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Public Administration vs. Private Personnel Administration
Theories of public personnel administration as compared with private personnel administration have arose in recent decades as a result of the emergence of trends in business management. Public administration is directly dependent on the social system as well as the system of production prevalent in society and is an important element of all administrative systems. Changes in the system of production and in the patterns of international relations have contributed to the current state of public personnel administration. Furthermore, the theorists of the past such as Ogburn, Machiavelli, and Marx have offered many great contributions to our current understanding of public administration.
The practice of public personnel administration has evolved in a continuum from the Classical Management theory, through shifting emphasis on Behaviouralism, Systems theory and Contingency theory (Haque & Ahmed, 1992). Past research and theorists have suggested that the development of modern management thought and practice can be traced by examining the evolution of societies as they have passed from pre-industrial economic structure. This development applies to public personnel administration as well, as there appears to be a correlation between a complicated system of production and the progress of the techniques of administration (Haque & Ahmed, 1992).
Public personnel administration began as a spontaneous process, with hardly any historic trace of planning. Some semblance of planning became noticeable with the advent of systematic agricultural activities. It subsequently developed in phases along with the transformation of feudal society. These phases are categorized as pre-industrial societies where the practice of management was consistent with the simple system of production. Later, the erosion of feudal society, the development of industrial society, the industrial revolution, and the capitalist mode of production led to new issues and problems in the field of administration (Haque & Ahmed, 1992). The history of modern administration and management theories are related to these developments.
Private enterprises offered employment to a larger number of citizens. This began to change toward the end of the nineteenth century. Discontent was becoming evident against the spoils system and demands were voiced for entry into the public service based on democratic principles (Haque & Ahmed, 1992). Contributing to such demands was the increasing rate of unemployment and the need to make American administration more dynamic by recruiting efficient public personnel on the basis of merit and open competition. The organization of public personnel administration had to depend primarily on private personnel administration. The literature on recruitment, selection, promotion, training, transfer, compensation, separation and other such concepts were borrowed from personnel administration as it was practiced in private organizations (Haque & Ahmed, 1992).
Public personnel management has been studied extensively from the following different perspectives: (1) the functions needed to manage human resources in public agencies, (2) the process by which public jobs are allocated, (3) the interaction among fundamental societal values that often conflict over who gets public jobs and how they are allocated, and (4) systems, or the laws, rules, organizations, and procedures used to express these abstract values in fulfilling personnel functions (Klingner, 1998). Researchers have described public personnel management in the United States as a dynamic equilibrium among competing values for allocating public jobs in a complex and changing environment.
Public personnel management consists of four fundamental functions needed to manage human resources in public organizations; planning, acquisition, development, and sanction. Planning includes budget preparation and human resource forecasting dividing tasks among employees, pay benefits. Acquisition is recruitment and selection of employees. Development is orienting, training, motivating, and evaluating employees to increase their knowledge, skills, and abilities. And sanction is establishing and maintaining the rights and responsibilities that the employer and employer have toward one another, such as discipline, grievances, health and safety.
In public personnel management, values are articulated through personnel systems; the laws, policies, rules, regulations, and practices through which personnel functions are fulfilled. The four basic systems in traditional public personnel management are patronage, civil service, collective bargaining, and affirmative action. Patronage systems are characterized by legislative or executive approval of individual hiring decisions, particularly for policy-making or confidential positions. Appointees serve at the will of those who appoint them and successful job performance depends on political or personal loyalty.
The rise of anti-government values led to new market-based personnel systems, or private personnel administration in which the role of government and the number of public employees is reduced by using alternative organizations or mechanisms for providing public services (Klingner, 1998). Purchase-of-service agreements with other governmental agencies and non-governmental organizations enable cities and counties with excess capacity to offer services within a given geographic area, utilizing economies of scale (Klingner, 1998). They offer smaller municipalities a way to reduce capital costs, personnel costs, political issues associated with collective bargaining, and legal liability risks (Klingner, 1998). While service purchase agreements contract for delivery of a particular service to a public agency, privatization abolishes the entire agency, replaces it with an outside contractor, and offers all the advantages of service purchase agreements, but holds down labor and construction costs on a larger scale (Klingner, 1998).
Subsidy arrangements enable businesses to perform public services, funded by either user fees to clients or cost reimbursement from public agencies. Some examples are airport security provided by private contractors and paid for by both passengers and airlines, emergency medical services provided by private hospitals and reimbursed by public health systems, and subsidizing rent in private apartments by low-income residents as an alternative to public housing projects (Klingner, 1998). Regulatory and tax incentives are typically used to encourage the private sector to perform functions that might otherwise be performed by public agencies (Klingner, 1998). For example, zoning variances for roads, parking, and waste disposal are often granted to condominium associations. In return, the association provides services normally performed by local government such as security, waste disposal, and maintenance of common areas (Klingner, 1998).
Researchers have also offered critical similarities and have distinguished between public and private personnel administration. Berman (1998) argues that productivity is an important organizational matter in the public and private sector. Berman offers managers strategies that can be utilized to improve organizational productivity, and defines productivity as "the effective and efficient use of resources to achieve outcomes (Berman, 1998)." He maintains that although the concepts of effectiveness and efficiency are important to public and private organizations, it is important to distinguish their relative importance within each organizational type. Berman (1998) suggests that, within the public sector, effectiveness is more important than efficiency. In contrast, effectiveness and efficiency are of equal importance to private organizations, primarily due to resource scarcity and the challenges of fundraising (Berman, 1998).
Previous generations of administration theorists have contributed much to the field of personnel administration. Each generation of public administration theorists has been confronted by new challenges, emanating largely from societal trends and conditions. In public administration, a major test of theory is whether it facilitates the functioning of governments in accomplishing societal transformation. Future scholars of public administration must become familiar with the theories of the past in order to address the future challenges in public administration.
American sociologist William Fielding Ogburn developed social theories that helped explain the enormous changes that societies underwent when new technologies were introduced into them. During his lifetime, technology in the hands of industrialists had transformed America from a rural nation to one of large cities, large organizations, enormous social transformation, great riches, and extensive poverty. Ogburn's theory of "culture lag" sought to understand the roles of government in helping to facilitate societal adaptation to the Industrial Revolution (Ogburn, 1936). In Technology and Government Change, Ogburn concluded that a good way to understand the role of government in industrial society is to understand how it has necessarily evolved to deal with problems that were once largely resolved within the context of the extended families during the agricultural era (Ogburn, 1936).
During this American agricultural era, education, employment, health care, and food and clothing were provided within the family. With the growth of industrial technology, families were no longer able to satisfy individuals' needs for education, health care, employment, transportation, security, or sanitation. Ogburn's theory was that a new form of government was needed to provide what was once provided within families, as a result of the new technologies which had created social transformations requiring new social inventions (Ogburn, 1936).
Ogburn's theory has contributed to the study of personnel administration in several ways. Current technology continues to transform and new social interventions are necessary as a result. New technologies result in greater productive capacity and wealth generation. However, this new economy creates problems such as income gaps, and new technologies are likely to soon render obsolete many occupations. Ogburn's theory is essentially that history will repeat itself, and that governments must address these problems as they did once before. Societal needs such as the need for identity and efficacy must be addressed instead of just theory that focuses on meeting basic economic needs. Ogburn's theory can be seen as applied to public personnel administration…[continue]
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