The approach to management of the personnel system is grounded on the principle of individualism. Various corporations give preference to charismatic individuals who can creatively address the challenges and generate ideas that will bring the desired positive results. The main features of the personnel system were formed at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries when there was a division of the executive and managerial labor with the creation of large hierarchical structures. Although the American personnel system is considered one of the best in the world, it has faced many difficulties in its development.
The Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA)
The Carter Administration created the Civil Service Reform Act (CSRA). According to this Act, the policy of the state is to provide the people of the United States with competent, conscientious, and productive federal employees, reflecting the diversity of the nation, and improving the quality of public service (Brewer and Kellough). Federal personnel should follow the principles of the “merit system” and should not violate the requirements of prohibited personnel practices. In addition to the federal, there are also public services of separate states and one federal district, as well as local governments.
This Act is considered one of the main achievements of President Carter’s administration. However, the reputation of the Act has many negative aspects, as the relation to it is very contradictory. On the one hand, opponents of the law argue that its adoption had no positive consequences and did not solve the tasks assigned to it. On the other hand, according to its supporters, the Act made a significant contribution to the reformation of the state bureaucracy.
Speaking about the effectiveness of the Act, it is worth agreeing partly with the support, as it still affects the working life of federal employees. For example, one of the main achievements of the Act is the introduction of a merit system that is designed to assess the performance of each staff member fairly. This system should exclude unfair ways of advancing the career ladder. Another achievement is the creation of a more transparent and effective bureaucratic system. It has facilitated many formal procedures, which helps to devote more time and effort specifically to the working process.
Some aspects of the Act did prove ineffectual — for example, the part about creating a senior executive management service. Also, the number of employees could not be reduced. Although the Act was welcomed in all structures positively, it just did not reach a real solution to the problems, as there were not enough people interested in it.
National Security Personnel System (NSPS)
The evolution of forms and systems of salary payments reflects a long search for a balance between the interests of employers and workers. The structure of the payment system is a critical element that implements its reproducing and stimulating and motivational functions (Miller). At the same time, not only the amount of earnings is essential, but also how and by what rules it is formed.
Pay bands are beneficial for both the employee and the employer, as the amount of earnings depends on the volume of work made or services rendered, on the results of work and its productivity. If the employee for any reason reduces productivity, he will suffer losses in the first place. Consequently, the worker’s risk is higher than that of the employer. For an employee, the benefits of this way of payment are that they have a real opportunity to increase their earnings by doing more work, increasing productivity. And the prospect of growing wages on a competitive basis gives additional motivation for better performance of work. Thus, the pay bands system has already proved its effectiveness and should be considered for its usage for paying salaries.
Urgent business for America
Volker’s report, like The Civil Service Reform Act, can be positively met in various structures. The recommendations provided in the report make sense and can effectively influence the work of government structures. However, the main obstacle to it is also a lack of interest in these recommendations (Garnett). So, a document cannot be seen as a panacea to the reorganization of the Personnel System.
The problem of restructuring the system should not be left to the Government. Then the number of people interested in changes will remain too small for decisive action. It is possible to create a new external body for monitoring. However, this can become another closed circle – recommendations to improve the efficiency of work are available, but there are no results.
The American Personnel System is continuously evolving and has many advantages. For example, one of the principles of public service is equality of opportunity in employment. Another positive example is that limits are set to prevent the uncontrolled growth of various services. However, there are still many controversial aspects worth working on and improving on. The implementation of such changes is a difficult process as it demands strict supervision and control beyond the government.
Brewer, Gene A., and J. Edward Kellough. “Administrative values and public personnel management: reflections on civil service reform.” Public Personnel Management vol. 45, no. 2, 2016, pp. 171-189.
Garnett, James L. Reorganizing State Government: the Executive Branch. Routledge, 2019.
Miller, Gerald. Performance Based Budgeting. Routledge, 2018.