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Personnel Management


The professionalism and performance of public sector employees are the product of numerous factors.  Some of these, such as the education level of the workforce, cannot be altered in the short term.  However, personnel management arrangements are more amenable to change.  This section considers an array of personnel management topics, noting throughout how and why personnel rules in the public sector are often very different from those in the private sector.

Among the countries of the OECD, recruitment and promotion have long been shaped by merit principles.  This page places particular emphasis on methods for transforming merit principles into practice, but also notes the limitations to merit and describes the ways in which countries have developed institutional arrangements to reconcile these competing needs.

Career paths and training are a complement to recruitment procedures.  Properly structured, they provide strong incentives for high-quality performance, as well as opportunities to transmit new skills and approaches for delivering public services more effectively and efficiently.

Like any employer, government must control its personnel costs.  However, partisan political motives often lead governments to hire more public employees than the budget can reasonably sustain, placing downward pressure on wages and upward pressure on inflation.  Meanwhile, the ability of public sector managers to fire public sector employees is often constrained to protect against politically motivated dismissals.  The methods countries have adopted to address these difficulties are discussed at the page on establishment control and pay determination.  Public sector pensions are often a sizeable component of government liabilities, and an important incentive for long-term employment in the public sector.  Diverse public sector pension arrangements are afforded a separate page.

Individual performance management presents techniques to link performance and promotion, and discusses the potential benefits and pitfalls of performance pay. (Agency level service standards and performance measurement are addressed in the next section of this site.)  Enforcement and disciplinary issues are directed at safeguarding the perception and practice of probity in public administration.

Practical approaches to downsizing have most often been carried out at the agency or sector level. The downsizing page sets out some options for a voluntary approach to reductions in public sector employment. Downsizing and other public employment reforms often have been preceded or accompanied by a civil service census of one type or another. The page on censuses describes different counting exercises and their merits and shortcomings.