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C h a p t e r 1

P U B L I C P E R S O N N E L A D M I N I S T R A T I O N :
C I V I L S E R V I C E , N O N S T A N D A R D W O R K
A R R A N G E M E N T S , P R I V A T I Z A T I O N ,

Donald E. Klingner
University of Colorado at Colorado Springs

a b s t r a C t
This chapter (1) presents a historical perspective on
public human resource management; (2) examines the
effect of privatization and partnerships on traditional
HRM values and systems; (3) discusses how privatiza-
tion, partnerships and nonstandard work arrangements
affect productivity, and (4) explores how the structure
of HRM and the role of managers and HR managers
changes under these alternative values, systems, and

a h i s t o r i C a l p e r s p e C t i v e o n p u b l i C
h u m a n r e s o u r C e m a n a g e m e n t
Public human resource management (HRM) in the
United States can be viewed from at least four perspec-
tives (Klingner, Nalbandian, and Llorens 2010). First, it
is the functions (planning, acquisition, development,
and discipline) needed to manage HR in public agen-
cies. Second, it is the processes by which public jobs, as
scarce resources, are allocated. Third, it is the interaction

among fundamental societal values that often conflict.
These values are responsiveness, efficiency, employee
rights, and social equity. Responsiveness means a
budget process that allocates positions and therefore
sets priorities and an appointment process that consid-
ers political or personal loyalty along with education and
experience as indicators of merit. Efficiency means staff-
ing decisions based on ability and performance rather
than political loyalty. Employee rights mean selection
and promotion based on merit, as defined by objective
measures of ability and performance, and employees
who are free to apply their knowledge, skills, and abili-
ties without partisan political interference. Social equity
means public jobs allocated proportionately based on
gender, race, and other designated criteria. Fourth,
public human resource management is the embodiment
of human resource systems: the laws, rules, organiza-
tions, and procedures used to fulfill personnel functions
in ways that express the abstract values.

Historically, U.S. public HRM systems developed
in evolutionary stages or eras, analytically separate but,






























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C o m p e t i n g p e r s p e C t i v e s o n p u b l i C p e r s o n n e l a d m i n i s t r a t i o n 3

in practice, overlapping (see Table 1.1). As discussed in
more detail below, in the patrician era (1789–1828), the
small group of upper-class property owners who had
won independence and established the national govern-
ment held most public jobs. As this generation passed,
an era of patronage emerged (1829–1882) during which
public jobs were awarded according to political loyalty

Table 1.1 The Evolution of Public HRM Systems and Values in the United States

Stage of Evolution Dominant Value(s) Dominant System(s) Pressures for Change

Patrician Era

Responsiveness “Government by elites” Political parties +


Responsiveness Patronage Modernization +


Efficiency +
Individual rights

Civil service Responsiveness +
Effective government


Responsiveness +
Efficiency +
Individual rights

Patronage +
Civil service

Individual rights +
Social equity


Responsiveness +
Efficiency +
Individual rights +
Social equity

Patronage +
Civil service +
Collective bargaining +
Affirmative action

Dynamic equilibrium among
four competing values and


Responsiveness +
Efficiency +
Individual accountability +
Limited government +
Community responsibility

Patronage +
Civil service +
Collective bargaining +
Affirmative action +
Alternative mechanisms +
Flexible employment

Dynamic equilibrium among
four progovernmental values
and systems, and three
antigovernmental values and


Responsiveness +
Efficiency +
Individual accountability +
Limited government +
Community responsibility +

Patronage +
Civil service +
Collective bargaining +
Affirmative action +
Alternative mechanisms +
Flexible employment

Dynamic equilibrium among
four progovernmental values
and systems, and three
antigovernmental values and

or party affiliation. Next, the increased size and com-
plexity of public activities led to an era of professionalism
(1883–1932) that defined public HRM as a neutral
administrative function so as to emphasize moderni-
zation through efficiency and democratization by allo-
cating public jobs, at least at the federal level, on merit
(Heclo 1977). The unprecedented demands of a global

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4 t h e s e t t i n g

depression and World War II led to the emergence of a
hybrid performance model (1933–1964) that combined
the political leadership of patronage systems and the
merit principles of civil service systems. Next, social
upheavals (1965–1979) presaged the emergence of the
people era in which collective bargaining emerged to rep-
resent collective employee rights (the equitable treat-
ment of members by management through negotiated
work rules for wages, benefits, and working conditions),
and affirmative action emerged to represent social
equity (through voluntary or court-mandated recruitment
and selection practices to help ameliorate the under-
representation of minorities and women in the work-
force). Thus, by 1980 U.S. public HRM could be described
as a dynamic equilibrium among four competing values,
each championed by a particular system, for allocating
scarce public jobs.

t h e e m e r g e n t p a r a d i g m s :
p r i va t i z a t i o n a n d p a r t n e r s h i p s
The privatization paradigm emerged at the end of the
1970s when President Carter campaigned by running
against the national government as a Washington
“outsider.” Following his election, he proposed the
1978 Civil Service Reform Act on grounds that included
poor performance in the public service and difficulty
in controlling and directing bureaucrats. Beginning in
1981, the Reagan administration, though starting from
fundamentally different values and policy objectives,
continued to cast government as part of the problem.
Consequently, this paradigm shift was marked by
increasing reliance on market-based forces, rather than
program implementation by government agencies and
employees, as the most efficacious tools of public policy.
The emphasis on economic perspectives and adminis-
trative efficiency reflected the intense pressures on the
public sector to “do more with less.” This caused gov-
ernments to become more accountable through such
techniques as program budgeting, management by
objectives, program evaluation, and management infor-
mation systems. It also caused efforts to lower expen-
ditures through tax and expenditure ceilings, deficit

reduction, deferred expenditures, accelerated tax collec-
tion, service fees and user charges, and a range of legisla-
tive and judicial efforts to shift program responsibilities
and costs away from each affected government.

The 1990s and 2000s brought continued efforts to
reduce government—either by increasing its respon-
siveness and effectiveness or by “shrinking the beast”
and putting more resources in the hands of indi-
viduals and businesses. These were exemplified by
Vice President Gore’s National Performance Review
(National Performance Review 1993a, 1993b), aimed
at creating a government that “works better and costs
less” through fundamental changes in organizational
structure and accountability, epitomized by the terms
“reinventing government” or “new public manage-
ment” (Osborne and Gaebler 1992). The Republican
Party swept into control of Congress in 1994, 2002,
and 2010 as a result of a shift toward three emergent
nongovernmental values: personal accountability,
limited and decentralized government, and community
responsibility for social services. Proponents of per-
sonal accountability expect people to make individual
choices consistent with their own goals and accept
responsibility for the consequences of these choices,
rather than passing responsibility for their actions on
to society. Proponents of limited and decentralized gov-
ernment believe that government is to be feared for its
power to arbitrarily or capriciously deprive individuals
of their rights. They also believe that public policy, ser-
vice delivery, and revenue generation can be controlled
efficiently in a smaller unit of government in a way
not possible in a larger one. And for some, a reduction
in government size and scope is justified by perceived
government ineffectiveness; by a high value accorded to
individual freedom, responsibility, and accountability;
and finally, by a desire to devote a smaller share of
personal income to taxes. The most significant conse-
quence of the emergence of the third value (community
responsibility), at least as far as public HRM is con-
cerned, has the delivery of local governments social
services through NGOs funded by taxes, user fees, and
charitable contributions.

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C o m p e t i n g p e r s p e C t i v e s o n p u b l i C p e r s o n n e l a d m i n i s t r a t i o n 5

Third-party social service provision has become
more complex with an ideologically driven emphasis
that directs contracting strategies towards faith-based
organizations (FBOs). With the passage of the
“charitable choice” component of the 1996 Personal
Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation
Act, charitable choice has expanded to include a range
of federal programs, such as Temporary Assistance
to Needy Families (1996); Welfare to Work Formula
Grants (1997); Community Services Block Grants
(1998); and drug abuse treatment programs (2000). The
White House Center for Faith-Based and Communities
Initiatives (CFBCI) and five similar offices in the
Departments of Education, Justice, Health and Human
Services, Labor and Housing and Urban Development
were established to contract with faith-based agencies
nationwide. According to a study conducted by the
Rockefeller Institute of Government (2003), thirty-two
states had also contracted with FBOs to provide some
social services, and eight states had enacted legislation
requiring the inclusion of FBOs in contracting. More
recently, state departments of labor received direc-
tives from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) CFBCI
requiring the development of state DOL strategic plans
specifically aimed at increasing the number of faith-
based grantees by providing training and technical
assistance to these organizations as they competed for
service provision contracts.

This emerging partnerships paradigm rests on the
same values of personal accountability, limited and
decentralized government, and community responsibility
for social services that characterized the privatization
paradigm, with an added strategic emphasis on coope-
rative service delivery among governments, businesses,
and NGOs. The strategic element of this paradigm is
undergirded by the belief that concrete results in pub-
lic service delivery can only be achieved by the skilled
deployment of human assets regardless of the framework
within which it occurs. This new framework’s advocates
also argue that the skilled deployment of human assets is
best accomplished outside of the traditional civil service
model. This has combined with anti-union sentiment,

due also to public and legislative pressure to reduce the
negative impacts of health care costs and defined benefit
pension systems on state and local governments. These
pressures increased dramatically due to the ideological
effects of “Tea Party” Republicans in the 2010 midterm
congressional elections. Because state and local govern-
ments depend heavily on property taxes, the collapse
of real estate markets beginning in 2008 stressed their
budgets. At the same time, the “Great Recession” of 2008–
2011 resulted in decreased equity prices and returns and
thus posed a long-term threat to the financial solvency of
public employee pension systems.

As a result of combined financial pressures and anti-
union sentiment, many states are rethinking and rein-
venting their public personnel systems, from far-reaching
efforts in Georgia and Florida, the abolition of public
sector collective bargaining in Wisconsin, and other
more nuanced efforts to enhance third-party service
delivery options (Selden 2006; Cayer and Kime 2006;
Naff 2006; Hays, Byrd, and Wilkins 2006; Fox and
Lavigna 2006; Nigro and Kellough 2006; Bowman,
West, and Gertz 2006; Coggburn 2006; Battaglio and
Condrey 2006).

Privatization and partnerships both rely upon the
same two basic HRM strategies: using alternative orga-
nizations and mechanisms to deliver public services, and
increasing the flexibility of employment relationships
for the remaining public employees through a variety of
nonstandard work arrangements (NSWAs).

Alternative Organizations and Mechanisms
These alternatives include purchase-of-service

agreements, privatization, franchise agreements, subsidy
arrangements, vouchers, volunteerism, and regulatory
and tax incentives (International City Management
Association 1989). These are not new. But they are
increasingly common, and they supplant traditional
service delivery by civil service employees hired through
appropriated funding of public agencies.

Purchase-of-service agreements with other govern-
mental agencies and NGOs have become commonplace.
They enable cities and counties to offer services within a

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6 t h e s e t t i n g

given geographic area, utilizing economies of scale. They
offer smaller municipalities a way of reducing or avoid-
ing capital expenses, personnel costs, and political issues
associated with collective bargaining, and legal liability
risks. In addition, the use of consultants (individuals or
businesses hired under fee-for-service arrangements on
an as-needed basis) increases available expertise and
managerial flexibility by reducing the range of qualified
technical and professional employees that the agency
must otherwise hire.

Privatization, as the term is generally used in the
United States, means that while a public agency provides
a particular service, the service is produced and deliv-
ered by a private contractor (Savas 2000). It may result
in the abolition of the agency (at times an intended ideo-
logical goal). Privatization offers all the advantages of
service purchase agreements but holds down labor and
construction costs on a larger scale. It has become com-
monplace in areas like solid waste disposal where there
is an easily identifiable “benchmark” (standard cost and
service comparison with the private sector) and where
public agency costs tend to be higher because of higher
pay and benefits (Kosar 2006; Siegel 1999; O’Looney
1998; Martin 1999).

Franchise agreements often allow businesses to
monopolize a previously public function (e.g., cable TV
and jitneys as a public transit option) within a geogra-
phic area, charge competitive rates for it, and then pay
the appropriate government a fee for the privilege. Cities
encourage franchising because it reduces their own
costs, provides some revenue in return, and results in
continuation of a desirable public service.

Subsidy arrangements enable private businesses
to provide public services funded by either user fees
to clients or cost reimbursement from public agencies.
Examples are emergency medical services provided
by private hospitals and reimbursed by public health
systems, and rent subsidies to enable low-income resi-
dents to live in private apartments as an alternative to
public housing projects.

Vouchers enable individuals to purchase public
goods or services from competing providers on the open

market. For example, educational voucher systems allow
parents to apply a voucher to defray the cost of education
for their children at competing public or private institu-
tions, as an alternative to public school monopolies.

Volunteers contribute services otherwise performed
by paid employees, or not at all. These include commu-
nity crime watch programs in cooperation with local
police departments, classroom teachers’ aides who
provide tutoring and individual assistance in many
public schools, and community residents who volunteer
services as individuals or through churches, and other
nonprofit service agencies. Frequently, such contribu-
tions are required to “leverage” a federal or state grant
of appropriated funds. Though they would probably not
consider themselves volunteers (and still less as public
agency “clients”), prison inmates are often responsible
for laundry, food service, and facilities maintenance.

Regulatory and tax incentives encourage the private
sector to perform functions that might otherwise be
performed by public agencies with public funds. These
include the zoning variances for roads, parking, and
waste disposal granted to condominium associations.
In return, the association provides services normally
performed by local government (e.g., security, waste
disposal, and maintenance of common areas).

Nonstandard Work Arrangements
All these alternative mechanisms provide public

services without using public employees and in many
cases without using appropriated funds. Yet even in
those cases where public services continue to be provided
by public employees working in public agencies funded
by appropriations, massive changes have occurred in
employment practices. Chief among these are increased
use of temporary, part-time, and seasonal employment
and increased hiring of exempt employees (those
outside the classified civil service) through employment
contracts. Increasingly, public employers reduce costs
and enhance flexibility by meeting minimal staffing
requirements through career civil service employees
and hiring other employees “at will” into temporary or
part-time positions (Mastracci and Thompson 2005).

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C o m p e t i n g p e r s p e C t i v e s o n p u b l i C p e r s o n n e l a d m i n i s t r a t i o n 7

These temps usually receive lower salaries and benefits
than their career counterparts and are certainly unpro-
tected by due process entitlements or collective bargain-
ing agreements. Alternatively, where commitment and
high skills are required on a temporary basis, employers
may seek to save money or maintain flexibility by using
contract or leased employees in exempt positions.
While contracts may be routinely renewed with mutual
approval, such “employees” may also be discharged at
will in the event of a personality conflict, a change in
managerial objectives, or a budget shortfall. These
professional and technical workers usually receive
higher salaries and benefits than can be offered to even
highly qualified civil servants, and they enable mana-
gement to cut personnel costs quickly if necessary with-
out having to resort to seniority-based layoffs and the
bureaucratic chaos precipitated by the exercise of civil
service “bumping rights.”

As this trend continues, the workforce of the future
will include multiple work arrangements for workers
hired under different terms and conditions. At a mini-
mum, these include traditional employees hired to “per-
manent” full-time or part-time positions to civil service
positions that may also be covered by collective bargain-
ing agreements. They also include other workers hired
to NSWAs—temporary workers (neither unionized nor
covered by civil service), contract workers (hired through
temp agencies, individual performance contracts, or
contracts with their private employers), and volunteers.

Recalling that the first definition of HRM is the
policies and procedures that determine how employees
are managed, these multiple systems have developed
because of the advantages they offer employers. We see
a shift toward NSWAs because of their presumed greater
flexibility, efficiency, and ideological conformance with
market values. In practice, this means less concern for
traditional hiring, training, and performance evaluation
practices and more concern for contract-based employ-
ment. Contract workers are expected to have current
competencies. Because their work is time-limited by
the terms of a contract, counseling and performance
appraisal are less vital than under collective bargaining

or civil service systems. Given the lack of career empha-
sis or protection, sanctions increasingly involve nothing
more than the nonrenewal of a contract with individuals
or with a firm.

The new strategies diminish employee rights. It is
more likely that employees hired at will into temporary
and part-time positions will receive lower pay and ben-
efits and will be unprotected by civil service regulations
or collective bargaining agreements. Whether or not
the political neutrality of public employees suffers in
this environment is unknown presently, but it seems
logical to assume that as the criteria for success become
more arbitrary or capricious, civil service employees—
particularly those in mid-management positions—
will begin to behave more like the political appointees
whose jobs depend on political or personal loyalty to
elected officials (Brewer and Maranto 2000).

The new strategies also threaten social equity (Wilson
2006). Pay comparisons over the past twenty years have
uniformly concluded that minorities and women in
public agencies are closer to equal pay for equal work
than are their private sector counterparts. Managerial
consultants are overwhelmingly white and male. Many
part-time and temporary positions are exempt from
laws prohibiting discrimination against persons with
disabilities or family medical responsibilities.

These complex systems create conflicting expec-
tations and accountability based on political, admini-
strative, and market perspectives. An organization that
primarily manages contracts may not be able to ade-
quately manage performance. When an organization’s
workforce includes both NSWA workers and traditional
employees, the result is always complexity and often
confusion and uncertainty over the psychological con-
tract (terms of employment) between the organization
and its employees.

t h e e f f e C t s o f
p r i va t i z a t i o n , p a r t n e r s h i p s ,
a n d n s Wa s o n p e r f o r m a n C e
The impact of the new strategies on efficiency has been
mixed. On the plus side, the change in public agency

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8 t h e s e t t i n g

culture toward identifying customers and providing
market-based services increases productivity. And the
threat of privatization or layoffs has forced unions to
agree to pay cuts, to reduced employer-funded bene-
fits, and to changes in work rules (Cohen and Eimicke
1994). But the personnel techniques that have become
more common under these emergent systems may
actually increase some personnel costs, particularly those
connected with employment of independent contrac-
tors, reemployed annuitants, and temporary employees
(Peters and Savoie 1994). Downsizing may eventually
lead to higher recruitment, orientation, and training
costs and loss of the organizational memory and “core
expertise” necessary to effectively manage contracting
or privatization initiatives (Milward 1996). Minimum
staffing usually results in increased payment of overtime
and higher rates of employee accidents and injuries.
As the civil service workforce shrinks, it is also aging.
This means increases in pension payouts, disability
retirements, workers’ compensation claims, and health-
care costs.

What is emerging, then, is a human resource frame-
work that paradoxically embraces both collaborative
and control-oriented managerial styles, exposing the
underlying tensions inherent in the values of moni-
toring (compliance) and empowerment (outcomes). The
tensions are evidenced by the debates over the desire
to maintain control mechanisms associated with tra-
ditional civil service systems (risk adversity) and the
strategic attractiveness of responsiveness and mana-
gerial empowerment (stewardship). Yet rising levels
of ambiguity and turbulence at the national and state
levels of government demand understandings that move
beyond either/or thinking (Kisfalvi 2000).

Opposing and interwoven elements are evident
throughout government as citizens and public officials
struggle with the coexistence of authority and democ-
racy, efficiency and creativity, freedom and control (Lewis
2000). The new HRM paradigm may be increasingly
about the management of both control and collaboration
and, more critically, about developing understandings
and practices that accept, accommodate, and even

encourage these tensions. As an example, increasingly
state government agencies are using a model of collabo-
rative social service provision and approaches to address-
ing social problems. These often involve overlapping
partnerships with various public sector organizations, a
recognition that the complexity of social issues is in part
due to its residence within an interorganizational frame-
work, and a recognition that these problems cannot be
tackled by any one organization acting alone. These new
and often confusing organizational relationships suggest
that HR managers will not only need to manage control
and collaboration simultaneously but also become much
more sophisticated in the competencies needed to work
across organizational boundaries (Klingner 2008).

However, collaboration brings its own sets of prob-
lems in that contract compliance, rather than traditional
supervisory practices, becomes the primary quality
control mechanism. This creates a real possibility of
fraud and abuse (Moe 1987). In this regard, state and
local governments’ experience suggests that privatiza-
tion and service contracting outcomes are most likely
to be successful when governments:

• Pick a service with clear objectives that can be
measured and monitored

• Use in-house or external competition and avoid
sole source contracting

• Develop adequate cost accounting systems to com-
pare service alternatives and monitor contractor

• Consider negative externalities such as impacts
on an existing workforce, impacts on the local
economy, other governments or functions, gov-
ernmental policies, or certain societal groups
(Siegel 1999)

The impact of contemporary HRM strategies on
the last traditional value (political responsiveness) is
also problematic. Public-private partnerships raise
fundamental accountability and performance issues
for elected officials and public managers (Klingner,
Nalbandian, and Romzek 2002). The emergent values

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C o m p e t i n g p e r s p e C t i v e s o n p u b l i C p e r s o n n e l a d m i n i s t r a t i o n 9

and systems alter the fundamental role of government
by placing greater emphasis on individuals and by
shifting the focus of governmental social service delivery
from a national to a state and local level. Continual
budget cuts and pressures can result in a budget-driven
rather than mission-driven agency. Budget-driven agen-
cies that address public problems with short-term solu-
tions designed to meet short-term legislative objectives
are not likely to be effective. Long-range planning, or
indeed any planning beyond the current budget cycle,
is likely to become less important. Agencies will not be
able to prepare effective capital budgets or to adequately
maintain capital assets (human or infrastructure).

The conflict between traditional and emergent
paradigms represents a fundamental conflict over the
appropriate role of government in society. Supporters
of privatization and partnerships see them as an oppor-
tunity to reduce the size of government (“downsizing”)
and reaffirm the basic competitive advantage of
market-based models and the legitimacy of individual
accountability and community responsibility. Critics
see them as a retreat from hard-won historical advances
in health, education, and welfare, and the acceptance—
implicit or …

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