The distinctiveness of public sector HRM: A four-wave trend analysis

Eva Knies, Rick T. Borst, Peter Leisink, Elaine Farndale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (SciVal)


Given the rhetoric that human resource management (HRM) models adopted by public and private organisations are becoming more similar, this study questions whether the traditional distinction between public and private sector HRM is still relevant. Building from institutional theory, we study continuity and change using four-wave data from eight European countries. We find that the traditional public sector investment in employee well-being continues to be distinctive only for HRM practices aimed at equal opportunities. Private sector organisations, on the other hand, make greater use of performance-oriented HRM practices including compensation and benefits, performance appraisal data, and modern development and career management practices. Cross-sector convergence is explained through coercive and mimetic isomorphic change, while persistent differences indicate that time-honoured public sector values are less susceptible to change. This study provides a much-needed update of the public-private comparison and a trend analysis of developments over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)799-825
Number of pages27
JournalHuman Resource Management Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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