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Modernising People’s Public Management: the Challenges of the Flexibility

Francisco Longo

In the era of information and knowledge, the human factor is the core of organisations and societies. Given its nature, such condition is most important in public services. Innovation is not possible in the absence of people able and willing to produce it. Flexibility at OCDE sums up the trends in human resources public management -HRPM- in the context of the reformation processes and the stance of public administration. This is an unequivocal issue in two senses. Firstly, because its implementation will be different in those countries which have a consolidated system based on merit, as compared to those countries that need to establish such system. Secondly, the effective implementation of flexibility is different in terms of orientation. It may be based on programmes basically aimed at reduction -the main trend in most countries- or at better quality of personnel policies and practices. In the prescriptive area, a notion of flexibility that includes and offsets efficiency and quality of HRPM policies seems to be the appropriate approach.

Based on this approach, placing HRPM in the direction of flexibility results in facing a number of basic challenges regarding job management; labour planning and organisation; performance, development and learning management, and organisation of the HRPM role. Within this framework, the implementation of adequate HRPM policies and practices demands a consistent innovation effort in the face of any kind of inertia and resistance. Success will depend on the anti-bureaucratic and decentralisation reforms in the organisational design, these include initiatives to strengthen and develop management skills and search for a basic consensus among major parties within public systems. Judicial reforms -deprived from the usual totem-like value- will be essential to consolidate change. But the key background for innovations will be cultural change, replacement of part of the myths, mental models and unwritten rules that have traditionally shaped human behaviour in public organisations, with new values that should characterise the public character in open and democratic societies.

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