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International trends in HRM in the public sector: reform attempts in the Republic of Georgia Richard Common Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
International trends in HRM
421 Received 9 December 2009 Revised 24 August 2010 Accepted 2 October 2010
Abstract Purpose – The overall purpose of this paper is to explore the limits of HRM in public sector organisations, within the context of international public management. The cultural basis of HRM, derived chiefly from North America and Western Europe continues to underpin public sector HR reforms, aided and abetted by the international institutions. The paper seeks to begin with an overview of the impact of wider public sector reform on HR practice by briefly exploring the limitations of orthodox HRM in a public service setting. However, the main argument of the paper aims to follow the conceptual position that an understanding of the institutional and cultural contexts is required before attempting HRM-type reforms. Design/methodology/approach – The author visited the Republic of Georgia in 2008 to work with the Public Service Commission on HRM reforms in central government. Thus, the paper presents the illustrative case of Georgia, which is both a transitional state and susceptible to Western ideas regarding public service reform. The case of Georgia is derived from observation, documentary analysis and correspondence from the Georgian Civil Service. Findings – The paper found that, despite the acceptability of HRM and the desire by public officials to promote HRM-based reforms, deep politicisation of the administrative system provided considerable implementation problems. Research limitations/implications – These took the form of lack of academic literature on Georgia, lack of resources to conduct further in-depth interviews with key officials and difficulty of applying HR to the public sector in post-Communist/transitory countries Practical implications – The findings suggest that alternative approaches to HRM reform will be required in similar institutional contexts to that of the Republic of Georgia. Originality/value – The paper challenges the popular notion of international convergence around “universally applicable” models of HRM in countries such as the Republic of Georgia, where the post-Soviet legacy provides significant resistance to any reform momentum, HRM-based or otherwise. Keywords Human resource management, Institutional context, Public administration, Republic of Georgia, Post-Soviet countries Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction International developments in public administration have targeted the bureaucratic structures traditionally associated with the public sector, and a key instrument in these developments has been to provide and encourage greater flexibility and discretion to officials in the management of human resources. Human resource management (HRM) techniques and methods developed in a private sector or commercial setting have now been adopted in many public services across the globe. Within the context of the new managerialism in public services, the emergence of HRM from the 1980s has tended to follow in the wake of wider sectoral reform programmes. As Pollitt and Bouckeart
International Journal of Public Sector Management Vol. 24 No. 5, 2011 pp. 421-434 q Emerald Group Publishing Limited 0951-3558 DOI 10.1108/09513551111147150
(2004, p. 75) observe, personnel management reforms lag behind other innovations, such as changes to “financial management, organizational structure and management techniques”. Such changes are usually encompassed in an overall drive to improve performance in the public sector, resulting in a range of techniques, which consolidated around the new public management (NPM) label during the 1990s. Furthermore, it appears that a cluster of human resource (HR) problems were starting to demand attention including: [. . .] the aging of the indigenous Civil Service; a growing vacuum among “the leadership bench”; the changing definition of career; rapid change; strong competition from the private sector for the brightest and the best; budget limitations that reduce compensation and financial incentives and a negative public image (Lavigna and Hays, 2004, p. 238).
Whatever is driving HRM change, the central argument here is that within core public services, HRM, as derived from commercial organisations, remains difficult to apply to the public sector, let alone organisations beyond North America and Western Europe where HRM was conceptualised and developed. The overall purpose of this paper is to explore the limits of HRM in public sector organisations, within the development of international public management. Although international public management is in “an embryonic, preparadigm state of development” (Kim, 1999, p. 239), there appears to be a growing literature in the field of international HRM in the public sector (for instance, Hays and Plagens (2002), McCourt and Eldridge (2003), Farazmand (2004), Lavigna and Hays (2004)). Moreover, the role played by international organisations, principally the World Bank and the OECD, in public management reform, has also added to the clamour for “global” solutions to “global” problems with HR reform as a key ingredient. To support the central argument of the paper, it identifies the key contextual factors that shape the promotion and practice of HRM within a given administrative setting. The paper begins with the key assumption behind globalist claims to public management paradigms – the convergence thesis. Despite the establishment of the convergence/divergence argument in the field of international management and policy studies, the paper takes the position that the dominant discourse of HRM, as derived from its North American/West European context, lacks universal applicability. In particular, across developing and transitional economies, despite the growing pressures for isomorphism within public administration due to the “knowledge dominance” of the international organisations (Common, 2001), its applicability is extremely limited. This discussion is followed by a consideration of the importance of context when considering managerial reforms and the movement of public management practices from one national setting to another. An understanding of context identifies the strong determinants that “influence the managerial solutions chosen and the success of their implementation” (Flynn, 2002, p. 69). Having highlighted how the context can shape and influence management across countries; the paper then focuses on the difficulties of applying western-derived HRM beyond its cultural setting; primarily to challenge the existence of a universal discourse around HRM that is devoid of cultural sensitivity. The paper then presents an overview of the impact of wider public sector reform on HRM practice, which briefly explores the limitations of conventional HRM in a public sector institutional setting. Finally, the paper analyses HR reform efforts in the Civil Service of the Republic of Georgia to assess the challenges of managerial change outside the context of Western
liberal democracies. The basis of this section of the paper is derived from a visit to Tbilisi in June/July 2008 to deliver a HRM course to the Public Service Commission (organised by the State Chancellery of the Government of Estonia). This was the result of an invitation by the Georgian Public Service Bureau to the Estonian Government for development assistance in 2008, culminating in a project entitled “Increasing Georgian public service capacity in the development of personnel policy”. The project, to which the author was a party, followed the usual format of a diagnostic phase followed by the delivery of training in both Georgia and Estonia. During the Georgian phase of the project, much of the information and analysis for this section of the paper was gathered, and further validated and commented on by two Georgian commentators. 2. Convergence and divergence To accept the trend towards the internationalisation of public management organisation and practice is to accept the erosion of important contextual differences between countries. The international HRM literature tends to dichotomise between convergence (growing similarity) and divergence (growing differences) positions. In the case of developing and transitional countries, the convergence argument is that differences between developing/transitional countries and industrialised countries are the product of technological, economic, legal and political conditions, and that as those conditions are converging rapidly, social and cultural differences are negated (Negandhi and Prasad, 1979). The divergence argument is that deep-seated cultural differences between countries will remain, which render Western management theories inapplicable in different cultural settings (for instance, Hofstede, 1980). The use of culture as an explanatory variable in management studies is important as it can cause differences and affect the “transferability of management and organizational practices” (Lachman et al., 1994, p. 40). Thus, cultural values are important in determining organisational behaviour. As Jreisat (2002, p. 1) observes, “context. . .generally refers to all external influences that affect management, such as societal values, norms, religion, political culture, and economy”, and with the exception of the economy, these terms are tend to be grouped under the term “culture”. Culture may also be uneven in its effects and often involves religious or ideological elements. Without an appreciation of national culture, management theories and practices adopted from outside the national setting of the organisation may be inappropriate to local needs and circumstances. This leads to the failure of practices, implementation problems, or expensive project terminations. For instance, the core value of individualism in the USA, and which is implicit in many managerial prescriptions, conflicts with the notion of collective responsibility found in most of Asia. Hickson and Pugh (1995) examine Asian management culture and much of it differs sharply with Western management theory. In particular, the stress on “managing relationships in a harmonious manner” and “managing authority firmly from the top” means that notions of devolved management, “freedom to manage” and “brainstorming sessions” are viewed as alien or inappropriate. Thus, the apparent tension between local management cultures and imported culture is exhibited beyond a narrow range of largely Anglophone countries. Sparrow and Hiltrop (1998) highlight the following HR areas affected by national culture: . Definitions of what makes an effective manager. . Giving face-to-face feedback.
International trends in HRM
. . . .
Readiness to accept international assignments. Expectations of manager-subordinate relationships. Pay systems and differential concepts of social justice. Approaches to organisational structuring and strategic dynamics.
The playing out of each of these different aspects of HRM is dependent on the specific cultural context. Schneider and Barsoux (2003, pp. 152-153) also analyse the cultural determinants that influence specific areas of HRM, some of which are derived from the work of Hofstede. They conclude, by looking at career development for instance, that “what it means to have high potential and to be successful is highly context- and culture-specific” (Schneider and Barsoux, 2003, p. 170). In relation to public administration, the lack of fit between administrative structures and local cultures is most likely where imposed or transplanted public institutions are to be found. For example, Islam’s (2005, p. 171) work on Pakistan reveals that national culture contributes to a “dysfunctional administrative system”. Other national studies have produced similar findings where culture appears to have a “negative” impact when grafted on to systems of public administration modelled on the West (Common, 2008). Therefore, the embedded relationships between national culture and style of government act as an important countervailing force against HRM, despite its demonstrable benefits. Otherwise, governments emulate developments in the West that prove to be costly or difficult to adapt but provide legitimacy to external sponsors. Georgia is no different; but cultural explanations for the apparent failure of reform efforts do not stand up to scrutiny. While cultural facets remain important, when the case of Georgia is analysed it is the historical imposition of a dominant administrative culture, in this case Russia, which explains the problems surrounding HR reform. Largely, cultural difference might be “overplayed”, or cynically regarded as a new dimension to marketing consulting services. However, a key dilemma presented by the literature is the extent to which models of management can be adapted to non-Western countries. Adaptation “depends largely on the extent of the similarity between organizations. . .It seems likely that a model originating in industrialized countries will be relevant elsewhere to the extent that organizational conditions are sufficiently similar” (McCourt and Eldridge, 2003, p. 10). Warner’s (2001) work on applying HRM to China highlights the problems of dichotomising between the convergence and divergence positions. By examining HRM functions such as recruitment and selection, his argument appears to be from the divergence perspective yet important similarities remain with western HR theory including the centralisation of decision making, which is close to some strategic HRM approaches and worker participation and identification with their workplaces resonate with recent, albeit, unitarist thinking on employee relations. Pay differentiation between top executives and other workers is also occurring; although important cultural differences have prevented pay management practice fully reflecting that of the UK, for instance. To resolve the dichotomy, McCourt and Elvidge (2003, p. 13) treat the “adaptation” of HRM practice as “crossvergence”. They reject the argument that “good practice” is not transferable to other developing or even non-English speaking countries while accepting that there is no such thing as a “universal” model of “good practice”: thus it is not so much a question of “good practice”, but of “appropriate practice” (McCourt and Eldridge, 2003, p.14). On the other hand, Lavigna and Hays (2004, p. 240) argue that
“Western solutions cannot be prescribed for every cultural setting”. In addition, they note how the imposition of bureaucracy from the West in many developing countries is not counterbalanced by democratic institutions with the result that “Western managerial ideas are woefully out of place” where often a “completely different set of cultural values” are in place. If we interpret “appropriate practice” as cultural adaptation, then Kim (1999, p. 229) also points to important HRM tasks for the public sector in terms of improving diversity in recruitment, acculturation and improving cultural awareness. Although writing from a generic perspective, Debrah and Budhwar (2001, p. 7) try to identify the main environmental factors in explaining cross-national HRM in developing countries. These are national culture, national institutions, business environment and industrial sector. If we return to Warner (2001, p. 49) for instance, he concludes that national culture is the weightiest factor when considering HRM in China, “it is pervasive in the Chinese case”. However, this conclusion does not hold in analyses of HRM conducted elsewhere. Jackson (2002, p. 203) examines HRM in South Africa and India and argues that within the developing country context “it is difficult to identify specific management and organizational cultures that have not been heavily influenced by Western practices”. However, along with Warner, Jackson acknowledges the importance of national culture in shaping HRM practice. Jackson’s basic argument that the rational approach, which dominates Western HRM thinking, remains the antithesis to “humanistic” (or non-Western) approaches to HRM. The tendency remains for a negative perception of the attributes of indigenous cultures: “fatalistic, resistant to change, reactive” etc. ( Jackson, 2002, p. 209). It might be easy to overstate the influence of culture in certain contexts or a painstaking effort to unpack the overlapping influence of societal and organisational culture may be required. 3. The importance of context Culture notwithstanding, to consider any management innovation as a global phenomenon is deeply problematic. From an international perspective, the problems of application are derived from the context-specific nature of public administration within an individual country setting. National differences take many forms. The relative size and strength between the public and the private sector, and the degree of integration between the two sectors further assist in the creation of national differences in HR practice (Sparrow and Hiltrop, 1998, p. 70). For instance, Spain and Italy have large and institutionally separate public sectors which leads to an emphasis on “social engineering and responsibility” in their HR practice. Reform is further hampered by a momentum in HRM that gradually builds up a mass of regulations, policies and procedures. Constitutional protections also pose considerable problems for HRM, in countries such as Germany with a strong administrative law tradition. Georgia also appears to be closer to the Rechsstaat model identified by Pollitt and Bouckeart (2004, p. 53), which are “stickier” and “slower to reform”. The various perspectives that shape debate about HRM in particular and management in general, tend to be specific to Western liberal market democracies. Even within national settings, context varies strongly. According to Flynn (2002), the management climate or ideology influences the acceptability of managerial innovations: “this means the approaches to management that are current, known to politicians and others designing reforms and likely to be acceptable to workers.”
International trends in HRM
However, the extent to which governments are prepared to introduce managerialism to modernise their public sectors is worth considering. The initial discourse around NPM appeared designed to have an intuitive attraction for managers and policy-makers alike (Hood, 1991). Part of NPM’s appeal was its packaging as a series of pragmatic reform measures adapted from the private sector. There is a long history of this type of cross-sectoral transfer in the West. Although the management industry also crosses national boundaries, it is debatable whether national cultures remain a strong determinant of the acceptability of managerial ideas and approaches. In the case of Georgia, for instance, there is a clear receptivity to managerialism, regarded as a necessity for social and economic development. Georgia’s cultural location at the “crossroads of Europe and Asia” appears not to provide an obstacle. Given the importance of context, and its enormous influence over the outcomes of management reforms, “good practice” in HRM is to be found in the rhetoric of government reports on public sector reform, in donor appraisal reports, consultancy reports, and materials brought back to organisations by returning trainees. To what extent rhetoric represents reality is a point of debate. Public managers tend to feel comfortable with HRM as it defines more closely their scope of responsibilities, pinpoints what is expected of them, provides feedback on progress, and sometimes additionally rewards them, or at least provides recognition. For them the break from the traditional administrative model has been liberating overall, giving them new freedoms to achieve results. In Georgia, the appetite for learning about HRM and importing ideas and practices from the West was apparent, and the potential existed for improving the institutional capacity to implement reform. However, these factors proved to be insufficient to reform HR in the public service in the desired direction, as discussed in the final section of the paper. 4. The impact of public sector reform on HRM The emergence of NPM from the late 1980s onwards as a “global paradigm” for reforming public administration included HRM as a key ingredient of that reform movement. Additionally, from the late 1990s, an emphasis on strategic management developed from attempts by governments to “join-up” policy and operations. This occurred under the general umbrella term of “good governance”. As HRM gained in popularity, the traditional notion of the public sector as a “model employer” subsequently came under strain; according to Colling (2001, p. 621) “where once the concern was with due process and comparability, the focus is now on ‘performativity’ – that is, making additional investment, including pay, conditional on demonstrable increases in efficiency and effectiveness”. Although changes in HRM depend on its fit with the organisation’s stage of development, within the rubric of NPM, the most common changes to HRM appear to be around decentralisation and accompanying devolution to line managers, flexibility in personnel budgets, performance management, management development and delegation that encourages leadership and personal development. Despite these developments over the last two decades, conventional HRM remains constrained in its application to the public sector. In fact, it is highly unlikely that all these changes have been initiated in any one, single political setting. As Selden (2007, p. 47) concludes following a review of Civil Service reform in the USA, “a one-size-fits-all model of HRM reform is not an appropriate strategy for any
government”. In addition, the activity of a public organisation is determined by statute, legislation, political demands and social needs. Other constraints on HRM include the electoral cycle or changes in political priorities, coordination across multiple agencies to deliver policy objectives and budgetary uncertainty (McCourt and Eldridge, 2003, p. 59). HRM techniques developed in the private sector offered public management considerable scope for application, although limited in reality because of the special conditions within the public sector (politics, need for central control etc). Moreover, Civil Servants and public sector managers are urged to develop a range of new competencies, in different cultural, organisational and environment conditions. In addition, across Western developed countries, politicians have demanded greater Civil Service flexibility and responsiveness, and that they are driven by results. At the same time, Civil Services have fought to retain institutional integrity. However, beyond developed Western countries, HRM appears to address the need for improving the managerial capacity of the public service. As Farazmand (2004, p. 6) explains, a strategic approach to HRM is required when “building and enhancing a cadre of highly qualified, highly able, and highly motivated human resources at all levels of government” in the short, medium and long terms. Finally, the field of international HRM should offer important theoretical insights for public management reform. Although international HRM is associated with the management of MNCs, international public management concentrates on the managerial reform approaches international organisations promote. However, Torrington et al. (2005, p. 695) state, “international HRM is a particular type of decentralisation and expansion of the HR role”. As many public services are designed, sponsored and delivered by a variety of supra-national organisations including the NGOs, the World Bank and regional development agencies; the statement by Torrington et al. contains as much relevance for these organisations as it does for MNCs. In short, international organisations influence the practice of HRM in individual countries, which lends weight to the idea that an international convergence around a Western HRM approach is occurring. The pressure on countries to “modernise” their public sectors provides a role for international organisations in offering Western derived “exemplars” and “best practice” to policy-makers who are equally receptive. This appears to be the case in Georgia. USAID and the World Bank have been particularly active; an aspect that is explored in the final section of the paper. 5. HRM in the Civil Service of the Republic of Georgia If we are moving towards a global HRM, we would expect to see it being adapted in a variety of different cultural and institutional settings. Here, the case of the Republic of Georgia is analysed, as it appears to stand on some of the major political and economic fault lines of the twenty-first century. The Republic of Georgia achieved independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991. Often described as a transitional economy experiencing rapid development, it also appears to be in a process of democratisation. Proclamations of reform programmes have emanated from the government of Georgia in line with similar states in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Mathiasen (2005) regards demands for public management reform in post-Soviet states as one source of pressure for the internationalisation of public management. Countries such as Georgia were required to be more open and transparent to facilitate democratisation and this
International trends in HRM
involves the creation of Civil Service systems independent of party control. However, despite the pressure to change, particularly from the international community, the reform process has been very slow in post-Soviet countries. Almost immediately post-independence, international consultants provided advice on administrative reform and building a market economy, particularly from the USA. Deregulation and privatisation in the wider economy followed a programme of economic liberalisation (Mitchell, 2009, p. 176). However, this was not a straightforward process or the simple implementation of neo-liberal prescriptions. Often the government would take seize recently privatised assets which it then offered for resale as “privatisation”. As Papava (2009, p. 201) explains, “many of the Georgian government’s actions defy. . .economic theory”. However, by the end of 2002, considering the relative size of the country, Georgia had an overbearing Civil Service with nearly 70,000 officials serving a population of less than 5 million (Machavariani, 2006, p. 39). It appears that ten years of reform following independence had achieved very little change. This can be partly explained by the historic legacy of highly centralized, bureaucratized and autocratically managed organizations, characteristic of both the Russian Empire and Communist USSR that had governed the country for nearly two centuries. As a result, managerial behaviour was marked by meticulous rule-following, a lack of initiative, and contentment with inferior product quality (Ardichvili and Gasparishvili, 2001). In general, prior to 2003, the public service of Georgia was typified by the sort of bureaucratic ills associated with poor administrative systems including high levels of corruption, low morale and over-regulation. Furthermore, the inheritance of excessive centralisation virtually paralysed governance, which contributed to the downfall of the Shevardnadze government and provided the catalyst for the Rose Revolution that ushered in Saakashvili’s government in 2003. It appeared that the newly elected government appeared determined in its reform efforts; in particular, there was an attempt to rein in the bureaucratic proliferation that had characterised the Shevardnadze era. Thus, the new government addressed the operation of government and public services in Georgia and reforms that began in 2004 formed the basis of the attempt to modernise HRM. The approach to HRM in the Georgian government The post-2003 reforms had specific aims including optimising the number of public servants, improving motivation, eradicating corruption, increasing transparency, and improving budgetary processes. Legislative changes were implemented, particularly in February 2004, with the enactment of the Law on the “Rule of Structure, Authority and Activity of the Georgian Government”. The 2004 changes challenged bureaucratic proliferation and duplication, with the number of ministries being reduced to 13 from 18 in a December amendment to the February 2004 Act. In particular, the result of the 2004 legislation was not only a reduction in the number of ministries, but also the creation of the Public Service Council (PSC), chaired by the President, to coordinate reforms within the Executive Branch. At the same time, the Public Service Bureau (PSB) had the power to implement reforms mandated by the political executive and Parliament. In effect, the PSB became the executive arm of the PSC (GIPA, 2007). On the surface, the PSC and the PSB were designed to provide a unified public service based on clear operational structures.
Institutional change was thus radical, including the concept of “total staff replacement”. Economic liberalisation also facilitated further staff optimization. The drafting of a Public Service Code was also in progress during the period in which the research took place (summer 2008) where it was anticipated the principles of the behaviour of public servants, appointments, promotions and responsibilities would be promulgated. Salaries in the public sector also rose in spectacular fashion from 2004 to 2007 by 132 per cent, and achievements in the improvement of staff motivation and effectiveness have been claimed, in addition to increased public trust in the bureaucracy. During the period 2004-2005, there was an overall reduction of around 35 per cent of those employed in the ministries, and even greater reductions in government agencies (“sub-departmental institutes”). In addition to these swingeing cuts, some departments had replaced their staff completely (under the theme of “total staff replacement”) including the traffic police and the Food Safety Agency. Further departmental reorganisation followed in the period 2006-2007 including the creation of the Revenue Service following the merger of Customs, Tax and the Financial Regulator. In short, from 2003 onwards, Georgia appeared to shift to a decentralised public service, a move that was deemed necessary, on the surface at least, to tackle the poor standard of public services. The shift also had resonance with market liberalisation and the more specific prescriptions of international public management. Clearly, the institutional context of HRM had changed in Georgia since 2003 although there appears to be no single unified HR policy. Other institutional changes were also concurrent to HR reforms including the restructuring of the central government. However, observers such as Papava (2009, p. 202) are highly critical of the changes: [. . .] in all government agencies the most experienced employees were simply dismissed (in most cases in violation of the law). All governmental institutions were staffed by youth with some international training but with little “institutional memory”. The government’s mistakes in the radical reorganization of the ministries and departments were compounded with non-professionalism among many post-revolution ministers.
Explaining the lack of progress in HR reform Papava’s (2009) critique is compounded by a general lack of progress towards reform goals in Georgia. For instance, a report prepared for the Georgian government on HR in central government following the post-2004 reforms made the following findings: . (A) cross-organization comparison reveals significant variance in staffing and personnel management methods and decisions across the central government organizations of Georgia. . (The) demand to work for (the) Georgian Civil Service has increased significantly. . Modern psychometric tools, HR management and selection techniques are in short supply in central government organizations. . Central government organizations lack formal strategic planning and decision making. . The objectives of grading, such as establishing uniformity across the whole public service, are vastly unmet in the public service of Georgia (Chkadua, 2005).
International trends in HRM
By the time the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs (GIPA) completed a further assessment in 2007, there had been little further progress. The lack of Civil Service coordination meant that the role of HR departments varied enormously over the various ministries, although they all agreed they were concerned with recruitment and record keeping (GIPA, 2007, p. 12). Despite the Public Service Law, recruitment, selection and dismissal practices continued to vary. There is no central government Civil Service training function and no formal evaluation of HR taking place. Pay and reward is not standardised. The lack of progress in HR reform also discredited the PSB and consequently, the idea of a coordinated career Civil Service halted (see GIPA (2007) for details). A further hindrance is the lack of consensus among decision-makers, some of who support a generalist or a “career model” for the public service whereas others support specialisation. GIPA (2007, p. 19) concludes that the context for HRM does not exist in Georgia: . . .there is little appetite for coordinated reform across the Government at the moment. The reasons for this resistance are not hard to speculate upon. The Government likes ministerial autonomy and centralisation of power within the ministry since they feel it gives the Executive the greatest flexibility. . .the Government is. . .highly flexible to the inclinations of Ministers.
Despite the various attempts of the Georgian government to reform HRM in its public service over the last two decades, the lack of change can be ascribed to several factors. Machavariani’s (2006) observation that the failure of reform efforts have been due to the difficulty of adapting such a system to the needs of a market economy along with the legacies of the Soviet era appear to offer simple, yet compelling, explanations. Two other explanations stand out. In line with the appeal of NPM as a form of rhetoric to provide legitimacy to governments in the face of international opinion means that governments only need to appear to be “doing something” (Common, 2001). This appears consistent with the disproportionate amount of US aid that has come into the country when compared to its neighbours. This leads to a second possible explanation. Following the Rose Revolution, President Saakashvili was keen to demonstrate the establishment of “good governance” in Georgia along with Western economic reforms in return for the support given by the former US Bush Presidency (Jakopovich, 2007, p. 217). Yet, the promise of reform could not be grafted on to a system that had changed very little from the Soviet era. In relation to HRM, the lack of a comprehensive strategy and focusing cuts on lower rather than the middle and senior ranks of the Civil Service further exacerbated the problem (Machavariani, 2006, p. 38). Recruitment and selection, and reward systems have not been aligned with international developments explored earlier in the paper. With very few exceptions, modern HR practice remains relatively unknown. Despite the recent increases, public sector salaries remain relatively low in Georgia although the attractiveness of public sector employment remains high due to compensation beyond basic salaries (Machavariani, 2006, p. 45). The rise in salaries following the Rose Revolution were not only aimed at motivating public servants and addressing chronic corruption but were also to add legitimacy and morale to government (Machavariani, 2006, p. 46). Personal connections continue to matter in recruitment rather than qualifications – personal and party loyalty is what counted under the Soviet system and under Shevardnadze, and appears to continue under the present government.
Other explanations about the lack of reform are also apparent. There appears to be no overall strategic approach leading to structural reform. In line with other post-Communist states, Georgia has favoured the use of legislation to create a new administrative system. However, given the available evidence, the case of Georgia confirms Verheijen’s (2007, p. 314) opinion that “in reality, Civil Service laws seldom have had the impact they were expected to have”, in other words, to provide the basis for the stabilisation, de-politicisation and professionalization of government. The reliance on legislation as a reform tool has also affected training and development of public officials. A lack of institutional capacity, identified earlier by Flynn (2002) as an important contextual factor for the acceptability of managerialisation has resulted in most training being sourced from abroad. Furthermore, HRM continues to be imported into the Georgian public service. The GIPA (2007) document outlines the amount of overseas assistance and funding made available to the Georgian government in the area of Civil Service reform. This facet of international public management has been felt very strongly in Georgia yet its impact has been minimal. In the last four years, the UNDP, USAID, the UK Department for International Development, equivalents in the Dutch and Swedish governments and the World Bank have contributed funds for a variety of projects aimed at improving public administration in Georgia. For instance, recently the Support for Improvement in Governance and Management (SIGMA) group of the OECD held a workshop on reforming the Civil Service in Georgia in Tbilisi in November 2009. The aim was to “build Civil Service professionalism” by exposing Georgian policy makers, senior executives and HR managers to practice from EU and OECD countries. However, as Mathiasen (2005, p. 668) argues, if the antecedents of NPM are absent (i.e. a Western Europe basis to the historical development of governance), then reformers will continue to face difficulties and frustrations. A much more direct strategy by the Saakashvili administrations was the rapid promotion of youthful and highly trained officials. Often met with distrust by officials from the Soviet and the Shevardnadze eras, they are also confronted by issues of low trust and morale. Attempts to revive a coordinated Civil Service and to raise the capacity of human resources continued despite the war with Russia over disputed territories in Georgia, which broke out in summer 2008. Elections just prior to the war in 2008 provided Saakashvili with a further mandate and it is clear that the momentum for reform will continue. Conclusion The case of the Republic of Georgia illustrates that the internationalisation of public management reform is far from inevitable. While there is nothing particularly new about this assertion, despite considerable exposure to international reform ideas and approaches, with the author being part of this process, there has been very marginal change. Verheijen (2007) attempts to explain why reform appears to fail in post-Soviet states and provides the following reasons. The first is a lack of political consensus on reforms. Following the Rose Revolution of 2003, there has been relative political stability in Georgia (within the context of the elite politics that dominate the country). However, the use of the bureaucracy to consolidate e´lite political power has served to fragment ministries and increase overlap and duplication. This has provided an obstacle to coherent and integrated HR strategies for the Georgian Civil Service as a
International trends in HRM
whole. Moreover, it has lead to a lack of cross-ministerial coordination of HR reform (GIPA, 2007). The second reason for reform failure in states such as Georgia is the problem of reform design. As Verheijen (2007, p. 317) observes, “politicians and foreign experts alike have made mistakes”. In addition, in line with the legalist tradition in Georgia, there is much emphasis on legislation as a reform instrument. The 2004 amendments to the existing Law on Public Service provide the main legislative framework for the Georgian Civil Service, but this has proved to be inadequate without wider changes in structure and processes. Neither of these types of change has occurred in Georgia. The final reason, according to Verheijen (2007) is the contradictory role of international actors. As noted above, any attempt by the international actors to shape and influence HR reform in Georgia is undermined by a lack of coordination caused by ministerial autonomy: “there is little appetite for coordinated reform across the Government at the moment” (GIPA, 2007, p. 29). The case of Georgia severely undermines the claims around convergence on a universally applicable HRM model for public administration. An explanation for the overall lack of reform is the apparent reluctance by politicians to overhaul a system that essentially remains unchanged from the Soviet era. In a similar fashion to post-colonial systems that we preserved by incoming political elites following independence, bureaucratic structures in Georgia have been preserved or even strengthened. Moreover, although highlighted earlier in the paper, cultural factors seem less compelling when challenging the convergence argument. The cultural conditioning of managers in Georgia has more to do with the legacy of the former Communist system (Cseh et al., 2004). Finally, this paper does not argue that HRM reform should follow the direction taken by Western countries. However, for Georgia to be able to have an efficient and effective Civil Service that serves its people well, a review of the overall structure and capacity of the government may be necessary but extremely difficult to achieve in practice, particularly in the absence of political will. What is noticeable about its Civil Servants is their relative youth and that they are receptive to change and international reform ideas. In line with many post Soviet states, Georgia was quick to reinvigorate its administration by replacing “old guard” officials. Although this has signalled the start of a meritocratic Civil Service, without structural or processual change, politicisation of the Civil Service will continue to frustrate future reform efforts in Georgia.
Notes 1. The kind assistance of Lasha Mgeladze (Head of Public Service Bureau and Secretary of Public Service Council) and Nikoloz Shekiladze (Georgian Institute of Public Affairs) is hereby acknowledged. 2. Mgeladze, Personal Communication to Author, July 2009 3. Figures from Public Service Commission supplied to author. Claim made by Mgeladze, (see note 1) 4. Workshop on Reforming the Civil Service in Georgia – Tbilisi, 10-11 November 2009, SIGMA, OECD.
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