Human Resource Management Principles

Administrators need to be mindful not only of the dynamic environment and the reforms that occur in it but also of overarching principles that endure in human resource management. Four such principles, in particular, should be in the forefront of managerial thinking related to human resource management. Managers must adhere to the following principles.

Understand the values inherent in the career public service. Public employees, from elected officials to rank-and-file workers, agree that the public’s interests must be foremost and the rule of law unquestioned. Yet, because the public’s interests are many, there are many roles for public service. Stakeholders expect civil servants to do many different things (ensure effective government performance, implement controversial social policies, respond to political imperatives, and others).

Often civil servants are called on to respond to conflicting pressures simultaneously, and managers need to provide leadership in reconciling competing demands (e.g., designing layoffs to balance the budget and simultaneously addressing other factors, such as adhering to the principle of seniority, complying with equal employment opportunity and affirmative action requirements, meeting performance standards, and ensuring organizational effectiveness).

An overriding priority of the core of the civil service, however defined, has been and will continue to be an ethos that insulates it from political manipulation in staffing and encourages disclosure of wrongdoing or gross mismanagement.

Merit and merit-light systems dominate advanced democracies, and managers must internalize the rules or principles of these systems. While increased flexibility in hiring and removal has become more common, even the more dramatic reforms do not advocate the elimination of the values that undergird merit principles in general.

Merit systems ensure the high-quality hiring processes, fairness, integrity, diligence, and competence so important for the long-term integrity of government. They do this by keeping politics at arm’s length, thus providing a permanent workforce defined by neutral competence rather than by political loyalty.

Provide leadership for the workforce. Given the labor-intensive characteristics of public organizations, the effective and efficient use of human capital is of paramount importance. Leadership from managers and human resource professionals is a crucial ingredient for achieving the goals and advancing the public service mission of government. Human resource managers must partner with top management in guiding organizational change initiatives. Additionally, high-performing organizations invest in people and pursue best practices.