Key Human Resource Management Issues in the Irish Public Service
In a dynamic, rapidly changing and uncertain environment, the government’s Strategic Management Initiative (SMI) seeks to address the significant internal and externaldemands for improved management of the civil and wider public service in Ireland. The SMI aims to achieve better quality services that are not only results-oriented and clearly aligned with government priorities, but that also provide good value for money and optimise fully the use of available resources. As a result of the SMI, it is expected that there will be long-term benefits for the civil service and the wider public service throughout Ireland, as well as for individual citizens and the long-term performance of the national economy.
Delivering Better Government (1996) (DBG) states clearly that achievement of SMI objectives will require major reform of current human resource management (HRM) structures in the civil service. Better Local Government (1996) (BLG) makes very similar points for the local government sector. Both documents propose far-reaching reforms of existing HRM structures with the aim of achieving a more pro-active approach to effective human resource management. Although there are differences in HRM practices within the public service, a broad managerial consensus has developed on the critical importance of ensuring that the right people must be in place and properly equipped to meet the challenges involved, if the ambitious objectives of the SMI are to be achieved.
There is no doubt that its people are the public service’s most valuable resource. Across the public service, there are nearly 31,000 civil servants, over 24,000 in the Defence Forces and an Garda Síochána, nearly 63,000 in education, over 67,000 in the health services, nearly 27,000 in the local authorities and a further 9,000 in the non-commercial semi-state sector. In total, nearly 221,000 staff are employed in the public service. Human resources alone account for between 65 and 70 per cent of the annual running costs of government departments and agencies (see McNamara 1995). It is therefore vital that the fundamental changes proposed in the HRM of the public service are underpinned by sound analysis and informed debate. This discussion paper seeks to contribute to that debate by identifying and discussing some of the key HRM issues facing the Irish public service, in order to encourage informed discussion amongst those directly engaged with the process of change.