I have an MBA in marketing and HR plus a postgraduate degree in human resource development from a well reputed UK University. I have published a book and have numerous written papers on the topic of HRD, Non profit sector, and leadership development. I have been writing as a freelance writer for the past six months and have written numerous research proposals, essays, reports, and dissertations on the topics of HR, management, leadership, theoretical finance, project management, and globalisation. I have worked at the Ministry of Justice and have written papers on the Justice System and business law as well.
How do Traditional Traits of the Public Sector Affect Performance of HRD?
An overview of the dilemma and propose solutions
This paper talks about the challenges faced by HRD Departments in the public sector due to the traditional traits. Due to these traits HRD struggles with retaining talent, delayed queries handling, and is often seen as an operational department rather than strategic one. The paper talks about these challenges and also proposes some solutions.
Human resource development in the public sector is perceived as a department that delivers the functions relating to recruitment, induction, orientation, compensation in wage, payroll, employee benefits and performance appraisals. The main functions of HRD as described by S.M Heathfield “helping employees develop their personal and organizational skills, knowledge, and abilities, opportunities as employee training, employee career development, performance management, coaching, succession planning, key employee identification, tuition assistance, and organization development” still don’t exsist in the larger part of the public sector. Having a small experience of government organisation I feel that this is because of some key tratits that almost all government organisations possess, and these traits have a direct impact on the performance of HRD department.
This paper is seperated in three parts, I will explore the traits in the first part of the paper and in second I will focus on the affects that these traits have on HRD. In the final part I have proposed two solutions to the whole scanario.
Traditional traits of the public sector
We will explore the key traits of public sector organisations in this part. These traits have a direct impact on HRD
Government organisations are fairly large, and operate on the basis of a standard plan for the whole organisation. The government traditionally devises a standard policy for the whole organisation, it is similar for all the offices branches, regardless of their size, location, different regional needs etc. Centralised HRD
Centralisation is another key factor of government organisations. HRD departments also operate from a central location. Employee training, career development and key employee identification are not performed well because of the lack of direct interaction of employees with the HRD department. Also, due to the centralised functions, the whole department has an enormous workload. How it affects the functions of HRD will be examined in detail in the next part of the paper.
In the public sector policymaking and changing is a long process, in contrast with the private sector where adaptation and change in a policy is much quicker. A decision has to go through the layers of managers before being approved and then implemented.
Hiring Process and Low Retention
The hiring process is awfully lengthy in the public sector. It is common in the public sector that due to the long procedures, candidates accept positions in the private sector. “By the time central office gets around to making employment offers, the best-qualified candidates have often accepted other positions (Kettle Donald 1996)”
The public sector has a low retention of young workforce, which is probably because young people want to be part of a fast-moving environment, where they have more career growth opportunities, which the public sector fails to offer. Young employees therefore move to the private sector in search of this.
Reward System & Extensive Training
The public sector fails to reward its employees on a continuous basis. The late promotion policy and pay rise, which happens once a year (in most cases), and the almost nonexistence of a bonus system act together in failing to retain employees.
Training in HRD refers to “Training for Development”. However it’s highly unlikely in the public sector that a training course is provided to an employee for their personal growth and development. The extensive on job training and no rewards make a huge impact on HRD functions, which we will explore in part two of this essay.
The Direct Impact on HRD
So far we have looked at the key characteristics of government organisations in detail. Now we will look at how each factor prevents HRD from performing effectively and efficiently.
It’s long been understood that every organisation needs its own approach towards problem solving. The same applies for different offices in the public sector, as they are located in different regions, with different demographics, social backgrounds and resourses. But that’s where HRD in the public sector fails. Due to the standard policy for all, it fails to provide tailor-made solutions.
Centralised HRD affects the functions of HRD as it:
- Creates a perception in government employees that it’s a distinct department.
- Fails to create career development programmes for potential employees due to the lack of direct interaction with employees.
- Takes a long time to deal with the processing of routine HR activities
- Leaves the department with a backlog of important operative and strategic decisions.
An Operative Department
Changing the strategic course of actions is a lengthy process in the public sector. It affects HRD to a great extent because even if it wants to bring in a change, it has to go through the layers of management to be approved. In this long process HRD loses the trust of employees who are left disenchanted by the fact that their suggestions and ideas are never taken into consideration. This understanding is highly influenced by the fact that decisions that directly affect the employees are normally conveyed to them, rather then them being part of the whole process. This creates a perception that HRD is an operative department and has no influence on strategic decisions.
Losing Young Talent
The extensive hiring procedure creates problems for HRD as in many cases it loses young talent long before it’s even hired. From the time when job is advertised till the time someone starts working is commonly a 2.5 months procedure. This is a long time, and when young people are offered jobs in the meanwhile, they don’t hesitate to accept.
The young workers who do manage to start, however, fail to stay for long. As the department hardly offers few incentive, growth and innovation opportunities for them, it loses them to the private sector.
Uninspired Employees and Low Productivity
It is expected that HRD manage people’s resources in a way that it increases an organisation’s productivity. Having said that, it fails to reward the employees as much as it expects them to work. The rewards system is neither flexible nor working according to the needs of employees.
HRD in the public sector usually creates multi-skilled employees by training, who can cater for the future needs of the organisation, but it fails to address the fact that the non-existence of a flexible and effective reward system. Extra training only creates frustrated employees. That affects their willingness to learn, and definitely affects their willingness to stay at the organisation that requires them to learn something new every day, but fails to reward them on same provisions.
So far we have covered the areas of traditional traits of public sector and how they affect HRD from functioning effectively. In this part, I have suggested two solutions that can help solve these problems.
One of the solutions I would propose is decentralised HRD. This has also been proposed by Jerrell D Coggburn in 2005, “the argument goes because managers can reach decisions on hiring, promotion, etc quicker with less red tape and with fewer level of clearance. Decentralized HR is more effective and responsive because it affords managers the ability to tailor their HR programs to meet agency’s specific need (Jerrell D Coggburn 2005)”
- HRD can make policies according to the need of the office/region. This means offices will not have to implement policies that have no benefit for them.
- With decentralisation, queries, problems, promotions etc of employees can be dealt with on day-to-day basis. “in implementing decentralization policies a major objective was that the central level institutions would not be overloaded with routine human resource management issues, so would be released to concentrate on broader strategic and policy issues”(Saide and Stewart 2001)
- When HRD make decisions according to the need of that region/office, it will automatically emerge as a strategic department.
- Managers will be able to do the hiring and training according to the needs of their office. It will also speed up the processes. With fewer layers of clearance it will be much easier to create career development programmes for eligible employees.
- Separate budgets will be allocated to the decentralised office. The department can design their own reward system. With a better reward system more training won’t create frustrated employees. Also HRD initiate training whenever it’s required, rather than having to implement as per the standard policy.
It’s difficult in public sector to bring a change in structure overnight. That’s why I have proposed two solutions. This solution is based on the assumption that HRD functions remain centralised and the changes can be brought into the system without a great deal of change to the structure
Participative Decision-Making…A different approach
One solution for standard policy could be the participative decision making. This may not help to have a tailor-made solution but it will at least let employees have their say. The employees who execute the decisions, should be part of the decision-making processes that directly affect them. The idea is to choose a “Key Colleague” from employees to represent them in top management meetings. This will actually reveal the real problems in the work environment, complaints and the challenges employees face. Once they are not just informed of the decisions, but rather are made a part of decision-making process, they will feel more satisfied and more important. This procedure will also affect the “decision-maker’s policy making”, as they will know the real issues from the point of view of the operative departments.
Query Handling Systems
Using a query handling system can solve late problem/query handling. This department can
- Mark the urgent queries/ problems of the employees and deal with them accordingly
- Acknowledge employees that their query/request is received and is in process
- Give an approximate time to deal with it
- Help the department speed up the whole process.
If an employee is acknowledged and informed of an approximate time, they are less likely to feel unimportant and dissatisfied.
To speed up the processes in the public sector managers should be empowered to take at least small-scale decisions. For example, if managers can be empowered to hire staff, it will save at least a month of work for the centralised office.
Scholarships Programs & Conditional Employment
To stop young people accepting places elsewhere due to the extensive hiring process, conditional employment can be offered to eligible candidates. By doing so they will start working on the condition they are approved with the other procedures.
To retain the young workforce I suggest “Scholarship Programs”, based on support in tuition fees for NVQs or one-year master programmes. They can be supported on the condition of being legally bound to serve the sector for three-five years. A young person working for the organisation for at least three years will help increase productivity and efficiency. If HRD can offer such programmes it will defiantly attract and retain young people.
Changing Traditional Reward Systems
For the reward system I feel that some short-term rewards and incentives should be brought in. An employee who works hard should be recognised by being awarded. This helps in keeping the employees motivated. Energy and competition is created among the workers when such practices are carried out.
As discussed earlier the training procedures create stressed employees. As the short-term rewards will come in, it will be easier to get employees involved in training. To increase productivity HRD should develop training programmes that help employees in their career development as well. This can be done by asking employees for their preferences rather than imposing training on them.
We have explored how traditional traits have a direct impact on HRD performance in the public sector. Unconsciously these traits create hurdles for HRD to bring in a change, or work closely with employees. The solutions suggested will require change, which is never easy; however, it’s long been debated that the public sector will have to change its approach towards business to compete. It can be concluded that brining small changes in traditional functions will make a huge difference in HRD performance, and it will be able to resolve some old, yet not addressed problems.
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- www.equaterra.com according to a study released in July by Houston Based Equaterra(Kellough and Selden 2003)
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- Nigro, L. G. (1984). Decision making in the public sector. New York, M. Dekker.
- Saide, M. A. O. and D. E. Stewart (2001). Decentralization and human resource management in the health sector: a case study (1996–1998) from Nampula province, Mozambique. 16: 155-168.
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- (Nigro 1984; Kettl, Ingraham et al. 1996; Saide and Stewart 2001; Terzieff Friday, June 27, 2003 2003 #1)