Continuity and Change: The Role of the HR Function in the Modern Public Sector
ABSTRACT As the public sector has modernised and sought to become more efficient and cost-effective, the effective and strategic management of people has received increasing prominence and there have been calls for the HR function to play a more strategic role. However, not much is known about whether the role of the HR function has changed substantively. In this paper, we present empirical evidence from six matched-pair public sector organisations in the UK to assess whether HR functional roles have changed, as envisaged, into a model more akin to the private sector. The findings highlight the complex and often contradictory nature of HR functional roles, and suggest that new and more strategic roles have not replaced traditional approaches but, rather, have been grafted on, giving rise to a variety of hybrid HR forms.
Continuity and Change: The Role of the HR Function in the Modern Public Sector Introduction The reform of structures, systems and processes within public services over the past 20 years has been well documented at an international level (Massey and Pyper, 2005; Boyne et al., 2004; Skalen, 2004; Harel and Tzafrir, 2002; Kessler et al., 2000; Bach and della Rocca, 2000; Barnett et al., 1996). The main purpose of these changes has been to increase the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and performance of public organisations, and has involved an increasing pressure from government on organisations to emulate private sector managerial practices, including performance management, customer orientation, and a heightened strategic focus (Boyne et al., 2004; Horton, 2003; Corby and Higham, 1996). Since salaries can amount to up to 80% of organisational costs in the public sector, the domain of human resource management (HRM) has received renewed attention under these reforms (Horton, 2003;... [continues]
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