This collection of original manuscripts—representing a cross-section of the timeliest scholarship in public personnel administration—explores the theme of “problems and prospects” in public personnel administration. The contributions are organized into four broad sections: The Setting, The Techniques, The Issues, and Reform and the Future. Section One focuses primarily on the social, political, economic, and legal trends that have served as catalysts in the transformation of public personnel administration. Section Two is composed of selections that summarize developments in the practice of HRM, with special emphasis on emerging personnel techniques and the ways that traditional approaches to the staffing function are being revised. Section Three discusses and suggests responses to some of the most troublesome or pervasive issues in modern personnel management. The final section assesses the probable trends in the field's future, and analyzes the efficacy of recent reform efforts. For human resource personnel looking to broaden their perspective in the field.
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The third edition of this volume was published in 1995. In the preface to that book, we offered the opinion that the field of Public Personnel Administration (PPA) or Human Resource Management (HRM)—both terms will be used interchangeably—stood at the threshold of a new age. Specifically, we stated, "It is probably not an excessive burst of hyperbole to suggest that we have entered the third great stage of civil service reform in modern times." Although no acute forecasting talents were needed to generate that observation, succeeding events have reaffirmed and deepened our conviction that PPA (or HRM) is immersed in an epic attempt to alter its techniques, goals, and underlying value system. To opine that "lots has changed" since 1995 is to engage in gross understatement.
The previous edition was written and published just as the so-called reinvention movement was beginning to take hold in civil service systems. At that point, there was far more speculation than fact as to the ultimate impacts that decentralization and the emphasis on accountability would exert. Because reform of the civil service is almost a constant, few words carry sufficient power and scope to impart the true meaning of what is now occurring in state and local HRM systems. We are now far enough into the current reform craze to draw some weighty conclusions, most of which do elicit descriptions that should be saved for truly momentous times. An expression such as paradigm shift may be hackneyed and melodramatic, but it certainly comes to mind when one surveys the contemporary landscape of public personnel administration. The pace of change is so rapid that it is sometimes bewildering. Moreover, the enthusiasm for revolutionizing basic approaches to human resource management is so great that it represents an almost irresistible force. Seldom has there been a stronger conviction and a more wide-spread consensus about how the public personnel system of the future ought to look.
As has been our intent in the other three editions of this anthology, our purpose here is to provide readers with a concise overview of the problems and prospects of modern public personnel administration. The goal has not changed, but the challenge has certainly become more formidable. Whereas previous editions attempted to keep our audience up-to-date on such diverse issues as workplace diversity, the productivity challenge, unionization, ethics, and a plethora of related dilemmas, we must now contend with additional topics that transcend every other facet of the PPA system and permeate the fiber of both the theory and practice of this field. In a very real sense, HRM is being turned on its head before our eyes. One unmistakable example is the simple fact that the most basic element of public personnel operations—the merit system—is being abolished (or at least fundamentally altered) by reformers. Changes of this nature reverberate through the entire HRM system, affecting every technique and shifting the expectations that managers have of their offices of personnel management.
The chapters in this anthology represent another attempt to tap the exciting trends in PPA and to probe their implications. To this end, we have assembled original manuscripts that represent a cross-section of the timeliest and best-informed scholarship in the area of human resource management. The book contains a mix of thought pieces, descriptive analyses, overviews of occurrences in various settings, and theoretical essays. Consistent with our "problems and prospects"' theme—one that has served us well for twenty years—the selections summarize the biggest problems confronting HRM practitioners and offer substantive suggestions for improving the practice of public personnel management. Obviously, then, the chapters focus more on the future of the field than on its past. We are more concerned with providing the reader with a firm sense of where the discipline may be headed, rather than where it has been.
Each chapter was prepared specifically for inclusion in this volume. The authors are all established figures in public personnel administration; many of them practice and consult in the field as well. They were selected on the basis of their recognized competence in, and past contributions to, the topical areas that are addressed in their essays. The present volume is almost completely different from its predecessor. Only seven (of 25) chapters constitute what one might consider to be updated versions of previous writings. Fifteen new authors are represented, evidence of the changing nature of human resource management and the expanding ranks of new and established scholars. We confess to being quite proud of the group that has been assembled to share their perspectives, and hope that you will agree that their insights are worthy of recognition.
The contributions are organized into four broad sections: The Setting, The Techniques, The Issues, and Reform and the Future. Although reform is expressly addressed only in the last section, you will quickly find that this is a topic that is woven throughout the entire volume. It is impossible to discuss modern HRM without examining the changes that dominate our field at any given moment. Insofar as the specific sections are concerned, Section One focuses primarily on the social, political, economic, and legal trends that have served as catalysts in the transformation of public, personnel administration. Section Two summarizes developments in the practice of HRM, with special emphasis on emerging personnel techniques and the ways that traditional approaches to the staffing function are being revised. Section Three discusses, and suggests responses to, some of the most troublesome or pervasive issues in modern personnel management. The final section assesses probable trends in the field's future, and analyzes the efficacy of recent reform efforts.
As in the case of the earlier editions, a prime consideration in the design, preparation, and organization of the book was that it be sufficiently readable for both graduate and undergraduate students. For this reason, the authors were asked to provide enough background information so that both beginning and advanced students could understand and benefit from the content. Additionally, the authors were requested to furnish concrete examples and practical information to enhance the volume's applicability to practitioners wishing to broaden their perspectives in the field. We are satisfied that these objectives have been met in every respect.
Our principal debt in assembling this anthology is to our contributing authors. They richly deserve our sincere thanks, for their efforts are the heart and soul of what follows. Because there are so many luminaries and emerging scholars in the area of public sector HRM, it was very difficult to decide which ones to ask for contributions. One of our continuing objectives is to change the authorship assignments with some regularity so as to bring new perspectives to this work. In so doing, we sincerely hope that anyone not included in this particular volume is not offended. With luck, we'll both live long enough to generate a fifth edition within a few years, thereby enabling us to call upon the talents of other leading scholars.
The contributors to the fourth edition of Public Personnel Administration: Problems and Prospects produced quality manuscripts on short notice, and exhibited remarkable patience with our repeated requests for revisions, clarifications, and elaborations. Many endured hardships in meeting the deadlines we imposed, especially those whose chief professional responsibility is to provide HRM services, not write about them. We hope that all of the contributors are aware of the depth of our appreciation. We also thank the reviewers of this edition for their helpful comments: Rhonda Allen, California State University-Fullerton; Laurie N. DiPadova, University of Utah; Wendell C. Lawther, University Central Florida; Emmett N. Lombard, Oakland University; and Lloyd G. Nigro, Georgia State University.
Finally, we would like to thank those kind academic souls who have adopted the previous volumes for their courses in public personnel administration. This book has proven to have very "long legs" in the profession, a reality that could only be made possible by the thoughtfulness of our fellow HRM faculty colleagues. Should any of you wish to communicate with us about this volume, or to propose fixture amendments or clarifications, please do not hesitate to do so.
Steven W. Hays
Richard C. Kearney
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