Public service motivation and individual job performance


At the center of government, in public administration, the individual and their contribution to service for society are at the heart of the “public performance engine.” At this micro-level of the organization, it is important to understand employees’ motivation and the fit of an employee and their job as these factors contribute to service performance as well as to employee outcomes such as satisfaction, citizenship behaviors, or organizational commitment (Sayed et al. 2015). There are several practical reasons for the relevance of motivation and specifically public service motivation (PSM) in public service performance. First, with an average of around 20 percent of total employment in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries, public employment plays a substantial role in the economies around the globe. It is inconceivable that an unmotivated and unqualified public workforce would substantially contribute to effective government functions such as firefighting, policing, air traffic control, the judicial system, or tax administration. Second, international reforms of public human resource management (HRM) show a move from career-based HR systems towards position-based HR systems, with the decentralization of certain HR practices (e.g. performance-related pay and flexible working time) and increasing performance monitoring (Brewer and Kellough 2016; Van der Meer et al. 2015). Thus, the expectations within the psychological contract between public employer and employee are shifting away from offering job security for individuals’ loyalty towards offering employability for individuals’ motivation and performance (see also Chapter 15). Third, the majority of government organizations reflect typical service organizations that are HR intensive. The HR costs can easily climb up to more than 50 percent of the total expenses of a public organization. Thus, knowledge about how to incentivize and manage individuals’ motivation to increase employee performance is highly relevant for public managers. Fourth, increased individual job performance through PSM may provide benefits for the organization as a whole (Brewer 2008). Also, the effectiveness of extrinsic incentives in a public sector context are highly contested (Miller and Whitford 2007; Perry et al. 2009). Lastly, demographic change increases labor market competition and makes it more and more difficult for public organizations to retain high-performing individuals through monetary rewards alone. Therefore, public employers need to develop HR strategies that facilitate the careful recruitment, promotion, and retention of high-performing individuals not driven primarily by extrinsic motives. It is assumed that PSM is a major facet of the motivational structure of such individuals (Perry and Wise 1990).

In Leisink, P., Andersen, L. B., Brewer, G. A., Jacobsen, C. B., Knies, E., & Vandenabeele, W. (Eds.), Managing for public service performance (pp. 254–277). Oxford: Oxford University Press