Category Archives: Public Sector

A Manager’s Guide to Free Speech and Social Media in the Public Workplace: An Analysis of the Lower Courts’ Recent Application of Pickering

Source: Adam M. Brewer, Public Personnel Management, OnlineFirst, Published September 4, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Public organizations are experiencing a burgeoning of workplace challenges involving employee use of social media. Comments, images, or videos ranging from racist remarks, to calls to violence, simple criticism of one’s organization, to full on whistle blowing significantly challenge public organizations’ policies for addressing speech that creates discord in the workplace. With the blurring of lines between personal and professional lives, these challenges create uncertainty for public organizations regarding how to maintain the efficient operation of the workplace, deal with the social and political fallout of such instances, and manage organizational liability. This article performs content analysis on 33 federal lower court opinions involving speech/social media workplace issues. The study analyzes the manner in which the lower courts apply free speech precedent on contemporary workplace speech cases. The findings suggest that patterns emerge from the opinions providing key insights for public managers regarding how to better manage these complex issues.

The Role of Strategic Human Capital Management in the Performance of Federal Agencies

Source: Andrew Wesemann, Journal of Public Management & Social Policy, Vol. 26, No. 2, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The current human capital crisis, compounded by tumultuous workforce conditions in the public sector, holds consequential implications for governmental performance. As a result, scholarship has emerged emphasizing the importance of strategic human capital management (SHCM), which is explicitly intended to curtail organizational instability and concurrently improve performance levels. There is, however, a paucity of empirical research testing whether SHCM does, in fact, influence performance in public sector organizations. In an effort to fill this gap in the literature, this study tests for such a relationship in an analysis of agencies throughout the U.S. federal government. Using data from a large sample of federal employees, within 45 agencies, hierarchical linear modeling results reveal that SHCM holds a significantly positive relationship with performance measures at the employee level, although agency level results are less conclusive. Nevertheless, findings provide foundational quantitative evidence that the performance related benefits of SHCM are generalizable to the public workforce and transcend sector boundaries.

Reward Preferences of the Youngest Generation: Attracting, Recruiting, and Retaining Generation Z into Public Sector Organizations

Source: Nana Amma A. Acheampong, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, September 18, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Generation Z is the youngest and newest entrants into the workforce. However, confusion about their characteristics, work values, and reward preferences hinders effort to attract, recruit, and retain this generational cohort into public sector organizations. Accordingly, this study investigates effective reward strategies for recruiting and retaining Generation Z into public sector organizations. I used an evidence-based research approach and an aggregative systematic review as the study methodology. The evidence curated from 32 studies reveals how the background and life experiences of Generation Z influence the importance they assign their work values, reward preferences, and how they prioritize rewards in terms of their employment decisions. Additionally, gender also influenced the importance Gen Z assigned to specific rewards. Overall, Gen Z’s strong attractiveness to specific extrinsic and intrinsic rewards makes public sector organizations a likely employer of choice and offers managers a viable strategy for attracting, recruiting, and retaining the youngest generational workforce.

State and Local Government Pension Funding on the Eve of the COVID-19 Recession

Source: John G. Kilgour, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, August 5, 2020
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From the abstract:
This article examines the funding of public pension plans through 2019. Particular attention is paid to the impact of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board’s Standard No. 68. It addressed (1) discount rates, (2) amortization periods, (3) asset valuation and smoothing, and (4) the actuarial cost method used. The combined effect of these measures has been to increase the amount of public pension underfunding significantly. The actuarial funded ratio of the 126 plans in the Public Plans Database went from 101.9 in 2001 to 71.9 in 2019, on the eve of the COVID-19 recession. It will no doubt continue to worsen in the years ahead. The extent of that likely worsening is also explored.

Public Sector Compensation: An Application of Robust and Quantile Regression

Source: Salomon Alcocer Guajardo, Compensation & Benefits Review, OnlineFirst, August 3, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This study assesses whether the theoretical compensation framework used to explain differences in public sector pay among full-time federal and state employees may also explain differences in pay at a local government level. In doing so, this study uses ordinary least squares (OLS) regression to test the application of the theoretical framework to a specific local government. Robust and quantile regression models are used subsequently to validate the findings obtained by the OLS model. The findings reveal that the covariates used to explain differences in compensation among full-time federal and state employees have similar effects at a local governmental level. While the OLS statistical model explains 26% (R2 = .26) of the variance, the robust regression model explains 39% (R2 = .39) of the variance. The percentage of variation explained by the quantile statistical models ranges from 14% (pseudo-R2 = .14) to 50% (pseudo-R2 = .50).

Takeaways from the Rockefeller Institute’s Webinar on Public Sector Management Following the COVID-19 Pandemic

Source: Joseph Popcun, Rockefeller Institute of Government blog, September 24, 2020

On September 10, 2020, the Rockefeller Institute of Government hosted a webinar with senior leaders from state and local government who reflected on the management challenges and opportunities that arose during the response to—and ongoing recovery from—the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The goal of the conversation was to understand how the public sector rapidly adopted new policies and adapted operations to meet new demands, particularly in support of a workforce that was able to work remotely to deliver essential services to constituents virtually. Based on their experiences over the past six months, panelists informed the audience of researchers, practitioners, and policymakers about dramatic changes to the public sector landscape—changes that may be features of the “new normal” for months and years to come.

This post explores some of the key themes that the panelists shared about how government was, and can continue to be, reimagined to ensure accessibility and continuity of services, as well as to attract and retain a workforce that makes government work for the people. The panelists discussed the “nuts and bolts” of how specific agencies devised new management approaches, leveraged remote work options, deployed public health and safety precautions for essential in-person work, and identified ways to improve resiliency and ensure continuity of their operations. These lessons are an invaluable resource to state and local governments throughout the United States as they continue to confront the challenges of COVID-19 and face a potential resurgence of viral transmission within their communities.

Do Pensions Matter for Recruiting State and Local Workers?

Source: Laura D. Quinby, Geoffrey T. Sanzenbacher, State and Local Government Review, OnlineFirst, Published August 7, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Many state and local governments have responded to financial challenges facing their pension systems by cutting benefits or by shifting costs to employees. Will these changes make it harder for state and local governments to recruit highly skilled workers? This study explores this question by linking individual-level data from the Current Population Survey on worker transitions between the private and public sectors to measures of state and local pension generosity from the Public Plans Database. The results suggest that state and local employers with relatively generous pensions are better able to recruit high-wage workers from the private sector, but that this advantage is lost as workers are asked to contribute more from current paychecks to prefund those benefits. The findings help inform an ongoing debate over the role that state and local pensions play in shaping the public workforce.

Working Remotely: A Guide for the Public Sector

Source: Rob Roque and Elizabeth Fu, Government Finance Review, Vol. 30 no. 3, June 2020

While some state and local governments have allowed employees to work remotely for years, many are now being thrust into a remote work environment as a result of COVID-19 response. Employees who are used to easy access to physical resources are now faced with make-shift operations at home. These rapid transitions to remote work are proving their own challenges to public sector operations and technology requirements.

The following are key considerations for governments when supporting remote workers. Items were selected based on general public sector requirements. Consider your organization’s unique situations to establish a complete list of your own.

A Female Policy Premium? Agency Context and Women’s Leadership in the U.S. Federal Bureaucracy

Source: Rachel Augustine Potter, Craig Volden, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, Advance Articles, August 5, 2020
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From the abstract:
Although there are descriptive and substantive benefits associated with women serving in leadership posts in the bureaucracy, we ask whether there is a policy benefit associated with women’s leadership. Simply put, is there a policy premium to having women as bureaucratic leaders? We focus on agency rulemaking, a policymaking activity conducted by nearly all federal agencies. Across three presidential administrations, we find no evidence of an across-the-board premium associated with women’s leadership. However, our results are consistent with a conditional policy premium—wherein women leaders are particularly effective in advancing ambitious rules and in shepherding rules through to finalization—in agencies that have a working environment that is supportive of women and, to some extent, in agencies that focus on women’s issues. One key implication is that, rather than working to tear down “glass walls,” reformers would be better served by improving the workplace climate for women within agencies.

The Aftermath of Janus v. AFSCME: An Ongoing Assault on Public Sector Unions

Source: Ann Hodges, American Constitution Society, ACS Issue Brief, March 2020

From the summary:
With the Supreme Court having overruled precedent and declared public sector “fair share” fees unconstitutional in Janus v. AFSCME, anti-union forces now have a new target: repayment of the fees paid to unions prior to the 2018 decision. Arguing that Janus should be retroactive, these advocates are seeking “millions of dollars from public sector unions, money collected in compliance with existing laws and already spent on representing employees.”

In a new ACS Issue Brief, Ann Hodges, Professor Emerita at the University of Richmond School of Law, explains the history of these restitution claims and why they are legally dubious. Hodges also questions whether “the employee plaintiffs in these cases [are] acting out of moral conviction and righteous motives or [if] they [are] being used by powerful interests to defeat the efforts of working people to join together collectively to combat the power of wealthy individuals and corporate actors.”