Human Capital: Tools and Strategies for the Public Sector


Sally Coleman Selden

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    To the special men in my life

    Frank, Jacob, Nate, and Owen


    This book would not have materialized if it were not for the Government Performance Project (GPP) and the generous and sustained support of The Pew Charitable Trusts. In 1998 I began working with a team of faculty at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University and a team of journalists at Governing magazine to “grade” the states. It was a unique collaboration between academics and journalists that resulted in a methodology that blends the strengths of both professions. The collaboration turned out to be a good one that has lasted over a decade. The ideas expressed in this book, however, represent my perspective and not necessarily those of the Government Performance Project, the Pew Center on the States, or The Pew Charitable Trusts.

    In this book I am attempting to capture insights that have emerged over the past decade in my work with human capital professionals throughout all levels of government. Over the years I have appreciated the eagerness of government officials being surveyed and interviewed to share their experiences, both positive and negative, and their desire that the information reach as broad an audience as possible. My hope is that this book will provide a means of disseminating that information, so that the many public officials who willingly and with great enthusiasm provided information to the GPP and to me can benefit from one another's efforts.

    The purpose of this book is to provide a resource for public leaders and human capital professionals and a framework for approaching strategic human capital management. Moreover, it is designed for students as a supplement to a textbook on human resource management. The book's contents are organized around five human capital goals, central to the Government Performance Project, which are likely to remain important even with the passage of time and the diffusion of innovations and changes. The book offers current examples directly from state governments that show the ways in which they have addressed challenges and shifted their focus to strategic human capital management. Finally, the book encourages both practitioners and students to move toward evidence-based human capital management by using information to continue to improve their practices and services and to become more strategic in their decision making.


    I am indebted to the Pew Center on the States, The Pew Charitable Trusts, Lynchburg College, colleagues at Syracuse University, the National Association of State Personnel Directors, Governing magazine, and the human capital professionals in state and local government I have been privileged to collaborate with and who have supported this project. While it is not possible to mention them all here, their support and enthusiasm helped bring this book to fruition. Mollie Anderson, Jim Farrell, Jeff Herring, Oscar Jackson, Leslie Scott, Anne Soileau, Sam Wilkins, Sara Redding Wilson, and Thom Wright have contributed significantly to my knowledge about human capital practices. I am grateful to Charisse Kiino, who was patient with me as I delayed starting this book numerous times so that I could complete the next grading process. I am especially appreciative of Lynchburg College for its support of this project and for providing me a sabbatical to complete the book. I do not know how to thank Dwain Smith for his commitment to the book and for his constant encouragement. I feel privileged to have worked with Katherine Barrett, Richard Green, Patricia Ingraham, Phil Joyce, Mike Pagano, and Katherine Willoughby, who are not only consummate professionals but also passionate believers in the value of this project for public officials. I appreciate greatly the support of Sue Urahn, Neal Johnson, Amy Edwards, and other members of the Pew Center on the States. Over the years I have received valuable assistance and feedback from Robert Wooters, Jessica Sowa, Kingsley Chukwu, Marni Fogelson-Teal, Willow Jacobson, Joe Orenstein, David Pitts, Andrea Roth, Anita Sharma, Susan Thompson, Colin J. Turcotte, Brandon Turner, and Elizabeth Ward. I thank Nancy Geltman, Talia Greenberg, and other members of the CQ Press staff for their contributions to this book.

    I would like to thank my husband, Frank Selden, whose patience and support never cease to amaze me. My involvement with this project began just as I had my first son, Jacob, and is culminating as my third son, Owen, begins kindergarten. Their brother, Nate, made numerous trips into the field with me to collect information and may one day become a human capital professional.

    Again, I would like to express my gratitude to state human capital professionals and leaders, many of whom work tirelessly, and sometimes for years, to pass long-overdue reforms or to implement sometimes-controversial changes within their civil service systems. Without you this book would not have been possible. Not only do I respect the work you do, but also I marvel at how much you care about cultivating a workforce that best serves the public's interests.

    Human Capital

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