PERSONNEL ADMINISTRATION: STAFFING AND TRAINING THE AGENCY
An important task in the management of any enterprise, private or public, is the recruiting, selecting, promoting, and terminating of personnel and employee training.
Once jobs have been created, the recruitment starts, i.e. finding people to fill those jobs.
The government began attracting especially competent applicants. Openings were more highly publicized, recruiting visits were made to college and university campuses, and wages were made more nearly competitive with those in the private sector. Active efforts were made to attract individuals who, in earlier times, would have been excluded from public employment.
Examining and selecting
Once applications have been received, the next step in the personnel process is examination. Some judgments are made on the basis of an unassembled examination. Another possibility is performance examination. Some jobs call for an oral examination, particularly those for which communication skills are especially important. One examination of special importance is the Professional and Administrative Career Examination (PACE). PACE is intended to select candidates for federal government careers.
The personnel agency (e.g. Civil Service Commission) considers the list with the names of the individuals with the highest examination scores from which it chooses the new employee. Following selection, the new employee is likely to serve a probationary period, often six months, but few employees are, in fact, dismissed during this period.
The evaluation of employee performance is a further personnel function. Recently, the trend has been to formalize rating schemes and to regularize feedback to employees. In jobs where this is not possible, supervisors are encouraged to judge performance as accurately as possible using impressionistic techniques.
Continuing education in the public service
Government is deeply involved with the further education and training of the employees. This involvement may range from relatively simple, in-house training sessions – even on-the-job training – to the financing of undergraduate or graduate education. Public personnel are also often given leaves for a semester or a year by their agency to pursue a degree at the doctoral level (the Doctor of Public Administration) or to fulfill a master’s program.
MEETING PERSONNEL NEEDS
The national educational system is the main source of recruitment for the civil service. Thus, the quantity, quality and specialities of graduates become important variables for civil service and personnel administration.
A serious problem which has become an issue nowadays especially in developing countries is the emergence of a dual educational system. The result of the dual system is that graduates of local elite institutions or educational facilities abroad have an edge in competitive examinations over the graduates from indigenous institutions. Thus, the civil service comes to be dominated by graduates of certain institutions, regions and social groups.
RECRUITMENT AND INDUCTION PRACTICES
Recruitment practices in the civil service vary from casual methods to elaborate selection systems. Most vacancies in the civil service are filled through casual methods. Only a tiny fraction are subjected to systematic selection procedures.
The casual methods include appointment on the sole basis of educational qualifications, interviewing combined with educational qualifications, or some cursory knowledge and skill tests.
(Abridged from Rethinking Public Administration: An Overview, pp. 77-80)
PROMOTION OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION
Like other human beings, civil servants should have opportunities to realize their full potential. They should be able to attain higher positions commensurate with their capabilities and demonstrated achievements.
Promotion remains a controversial aspect of public personnel management. In hierarchical organizations there are fewer positions at the top than at the bottom. The competition can be fierce and can lead to discord among employees. Thus a written promotional examination has certain virtues and helps to avoid favoritism. Trade unions often stress the principle of seniority. However, seniority is not necessarily the best indicator of productivity. Sometimes merit-oriented promotion and seniority are combined.
INCOMPETENCE AS PROMOTION MISTAKES,
or the Peter Principle
Occupational incompetence is everywhere. Every organization contains a number of persons who could not do their job. Limitless are the public servants who are indolent and insolent, and governors whose innate servility prevents their actually governing. In our sophistication, we virtually shrug aside the immortal cleric, corrupt judge, incoherent attorney, author who cannot write. Seeing incompetence at all levels of every hierarchy – political, legal, educational and industrial – I hypothesized that the cause was some inherent feature of the rules governing the placement of employees. The employee had been promoted from a position of competence to a position of incompetence. Sooner or later, this could happen to every employee in every hierarchy – an organization whose members are arranged in order of rank, grade or class. For each individual the final promotion is from a level of competence to a level of incompetence. In time, every post tends to be occupied by an employee who is incompetent to carry out its duties. But you will rarely find a system in which every employee has reached his or her level of incompetence. And work is accomplished by those employees who have not yet reached their level of incompetence.
(On the basis of “The Peter Principle” by Lawrence J. Peter & Raymond Hull // Rethinking of Public Administration, pp. 15-16)
Elements and models of a Decision-making Process
We all make decisions all the time. Sometimes we make snap judgments that in retrospect seem wise. Other times
we carefully weigh the pros and cons but are betrayed by fate. Often the most important decisions are nondecisions: we put things off and later discover that inaction has consequences just as important as those resulting from action.
Four processes of decision-making
Whether small or large, short- or long-term, studied or impulsive, decision-making involves four major elements: problem definition, information search, choice, and evaluation.
The first step in defining a problem is recognizing that it exists.Then, problems are plentiful; attention is scare. Selecting a problem for attention and placing it on the policy agenda is the most important element in policy making. When a problem is given attention, it gains focus and takes shape.The people without home have always been with us. Most often they have been seen as people who because of their own weaknesses could not find work and afford homes. So defined, the homeless remained a problem in the background – a problem for the Salvation Army, not the government. But as their number grew, we began to take a closer look.
When we are only vaguely aware that a problem exists, our first step is often to learn more about it, and this learning is an important step in the decision-making. Acid rain is a good example. Pollution and changes in climate were explored. Out of this active search for information the problem gained definition: air pollution is killing trees. Then, the solutions were considered. Reducing acid rains requires costly reduction in pollution created in regions often at great distance from the dying trees. Thus, the information defined the nature of the policy-making. Information has always been central to governing, and governments are primary sponsors of research both in the sciences and humanities. Such research is driven by the interests of scholars and may not have immediate relevance to policy debate. But it may have important policy implications.
As problems are defined and information about problems and outcomes is examined, choices emerge. Weighing options and selecting are the most visible decision-making processes.
The selection process does not necessarily require reasoned judgments; the compromises of group decision-making often produce results that only few individuals prefer; satisfying single interests often means ignoring the interests of others.
Decisions do not end with choices among alternatives. Decision-making involves evaluating the effects and actions. Evaluation may be formal (an official study of the results produced by a new government program) or informal (scanning the news, talking to colleagues). The most difficult aspect of evaluating choices is establishing the criteria. The most common criterion is the result – if things turn out well we feel that we made the right choice. The evaluation of any decision-making must involve looking at results and processes as well as the situation faced by decision makers.
Models of decision-making
Scholars speak about two broad categories of models of decision-making: rational and nonrational models.
Rational decisions are choices based on judgment of preferences and outcomes. They are not always turn out best and they do not eliminate the possibility of failure.
In nonrational models choices do not result from the deliberate balancing of pros and cons. These models share the assumption that the mix of rules and participants shape choices, and that decisions result from the varying (though not necessarily accidental) mix of ingredients. Both rational and nonrational models of the decision process are products of value-neutral social science. Values enter rational decision models only in the form of preferences, but they are generally defined in terms of self-interest.
E. Additional Reading
Decision-making in public administration is a much debated subject. For one thing, there is confusion about the vocabulary. Expressions such as strategic planning, policy making and decision-making are used indiscriminately and interchangeably. It is generally agreed that a decision involves a choice among alternative courses of action.
The varying roles of administrators add to the difficulty of understanding decision-making. In most developing countries, administrators describe their role in terms of implementing the laws and policies enunciated by the Government. Different points of view about decision-making also complicate attempts at generalization.
1. Decisions are the result of the dynamics of a highly complex social phenomenon in which different values, interests, institutions and individuals interact in a variety of ways.
1. An elite makes the decisions. It may include persons inside or outside government.
2. An inspired and charismatic leader makes the decisions.
3. Technocrats make the decisions, supposedly based on some concept of utility.
All administrators are decision-makers – to varying extents and for different levels of issues.
Leadership is the direction and guiding of other participants in the organization.
Leadership differs in degree. Transactional leaders exchange rewards for services. They guide subordinates in recognizing and clarifying roles and tasks. They also help subordinates understand and satisfy their own needs and desires. Transformational leaders change the relationship of the subordinate and the organization. They encourage subordinates to go well beyond their original commitments and expectations. These leaders have the ability to reach the souls of others to raise human consciousness.
Leadership is required for major changes and new directions, and without leadership government easily stagnates. When things go well or poorly we credit or blame the leader. We look for leadership in candidates for high office. Over many years, investigators have hoped to identify leadership traits. It is extremely difficult to know precisely what traits such diverse political leaders as Napoleon Bonaparte, Luther King, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Indira Ghandi, and Adolf Hitler shared in common. Yet many researches have attempted to identify universal characteristics of leadership and the following classification of the leadership traits is suggested:
Particular traits are neither necessary nor sufficient to become a leader. There are brilliant thinkers and talkers who are not leaders, and there are people who are not very intelligent and not blessed with verbal facility who are obvious leaders.
Some investigators emphasize the situational character of leadership. The ingredients of this parameter of leadership are the following:
· status, or position power – the degree to which the leader is enabled to get the group members to comply with and accept his or her leadership;
· leader-member relations – acceptance of the leader by members and their loyalty to him or her;
· task-structure – the degree to which the jobs of the followers are well defined;
· ability to recognize the most critical needs for organization members at the moment (physiological needs for food, sleep, etc. or safety needs for freedom; needs for love).
Defining leadership is a very difficult task but rejecting the study of leadership would impoverish our understanding of governing.
THE RELATION BETWEEN POLICY, ADMINISTRATION, AND LEADERSHIP
A public manager cannot pursue a leadership approach independent of existing policy.
Having established mission and goals, the manager may still need some new policies. Similarly, adopting a leadership strategy does not mean that the agency head can ignore administrative systems. They are critical for any organization. But they do not come first. But to make the existing administrative structure achieve the policy, a public administrator needs a leadership strategy.
(Abridged from: Behn, Robert D. Leadership Counts, pp. 207-208).
Gorbachev entered Communist Party work as a bureaucrat at age 24. He became chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet in October 1988.
Gorbachev then introduced a presidential system that culminated in the new office of President of the USSR established in March 1990. The new presidency was created by a simple amendment to the Soviet Constitution of 1977, the fourth Soviet constitution.
Gorbachev established an unusual and unwieldy legislative structure. In place of the bicameral Supreme Soviet that had been created by Stalin in 1937 but had exercised extraordinary little political authority, Gorbachev established a large Congress of People’s Deputies of 2,250 members elected for five-year terms. The Congress, in turn, was to elect the two chambers of the Supreme Soviet, the Soviet of the Union and the Soviet of Nationalities, each with 271 members. In contrast to the Supreme Soviet of 1937-1989, which met for only about one week of the entire year to approve policies already decided, the new legislative bodies were to hold both spring and autumn sessions of several months’ duration. The Supreme Soviet was subordinate and accountable to the Congress of deputies, but it elected the USSR Supreme Court and appointed the Procurator General, the highest legal officer of the government.
Gorbachev’s legislative creation proved to be cumbersome and soon it started to lose legitimacy.
As the principal Soviet executive and head of state, Gorbachev was unable to gain adequate control over the central government although he often presided over parliamentary sessions. He was also ineffective in attempting to abrogate laws and acts of republic authorities.
By late 1990 Gorbachev found himself the target of attacks from both the conservatives and the democratic reformers and finally was given up by them and replaced by Boris Yeltsin.
(Abridged from Michael Curtis. Introduction to Comparative Government, pp.350-351)