chapter  3
Recruiting public personnel
Pages 44

Before government can make much progress toward administering a public program, the political system must recruit and train a group of public administrators. This is rather obvious, but it simply points to the importance of recruitment in the study of public administration. In order to be capable of saying what a public organization will do, and how it will do those things, we must first know who will perform its tasks and for what purposes – public or personal – the personnel in a government agency will act. Unlike earlier assumptions concerning organizational management, such as Weber’s ideal-type conceptualization of the bureaucrat or the Taylor scientific-management school, individuals who occupy positions in public organizations are not interchangeable parts. The role of individuals is widely understood for partisan political leaders – presidents, prime ministers, etc. – but the same ideological and personality characteristics generally assumed to affect political leadership often are not assumed to influence bureaucrats and their behavior in office. Public servants, as well as any other political elite, bring to their jobs a host of values, predispositions, and operating routines that will greatly affect the quality of their performance in the bureaucratic setting, as well as the type of decisions they will make (Aberbach et al., 1981; Putman, 1973). Some of those predispositions are a function of their social, ethnic and economic backgrounds. Other decisional premises arise from the academic and professional preparation of the civil servants. Still other influences come from their work experiences, both within and outside the public sector. It is, therefore, very important to understand how governments select their employees, and who within the societies seek to work for government and why they do. Again we must emphasize that public administrators, even those at relatively low levels in the organizational hierarchy, are indeed public decision makers. The proverbial story of the judge having burned toast for breakfast and then sentencing the defendant to death may be as true, albeit in less extreme situations, of thousands of administrators deciding on thousands of demands for government services from clients each day. The policeman on the beat, the social worker working with clients, and tax auditors are but a few of many public servants who exercise a great deal of discretion over individual decisions. This chapter examines the way in which governments select administrators, and thereby one of the ways in which they narrow the range of possible outcomes of the policy-making process. As well as being a question about predicting behavior and improving management, recruitment is also a question about democracy. One standard of good government is that it, and its decisions, should be representative of the public that is being served. Therefore, we will also be interested in the extent to which the public service in a range of countries reflects the public and the consequences that this representativeness or lack of it may have on services rendered.