What Is Public Personnel Administration?

One of the most important jobs of a public personnel administrator is managing employee grievances.
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  • Written By: Amer Kaissi
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2014
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Public personnel administration is a branch of human resource management that is concerned with the acquisition, development, utilization, and compensation of a public organization’s workforce. The term includes three key words. First, "public" refers to regional and local governmental agencies as well as non-profit ones. "Personnel" refers to human resources who work in the public sector and provide public services to society. "Administration" refers to the management of human resources in public organizations in an effective and efficient way that helps the organization reach its goals and objectives.

There are four main functions of public personnel administration. The first, planning, includes preparing staffing plans and budgets, deciding how employees will be used, and setting pay rates. Acquisition is the second, and refers to selecting and recruiting employees. The third is development, which involves employee training and advancement programs, as well as performance evaluations. Sanctions, the fourth function, deal with employer-employee relationships, and may include workplace safety and handling grievances.

Some of the most important tasks performed by personnel administrators include managing employee grievances and employee retention. Public organizations, more so than private ones, have formal grievance procedures that ensure due process and guarantee employee rights. Due process is giving an employee the opportunity to explain and defend his or her actions. Employee retention programs focus on the importance of keeping good employees as opposed to finding new ones, and it includes programs such as training, development, and tuition assistance to help build loyalty and reduce turnover.


Administrators often carry out their work within the context of four core, often contradictory, societal values: responsiveness, or political loyalty; the rights of the individual; efficiency, or the ability to perform the job; and social equity, or leveling the playing field. Responsiveness relates to the importance of considering political loyalty in addition to education and experience when making employee staffing decisions. In fact, the main difference between public and private personnel administration is the political context and the intervention of politicians and their supporters in decisions affecting public employees.

Efficiency, on the other hand, is the practice of basing appointments on ability and performance, rather than politics. The individual rights of employees are often preserved by national and regional laws, such as the Constitution in the United States; merit systems; and collective bargaining systems, if applicable. Social equity guarantees that groups that can not compete fairly are given preferences in job selection and promotion decisions.

Public personnel administration consists of three general systems. The first, civil service, helps to protect employee rights and safeguard efficiency. Collective bargaining includes negotiated agreements that determine the conditions of employment and related benefits. Affirmative action guarantees equal employment opportunities for those individuals that belong to protected classes.


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Post 2

Public Personnel Administration is a very challenging, but very rewarding job. What I like best about it is the human resources side. I spend a lot of my time creating and implementing training programs for existing employees. My goal is to make sure they are well trained and use their skills to the best of their ability.

Another big advantage of a public administration job are the potential benefits. Because of the nature of the position, most companies you work for have excellent benefit packages.

Post 1

I am in the final year Public Personnel Administration class in University of Ghana, Legon. The material was of great help. Amoah

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