Recent PHRM reform efforts have focused on performance-based pay and employment at will as their main tools. However, studies have shown that public employees are often motivated by the opportunity to serve the common good. Understanding the reasons for this, public HR managers and employees can improve a number of work processes.
There is a number of ideas that are essential to discuss in the context of public service motivation. Five important concepts associated with this topic are the traditional approach to employees’ motivation, their social aspirations, types of motives, working for common service, and the factors that drive employees to do it. It can be stated that the most important concept is the factors that drive employees to work for a higher purpose such as the public interest. These can include life events, personal values of an employee, individual characteristics, and behaviors (Paul Battaglio). Contrary to the traditional political behavior literature, the majority of government employees are driven and motivated to do public service out of compassion, self-sacrifice, and the willingness to commit to the public interest.
This concept is important both for public sector employees and HR managers. Understanding these factors, employees can better self-identify with their work, improving job satisfaction, commitment, productivity, and other aspects of their job. In turn, HR managers can use this knowledge in the recruitment and promotion processes.
It can be argued that the focus of the recent PHRM reform has been directed to the inefficient and bureaucratic causes of motivation. Motives based on encouraging employees’ willingness to serve a higher purpose and a common good have the basis of being a more positive source of employee motivation. It is a beneficial tool for both HR managers and public service employees.
Paul Battaglio, Jr., R. Public Human Resource Management: Strategies and Practices in the 21st Century. CQ P, 2014.