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International trends in HRM in the public sector: reform attempts in the Republic of Georgia

Richard Common (Manchester Business School, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 12 July 2011




The overall purpose of this paper is to explore the limits of HRM in public sector organisations, within the context of international public management. The cultural basis of HRM, derived chiefly from North America and Western Europe continues to underpin public sector HR reforms, aided and abetted by the international institutions. The paper seeks to begin with an overview of the impact of wider public sector reform on HR practice by briefly exploring the limitations of orthodox HRM in a public service setting. However, the main argument of the paper aims to follow the conceptual position that an understanding of the institutional and cultural contexts is required before attempting HRM‐type reforms.


The author visited the Republic of Georgia in 2008 to work with the Public Service Commission on HRM reforms in central government. Thus, the paper presents the illustrative case of Georgia, which is both a transitional state and susceptible to Western ideas regarding public service reform. The case of Georgia is derived from observation, documentary analysis and correspondence from the Georgian Civil Service.


The paper found that, despite the acceptability of HRM and the desire by public officials to promote HRM‐based reforms, deep politicisation of the administrative system provided considerable implementation problems.

Research limitations/implications

These took the form of lack of academic literature on Georgia, lack of resources to conduct further in‐depth interviews with key officials and difficulty of applying HR to the public sector in post‐Communist/transitory countries

Practical implications

The findings suggest that alternative approaches to HRM reform will be required in similar institutional contexts to that of the Republic of Georgia.


The paper challenges the popular notion of international convergence around “universally applicable” models of HRM in countries such as the Republic of Georgia, where the post‐Soviet legacy provides significant resistance to any reform momentum, HRM‐based or otherwise.



Common, R. (2011), "International trends in HRM in the public sector: reform attempts in the Republic of Georgia", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 24 No. 5, pp. 421-434.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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