Sub-theme 59: Prepare for Surprise: Personnel Strategies, HR Policies and Training in the Public Sector

Alessandro Hinna
University of Rome Tor Vergata, Italy
Fabian Homberg
University of Southampton, United Kingdom
Sandro Mameli
National School of Administration, Italy

Call for Papers

In the last three decades the waves of reforms that allegedly reshaped the panorama of public administrations around the world (Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2011; Vigoda-Gadot & Meiri, 2008) led to an enormous increase in the knowledge built around the analysis of reform implementation in public sector organizations. Even though the literature did not lack critical perspectives, those works were mainly focused on discussing the validity of New Public Management as a paradigm (Barzelay, 2001), including the championing of new paradigms or the recognition of regional versions of this “universal concept” (Public Governance, New Public Governance, Public Value, New Weberian State; see also Van Wart et al., 2014).
Other works studied the rhetoric of reforms (Cheung, 1996) and their actual implementation, focusing mainly on macro-level analysis of compliance to new legal frameworks introducing new management policies or performance management systems. While public sector organizations struggle to cope with the contradictory demands (Ackroyd et al., 2007) of such reforms (i.e. managerial autonomy/disciplinary-control systems; customer orientation/standardization; competence development/skills alignment), little attention has been paid to the design and consequences of public sector personnel strategies, HR policies, and training schemes. The few “street level” analyses of the organizational impact of public administration reforms have, however, highlighted both the need for more evidence on these issues and the need to embrace a more practice-oriented, contextual perspective. It is further unclear how HR policies, training and personnel strategies actually contribute to creating surprising organizational realities that achieve their institutional mission in face of contradictory forces (Kettl 2010). Ultimately, a more nuanced understanding of the role of public managers in implementing change is strongly needed (Dopson & Neumann, 1998; Emery & Giauque, 2003; Tummers et al., 2009; Tummers, 2011).
Thus, the main issues addressed by the sub-theme focus on possible gaps in research concerning

  • how the principles of “Good Administration” are being enacted in a context of increasing external control and lack of resources;

  • the comparative analysis of cross-sectoral and cross-national experiences of public management reforms, focusing on the deconstruction/reconstruction of cultural/professional paradigms and identities within administrations;

  • the role of civil servant training, and its possible function as a place where conflicting objectives and demands are being managed;

  • the shortcomings of performance management systems in the Public Sector.

Hence, in this sub-theme we seek theoretical, empirical and practice-based research studying for example:

  • The varieties of organizational coping strategies following public sector reforms and the (un)surprising organisational responses to the managerialist reform waves in public organizations

  • The consequences of recruitment and HR policies on organizational capability to cope with reforms

  • the challenges of managerial competence development in public organizations

  • the development of organizational well-being, and happiness in public sector organizations and its implications for HR strategy and training

  • the development of stress-reducing policies and work practices and other coping mechanisms

  • Innovative training methods in the public sector to address the questions above-mentioned

  • Institutional power-relations and the role of higher education in preparing for public administration

  • Organizational transformation influencing both political and cultural aspects (Driscoll & Morris, 2001) of public organizations



  • Ackroyd, S., Kirkpatrick, I., & Walker, R.M. (2007): “Public management reform in the UK and its consequences for professional organization: A comparative analysis.” Public Administration, 85 (1), 9–26.
  • Barzelay M., (2001): The New Public Management: Improving Research and Policy Dialogue. Berkley: University of California Press.
  • Cheung, A.B. (1996): “Efficiency as the rhetoric: public-sector reform in Hong Kong explained.” International Review of Administrative Sciences, 62 (1), 31–47.
  • Driscoll, A., & Morris, J. (2001): “Stepping out: rhetorical devices and culture change management in the UK civil service.” Public Administration, 79 (4), 804–824.
  • Dopson, S., & Neumann, J.E. (1998): “Uncertainty, contrariness and the double bind: Middle managers’ reactions to changing contracts.” British Journal of Management, 9, S53–S70.
  • Emery, Y., & Giauque, D. (2003): “Emergence of Contradictory Injunctions in Swiss NPM Projects.” International Journal of Public Sector Management, 16 (6), 468–481.
  • Kettl, D.F. (2000): “The transformation of governance: Globalization, devolution, and the role of government.” Public Administration Review, 60 (6), 488–497.
  • Pollitt C., & Bouckaert, G. (2011): Public Management Reform: A comparative Analysis New Public Management, Governance and the Neo-Weberian State. Oxford University Press.
  • Tummers, L.G., Bekkers, V.J.J.M., & Steijn, A.J. (2009): “Policy alienation of public professionals: Application in a new public management context.” Public Management Review, 11 (5), 685–706.
  • Tummers, L.G. (2011): “Explaining the willingness of public professionals to implement new policies: A policy alienation framework.” International Review of Administrative Sciences, 77 (3), 555–581.
  • Van Wart, M., Hondeghem, A., & Schwella, E. (2014): Leadership and culture: Comparative models of top civil servant training. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
  • Vigoda-Gadot, E., & Meiri, S. (2008): “New public management values and person-organization fit: a socio psychological approach and empirical examination among public sector personnel.” Public Administration, 86 (1), 11–131.


Alessandro Hinna is Associate Professor of Organization Studies at Tor Vergata University of Rome, Italy, where he currently teaches Organization Theory, People Management and Public Management and is acting as Scientific Director of the International Master in Economics of culture: policy, government and management. Nowadays, Alessandro is Professor of Public Management at the Italian School of Public Administration. He is Editorial Board Member of the ‘Journal of Management and Sustainability’, the ‘International Journal of Business Governance and Ethics’ and the ‘Open Journal of Leadership’. He is editor of “Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance” (Book Series) for Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
Fabian Homberg is Associate Professor in the Department of Human Resources and Organizational Behaviour at Southampton Business School, UK. His current research interests are public service motivation and incentives in private and public sector organizations. He has also been involved in research projects on top management team diversity, motivation, and recently small scale corruption. Among others, his research has appeared in ‘Organization Studies’, ‘Group and Organization Management’, ‘Public Administration Review’, ‘Journal of Business Ethics’, ‘International Journal of Manpower’, ‘American Review of Public Administration’ and ‘Journal of Management and Governance’.
Sandro Mameli has been Professor and the Head of the Management, Organization and Human Resource Department of the Italian National School of Administration, Rome, Italy. Previously Adviser in the cabinet of the Minister for Public Administration and Innovation (2008–2010), he was involved in the drafting of the 2009 Public Administration Reform in Italy. Sandro participates in various international programs of Managerial and Civil Servants competence development (MENA region, China) and is component leader – Area training and competence development in public administration – on the twinning program with Albania aimed at preparing the Country’s accession to the European Union. His research focuses on the role of public managers, the clinical approach in training and organizational studies and the short-comings of public administration reform implementations. Sandro has now returned to the European Parliament as Administrator in Performance, Innovation and Internal Control of the Innovation and Technical Support Directorate-General, where his activities encompass new ways of working and their impact on performance.