Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Center for Public Policy

First Advisor

Dr. Blue E. Wooldridge


Historically public sector personnel policies and practices have been targets of reform. These reforms consisted of transferring private sector techniques to a public sector perceived to be more bureaucratic and less efficient. Private sector research is replete with evidence of a connection between "superior" human resource management (HRM) practices and the performance outcome of profitability. Public sector outcomes are more difficult to connect directly to management practices. As a result, the focus of public sector reform has become one of improving the processes of management rather than improving the outcomes of government. The linkage between reform and outcome is assumed.This study attempts to add to the literature by tying local government HRM practices to the organization level performance outcome of un-enhanced general obligation municipal bond rating. A database was obtained from the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) containing the results of an HRM survey in 2000 of all U.S. municipalities with a population over 10,000. The municipal bond rating was then used as a performance proxy and dependent variable; the greater the number of high performing HRM practices employed by a municipality, the higher the bond rating or the higher the performance. The study sample consisted of 366 municipalities both responding to the survey and with bond ratings meeting the criteria of the study. The results of a binary logistic regression analysis showed intensive recruitment, family oriented work practices, job flexibility and open communication to be strong predictors of high performance. Decentralized HRM decisions, pay for performance programs and incentives for group participation were not associated with high performance. These findings suggest municipalities are likely to improve their performance by implementing the practices found to be predictive of higher bond ratings. However, differences between private and public sectors need to be considered when implementing change and a systems view helps minimize "deadly combinations" and maximize "powerful connections". Also, organization culture and the structure of the HRM system need to be considered. Additional research is recommended to further develop and validate the use of the municipal bond rating as a measure of a government level performance outcome.


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Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

June 2008