthening Personnel Management in Developing Countries: Lessons Learned, Lessons Forgotten, and an Agenda for Action

By Klingner, Donald E.; Campos, Violeta Pallavicini | Public Personnel Management, Spring 2001 | Go to article overview

Strengthening Personnel Management in Developing Countries: Lessons Learned, Lessons Forgotten, and an Agenda for Action


Klingner, Donald E., Campos, Violeta Pallavicini, Public Personnel Management


This symposium introduction first sets the stage by briefly discussing why developing countries are different, based on how public personnel management in the United States evolved over the past two centuries, compared to the evolutionary process in developing countries today. Next, it introduces the three contributors who analyze current human resource management trends in Latin American and the Caribbean and discusses their impact on HR professionals there. Finally, it discusses some lessons we have learned about strengthening personnel management in developing countries, some lessons we may have forgotten, and an agenda for action by international organizations and individuals that can reinforce developing countries' own efforts.

Violeta Pallavicini and Donald Klingner first met when the University of Costa Rica co-sponsored his Fulbright research in 1994 (Klingner, 1996). As Director of the Center for Public Administration Research and Training, she was interested in studying and improving public personnel management. In October 1998, at the IPMA International Training Conference in Orlando, she asked if the IPMA Executive Council would be interested in co-sponsoring an international conference on trends and issues in human resource management. The IPMA agreed, and the "International Congress on Human Resources: Advances and Challenges at the Threshold of the Third Millennium" took place in San Jose, Costa Rica in February 2000. It was a tremendous success -- over 400 professionals from over 20 countries participated. Presenters included several IPMA leaders and other HRM experts from around the world.

This symposium is presented here, because Neil Reichenberg and IPMA Publications Director Karen Smith wanted to share the results of this conference with IPMA members and other readers of Public Personnel Management. Naturally, a conference of this size and scope covered a range of topics (Pallavicini and Goni Ortiz, 2000). This symposium focuses on one theme from among all of these: What do some Latin American and Caribbean experts think of current efforts to strengthen personnel management in these countries?

This introduction first sets the stage by briefly discussing why developing countries are different, based on how public personnel management in the United States evolved over the past two centuries, compared to the evolutionary process in developing countries today. Second, it introduces the three contributors whose conference presentations analyze current trends in Latin American human resource management and discusses their impact on HR professionals there. All are widely respected as personnel managers, scholars, and consultants. And finally, it discusses some lessons we have learned about strengthening personnel management in developing countries, some lessons we may have forgotten, and an agenda for action by international organizations and individuals that can reinforce developing countries' own efforts.

Why Are Developing Countries Different?

The most obvious response to the comment that, "Developed countries are different from developing ones," is, "Yes -- they have more money." (This is Ernest Hemingway's famous rejoinder to F. Scott Fitzgerald's comment about the rich being different than the poor.) This is often correct -- developing countries tend to be poorer than developed ones. But like many simple answers, it doesn't tell the whole story. In many cases, a country rich in exported oil or other natural resources may still suffer from political, economic or social conditions that lead to its being classified as "developing." This may be hard to understand. If the difference isn't money, or isn't just money, what else is it?

In the United States

Public personnel management in the United States is complex, because there are many governments (national, state, and local), each with its own personnel system. But there is general agreement that the development of public personnel management has proceeded according to an evolutionary pattern (Klingner and Nalbandian, 1998). …

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