Wither human resources management among the states.
This is an extraordinary book. It is scholarly, with applied implications; analytical, with description; and orderly, with a consistent theme throughout. It proceeds from a broad-based conceptual framework into actual operations at several selected state governments. The book is informative and useful to elected officials, human resource professionals, and anyone seeking to enhance their understanding of contemporary human resource policies and functioning and their implications in the various departments of government that provide distinctive services. Citations are impressive, quantitatively and qualitatively. Also, the information provided by the various authors in this anthology represents a time capsule of government personnel policy and concomitant politics early in the twenty-first century for use by subsequent generations of those interested in human resource (personnel) policy development.
The title of the book signals that it focuses on personnel policy at the subnational level. To provide a context, early chapters offer insights about government directions, operations, philosophies, policies, and practices. The authors have operationalized "subnational" in terms of state government, and the book does not pursue implications for lower levels. Nevertheless, the potential applications are obvious.
Unlike a number of other anthologies, this one really is. Many chapters refer the reader to past or upcoming chapters. The book is integrated with itself, a tribute to the editors and respective authors. Of the twenty-one contributors, sixteen are academics. Some of the chapters primarily present conceptual information; some present empirical studies; and some present content in purely descriptive terms. Thus, this book provides learning and comprehension to a broad array of readers with different styles of learning.
In particular, the book, with few exceptions, is scholarly in terms of what and how information is presented. In particular, it is not an ideological diatribe, loaded with buzzwords, cliche proscriptions, and the like, but rather a well-documented treatise, written without bias.
Part I. Overall Orientation
The book is divided into two parts. Part I presents the reader with an overall orientation to basic issues and nomenclature endemic to personnel management in the public sector. It examines them from the perspective of societal values, and author Donald E. Klinger renders a comprehensive, clear presentation of fundamental values: political responsiveness, organizational efficiency and effectiveness, individual rights, and social equity. He offers no rationale for the order of the values, however. This is followed by Hal G. Rainey's thoughtful presentation of contemporary trends. These trends are thematic throughout the book. Chapter three allows Sally Coleman Selden to extend the themes into macro and micro frames of reference (system-wide, structural, policy/rules/ regulation, and activity techniques). Chapter four by Richard C. Kearney and chapter five by Stefanie A. Lindquist and Stephen E. Condrey present, respectively, emergent public-sector personnel reforms from the perspectives of labor and the law, particularly constitutional due process. Thus, Part I provides a comprehensive orientation to the issues at hand, with specific attention to perspectives and implications.
Part II. Experience from Eight States
Part II presents the historical, economic, political, social, and operational dimensions of the material presented in Part I, using the experiences of eight states, with "southern" states as modal.
Georgia and Florida
The extensive changes implemented in Georgia and Florida have fundamentally altered the nature of their "civil service." Lloyd G. Nigro and J. Edward Kellough present a survey that used a stratified random sample of nonsupervisory and supervisory personnel. The results are reported extensively and, in summary, the authors note that they are "not encouraging," yet still to be monitored and assessed in terms of perceptions of, as well as actual, improvements in Georgia. James. S. Bowman, Jonathan P. West, and Sally C. Gertz coauthor the presentation of reform in Florida, the second state with rather drastic changes in human resource policy. Considering these extensive changes, the reader may expect a scientific, analytic, open-minded approach, such as used in the previous chapter, but this is not forthcoming. This chapter is disappointing. It begins with satire, amateurishly reminiscent of George Carlin or Dennis Miller, is not flattering to the good people of Florida, and ends up a tirade against Republicanism and conservatism.
South Carolina and Texas
Actions in the state of South Carolina are presented in chapter eight by Steven W. Hays, Chris Byrd, and Samuel L. Wilkins, two of whom are employees of the state (non-university). The discussion is comprehensive, but at a few points seems to pander to higher officials. Nevertheless, they manage to present a clear picture of the elements conducive to, or in question about, reform, and the reader can easily relate these to the groundwork laid out in Part I. Jerrel D. Coggburn takes the reader on a colorful trip through Texas history and politics in chapter nine. The author is aware that the text is about reforms, and Texas is unique in that many reforms" reflect how the state has functioned historically--making the chapter particularly informative and interesting. Instead of leaving it there, however, Professor Coggburn then discusses a survey pertinent to human resource administration in Texas, the methodology of which has validity problems.
Arizona, California, Wisconsin, and New York
Chapters 10 through 13 are authored by N. Joseph Cayer and Charles H. Kime, Katherine C. Naff, Peter D. Fox and Robert J. Lavigna, and Norma M. Riccucci. These chapters discuss human resource policies and changes in Arizona, California, Wisconsin, and New York. They are very interesting reading; one can learn much through this storytelling, and it is easy for the reader take elements of the stories and relate to the groundwork of Part I. In addition to the respective stories, the authors describe how the history and culture of a government entity affects public policy.
The editors, Lloyd G. Nigro and J. Edward Kellough, write the concluding chapter. It is brief and succinct and successfully integrates all that precedes it. They summarize that ideological, political, and technical factors are the three major categories of reasons for civil service reform initiatives.
Reform versus Improvement
Virtually all changes, fundamental or incremental, are presented in terms of the word "reform"--both in this text (with exceptions) and in common usage. As a reviewer of this wonderful book, I take the opportunity here to comment that many of the "reforms" presented, particularly the large-scale changes in Georgia and Florida, are attempts at emulating the alleged functioning of private-sector organizations. However, the profit-driven, private sector never uses the word "reform" with regard to changes, instead using terms such as betterment, enhancement, and improvement. If government wants to emulate the private sector, it should do so using similar nomenclature. We are in the thrust of trying to improve things, and the book repeatedly cites instances and circumstances where the civil service has historically been highly functional, not needing the negativity that the word "reform" connotes. Several authors in this anthology take this "improvement" approach.
Richard Blake, PhD, LCSW, CPM, is an associate professor of social work at Seton Hall University, South Orange, New Jersey. His teaching, research, and publications address matters of public policy.