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Current Politics and Economics of Europe

Volume 7 Number I, pp. 59-82

ISSN 1057-2309

Copyright © 1997 Nova Science Publishers, Inc.





Hebrew University of Jersusalem

Abstract-This paper presents a methodology which enable researchers to explore - with the help of

Directors of Personnel - how administrative recruitment and training of senior officials in different

government departments has responded to EU and NPM pressures. As senior staff responsible for

personnel management, Directors of Personnel will be among the first to feel the pressures and re- spond to them. They will need to hire or train staff familiar with NPM techniques, and they will

need to ensure an adequate supply of staff able to operate effectively within environment increas- ingly conditioned by EU policies. The methodology identifies NPM and EU dimensions of admin- istrative recruitment and training, and formulates a set of multiple-answer questions that serve as

indicators of the dimensions identified. An analysis of the individual or average scores for each in- dicator at time 't' and 't+l' is a measure of the extent methods of recruitment and training have been

adapted to the institutional development of the EU and the NPM revolution.

Key Words-Recruitment, Training, Adaptation, New Public Management, European Integration,

Senior Officials, Convergence


In many coun/ries the renewed interest in administrative systems results from a

number of factors. Prominent among them in the public bureaucracies in Western

Europe are the institutional development of the European Union and the New Public

Management revolution. For students of public administration the emergence of a com- mon research agenda in so many different countries presents both a challenge and an op- portunity. On the one hand, factors underlying NPM and the processes of European inte- gration are not well understood, nor their impact on the nation-state. No single approach

or discipline is able to explain, for example, the complex dynamics of European integra- tion (Dehousse and Majone 1994). On the other hand, the emergence of a common re- search agenda is an unprecedented opportunity for comparative research because it en- ables scholars to examine aspects of administrative systems, such as, recruitment, train-

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60 Moshe Maor

ing, budgeting and co-ordination, in a variety of political contexts and to experiment

with varied theoretical and empirical approaches.

The empirical literature on recruitment and training of senior public officials is

mainly descriptive. Most studies are country-specific (Suleiman 1984; Depre and Hon- deghem 1988; Derlien 1990, 1991; Gammon 1989; Stevens 1995) with only a few ex- ceptions (Ridley 1983; Bras, 1988; Siedentopf and Huber 1988; Stevens 1992; nAP

1993; Ziller 1993; Bodiguel 1994; Peters 1984; Page 1992). Other studies approach the

topic from a perspective of civil service reforms and their consequences (Ingraham and

Ban 1984; Fry 1988; Rose 1988; Aucoin 1988; Newland 1988; Fortin 1984; Rouban

1989; Wilson 1991). A few studies using a quantitative methodological approach - the

most widely cited being that by Aberbach et al. (1981) - focus on the socio-economic

characteristics of senior officials. The fragmentation of the literature is compounded by

the lack of a common frame of reference in the few theoretical attempts which address

the topics (Downs 1967; Silberman 1993).

This paper presents a methodology which may enable researchers to explore -

with the help of directors of personnel in government departments/ministries - how ad- ministrative recruitment and training of senior officials in different government depart- ments and countries has responded to EU and NPM pressures. It highlights three aspects

of recruitment and training: the formal, that is, the institutional actors involved in the

process and their roles; the personal, that is, personal skills sought or taught; and the

administrative culture, which refers to whether the process reflects the culture of the pri- vate or public sector. The methodology identifies NPM and EU dimensions of adminis- trative recruitment and training, and formulates a set of multiple-answer questions that

serve as indicators of the dimensions identified. An analysis of the individual scores for

each question at time 't' and 't+ 1', and of the average score for each dimension at time 't'

and 't+ I' is a measure of the way methods of recruitment and training have been adapted

to the institutional development of the EU and the NPM revolution. The methodology

identifies general trends in the impact of these forces, as well as departmental (or min- isterial) variations in these affects.

The paper first elaborates the nature of EU and NPM pressures from a perspec- tive of directors of personnel, as well as from a theoretical point of view. It then defines

NPM and European dimensions in recruitment and training of senior public officials, the

indicators for each dimension and the scoring system to be used. Interesting results have

been obtained from the application of this methodology in a British study (Maor and

Stevens 1996; Maor and Stevens forthcoming).

NPM and EU Pressures: A Director of Personnel Perspective

Directors of Personnel are a sensitive indicator of NPM and EU pressures. Senior

staff responsible for recruitment, training and personnel management including ap- pointment and promotion will be among the first to feel the pressures and respond to

them. They will need to hire or train staff familiar with NPM techniques, and they will

need to ensure an adequate supply of staff able to operate effectively within environment

Evaluating the Impact of New Public Management. .. 61

increasingly conditioned by EU policies. Let us examine briefly the pressure Directors

of Personnel may face and their response.

Historically the administrative systems of European Union countries have shown

considerable diversity. They have varied not only in the rules and regulations they have

to apply to society, but in those rules bureaucrats apply to themselves. Recent studies

show this diversity may be in decline as bureaucracies have become exposed to the proc- esses of European integration and the NPM revolution (Dunleavy 1994; Maor 1996,

1997). Two kinds of pressures upon European public administrations are derived from

this incremental process: harmonisation - which signifies deliberate measures (policies

and institutions) taken by the EU (representing the member-states collectively) to

achieve compatibility and uniformity; and convergence - which refers to the growing

similarity of individual administrators' (or individual states') responses to similar

changes in their internal and external environments (Burnham and Maor 1995).

The practical implication of these EU pressures on personnel management are

twofold. From the perspective of a national administrative system looking at its position

in the European Union, its personnel managers need to ensure their administrators repre- sent the national viewpoint effectively. They need to know who best to recruit and ap- point and how to train them for negotiating successfully with administrators from other

countries. From the opposite direction, the European Commission needs to ensure the

national administrations work together coherently (Burnham and Maor 1995).

Though there is no EU policy to harmonise administrative systems, the Euro- pean Commission seeks to encourage similar administrative responses through the

KARLUS programme for the exchange among member states of officials engaged in the

administration of the internal market, through programmes of exchange and secondment

between the Commission and member states, through research and other programmes

which require officials from two or more member states to work together, and through

mechanisms for coordination of administrative actions. The KARLUS programme, run

for the Commission by the European Institute for Public Administration (EIPA) involved

173 officials between January 1993 and August 1994. All member states took part, but

the major sending countries were Spain (33), Italy and UK (24 each) and Germany (20);

the main receiving countries were UK (45) and France (42); the main policy areas were

public procurement (40), foodstuffs (37), pharmaceuticals (25) and conformity test- ing/market supervision (24). The usual pattern is a short introduction seminar to prepare

participants for the exchange, an attachment of up to 2 months with another national ad- ministration, and a closing seminar for participants in the same subject area to discuss

and analyse their experience (EIPASCOPE 1994: 18-19).

So far as more general exchanges are concerned, the Commission has for many

years arranged 20-30 exchanges between its own staff and the administrations of the

member states. However, the numbers coming to Brussels have grown rapidly since

1988 when a Commission Decision put the scheme onto a firmer footing, leading to the

current position in which around 600 detached national experts occupy up to 30 per cent

of the posts at Grade A4/A5 within the Commission. These staff are welcome partly be-

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cause of the specific expertise they bring with them, and partly because they increase the

links between the different levels of public administration within the European Union

(Hay 1994: 35).

A third means of encouraging similar administrative response is found in re- search programmes, which frequently favour applications from individuals or research

organisations in more than one member state, who are thereby encouraged to work to- gether within a common framework. The forth means is the application of mechanisms

for co-ordination of administrative action in the EU. The Commission has established

some mechanisms within which policy co-ordination can take place, for example, the

Informal Conference of Ministers organised by the Commissioner responsible for the

Public Service (DG IX), and its 'shadow' committee of directors-general of national ad- ministrative systems. To encourage member states to learn from one another, and so to

improve the implementation of EU policies, the EC has established the Action Plan for

the Exchange of National Officials Responsible for the Implementation of Internal Mar- ket Legislation (DG III) which aims to promote exchange of staff between member-state


New Public Management involves a shift in the two basic design co-ordinates of

public-sector organisation, moving it 'down-grid' - meaning making the public sector

less distinctive as a unit from the private sector, and 'down-group' - meaning reducing

the extent to which discretionary power (over staff and money) is limited by uniform and

general rules of procedures (Douglas 1982; Dunleavy and Hood 1994). More specifi- cally, this shift consist of a fourfold change in emphasis: (i) from officials' roles as pol- icy advisers to their roles as managers of cost-effective organisations; (ii) from inputs to

outputs in the attribution of costs, with output being measured by quantitative perform- ance indicators; (iii) from integrating the public service organisation to desegregating

sections that work independently and even in competition with each other, and (iv) from

'statism' to subsidiarity, by transferring delivery of public services from central govern- ment units to smaller-scale public-sector, voluntary-sector or private-sector units often

working through contractors (Aucoin 1990; Hood and Jackson 1991). According to

Dunleavy and Hood (1994) the impact of NPM seems to have elements of both an 'incu- bated' mode - in which reform ideas do not come into full effect until long after their

original introduction, when they establish a new long-term orthodoxy, and the 'acute'

innovation mode - in which reform programmes peak early and then break up quickly.

These modes are now documented - though not extensively - in empirical research (Ho- gett 1991; Pollitt 1993, Zifcak 1994).

That the NPM revolution has had some impact upon west European administra- tive systems is undoubted, since its elements can be detected, to varying degrees, in most

west European countries (Wright 1994; OECD 1995). Client-oriented organisational

structures have been set up in Denmark, Portugal and Spain. Some countries are evalu- ating policy effectiveness (France) or budgeting by programme output (Austria, Bel- gium, Denmark, Finland, Portugal). In Denmark the central bureaucracies are being split

up to decentralised agencies, while in Britain there are moves towards operating on

Evaluating the Impact of New Public Management... 63

commercial lines, contracting-out services to private sector organisations and, as is in the

Netherlands, privatising. Various countries are experimenting with more flexible, per- formance-related pay (Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Turkey, UK). Even Germany is

now increasingly sharing in an international agenda of administrative development fo- cused on privatisation and NPM precepts (Goetz 1994; Derlien 1995: 72-3). Virtually all

have embarked upon 'administrative modernisation' in one form or another.

The practical implications NPM has on directors of personnel is, for example,

the need to hire more economists or accountants people skilled in management and not

so many generalist administrators, to borrow management techniques from the private

sector, to push back the dividing line between public and private sector activity with the

aim of cutting costs, and to change working practices inside the system that are no longer

required (Hughes 1994). The NPM revolution may encourage directors of personnel to

contract out training, public recruitment agencies or parts of the recruitment process. In

the UK most language training is contracted out to the private sector. In addition, the

Government has announced in November 1995 that the Recruitment and Assessment

Services Agency (RAS) is to be privati sed in the course of 1996 ..


Since recruitment studies stand at the intersection of research on various topics (e.g.

organisations, representativeness and politicisation), the development of theory has

faced a serious obstacle denying scholars a common frame of reference with which to

conduct cross-national, cross-departmental and cross-time comparisons. Theories that

have been developed often suffer from being either too institutional or too individual.

The former orientation is because most students of administrative recruitment trace their

intellectual roots to Max Weber (e.g. Silberman 1993). In contrast, some theories - nota- bly the 'bureau-shaping model' (Dunleavy 1991) - are based on the assumption that 'A

bureau's overall policy is set by some combination of individual decisions made by its

officials, and by interactions with a sponsor body' (Dunleavy 1991: 174). This model

explains the individual's search for career or promotion paths by using individual means

rather than by relying on collective budget increments.

The important difference between these orientations is that whereas officials in

the institutional orientation seem unwitting players in an administrative system whose

rules and structures they cannot control, the underlying premise of the individual orien- tation is that public officials are autonomous actors who pursue their own goals and oc- cupy positions of power because of their superior resources, strategies and organisa- tional skills. The present period of change in administrative systems provides an oppor- tunity to test these competing theories against the evidence derived from a data-based

account of the way departments have adapted to NPM and EU pressures.

To guide students of public administration in their efforts to produce such a

data-based account one needs a conceptual tool. At a 'middle-range' level the concept of

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convergence of practices and/or methods may be used to encompass administrative ad- aptation in response to NPM and European integration pressures. The concept of con- vergence may seem at first glance straightforward, requiring no sophisticated definition.

However, particularly with developments towards European integration, one finds a

proliferation of the meanings of the term in academic literature in various economic, so- cial and political contexts. This variety requires differing explanations and has different


Often convergence is used simply as a synonym for uniformity or similarity.

However, such usages belie the fundamental characteristic of convergence as an active

phenomenon: it must be seen as a process of becoming rather than as a condition of be- ing more alike (Bennett 1991). Thus, simply to know that administrative systems are

alike in some way tells us nothing about administrative convergence, since convergence

refers to the movement from different positions towards some common point. The prob- lematic of pinpointing and maintaining a precise definition of the concept is highlighted

by the unsatisfactory mixing of its active (i.e. becoming) and its passive (i.e. being)

senses within a single text. For example, in discussing moves toward socio-economic

cohesion Leonardi (1995) on the one hand defines convergence as "a longitudinal proc- ess through which formal as well as informal behaviour and values become increasingly

similar" and on the other hand conceives of "complete convergence", representing in

fact, a state of cohesion.

In this paper, convergence is defined as the tendency of administrative systems

to grow more alike, to develop similarities in structures, processes and performances.

The concept thus implies a pattern of organisational change over time: the comparative

reference point being a condition of divergence from some former state rather than from

another administrative system. Such a perspective allows us to distinguish between two

key 'levels' at which administrative convergence may take place: (i) across-system con- vergence and (ii) within-system convergence. Across-system convergence refers to the

adoption of increasingly similar policies, practices and processes by different national

administrative systems. Across-system convergence is a cross-national phenomenon.

Within-system convergence, on the other hand, refers to the adoption of in- creasingly similar policies, practices and processes by the different minis- tries/departments within a national administrative system; or although it is not relevant to

this study, at the different levels of a national administration. In countries where re- cruitment and training policies and procedures are determined and executed centrally

convergence at a decentralised level becomes meaningless. However, in most European

countries these tasks are to differing degrees allocated to individual ministries and

sometimes even further to individual sections within the different ministries. In these

cases within-system convergence may constitute an important facet of the overall phe- nomenon. A direct causal link may exist between the two levels. A decrease in within- system variance may lead directly to an increase in across-system variance and vice

versa. Such linkages may play an important role in our current study, since a decrease in

within-[administrativeJ-system variance, caused by one government's drive to introduce

Evaluating the Impact of New Public Management. .. 65

New Public Management practices across all of its sectoral ministries, may lead to an

increase in across-[administrativeJ-system variance if other European governments are

either making few changes or adopting different policies, perhaps responding to Euro- pean integration pressures to harmonise.

To make an appropriate use of the concept one is required to define clearly the

units to be examined. From a comparative perspective the units of analysis could be

government departments/ministries which might have experienced different degrees of

exposure to NPM (because of differences in application of NPM measures) and Euro- pean integration (because of lack of, or existence of, a common policy, e.g. The Com- mon Agriculture Policy). Units of analysis could be administrative systems which might

have experienced different degrees of exposure to NPM and European integration. A

research strategy should be designed to distinguish between convergence arising from

NPM and convergence arising from the development of the EU. To encompass a 'proc- ess', one has to choose a starting period 't' and an end period 't+ l' where recruitment and

training characteristics will be examined. One needs first to establish 'where do admin- istrative units 'come from'?, and then, 'to where are they going?'.

The fundamental hypothesis underlying a study which relies on this method- ology is that the institutional development of the European Union and the NPM

revolution may be causing a convergence of recruitment and training practices

for senior officials in European Union countries. It could be expected such

changes would be most apparent in: (i) those countries which have long been

members of the European project or those which have implemented NPM poli- cies and (ii) those ministries most highly-exposed to European legislation (e.g.

Agriculture; and to a lesser extent Fisheries which is quite a new common pol- icy) and NPM pressures. Attention now turns to a methodology built upon this

premise. The first task is to identify NPM and European Integration dimensions

in administrative recruitment and training.


NPM dimensions of recruitment and training may be compared and contrasted ac- cording to a large number of dimensions, the most important of which help to distinguish

among the actors involved and the process. To gauge NPM pressures on recruitment and

training, five dimensions are of importance; (i) centralisation/decentralisation; (ii) man- agement style: public service culture/private sector culture; (iii) private sector involve- ment in, or absence from, the recruitment and training processes; (iv) performance; and,

with relevance to recruitment, (iv) opening up of senior official appointments to recruits

from outside central government. These dimensions are defined as follows:

• Centralisation/decentralisation (NPM1) refers to variations in the degree to

which recruitment and training of senior public officials are delegated to func- tional units of government (e.g. departments) rather than determined centrally.