PRACTITIONERS’ HANDBOOK

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HRM CoP Handbook - Rcpar.org

WESTERN BALKANS

COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE

ON HUMAN RESOURCE

MANAGEMENT IN CIVIL SERVICE

PRACTITIONERS’

HANDBOOK


FOREWORD

Public administration institutions are increasingly realizing the

need for effective Knowledge Management as the calls for efficient,

responsive and, above all, citizen oriented administration becomes

as strong as ever. One popular method of managing knowledge is

through Communities of Practice (CoP) which provide platforms for

people who share the same professional interest to systematically

exchange information, experiences and ideas about a particular

topic. These non-hierarchical networks prove to be especially effective

in enabling the exchange of ‘tacit’ knowledge which can only

be accessed through some form of interpersonal communication.

The dynamics of change in the way public administrations operate

create a demand for more effective knowledge management in the

public sector. Civil service structures in the Western Balkans represent

the case in point as they undergo a reform process aimed at

transforming outdated work principles and procedures towards

practice in line with EU requirements. However, ready-made solutions

imported from the West have had mixed results, as they often

fail to connect with local realities. Thus, CoP’s can provide the much

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needed medium for domestic stakeholders to pro-actively interact,

tap on each other’s knowledge, share experiences and insights in

addressing largely similar challenges, and develop a genuine vision

for civil service reform that is locally-owned.

The Community of Practice on Human Resources Management

(HRM), in the context of civil service reform in the Western

Balkans, intends to deal with an intricate array of issues related to

the people’s side of public administration. Considering that civil

service jobs enjoy limited popularity among the younger generations

and that employment rates in the private sector will continue

to rise, there is a necessity to rethink the current way civil servants

are managed in the region. In that sense, the HRM CoP, building on

the combined knowledge of practitioners, aims at facilitating the

development of innovations and workable solutions for modernizing

current policies and procedures on HRM in the region.

UNDP as an organization remains committed to the principle

of development based on nurturing of knowledge and strongly

believes that Communities of Practice can play a pivotal role in

generating, capturing, codifying and applying relevant knowledge.

In line with this principle, UNDP Country Office in Bosnia-Herzegovina

and UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre undertook to assist

the growth of this CoP, thus contributing to the overall reform

efforts in the region. This Handbook intends to offer more information

about the Western Balkans CoP on HRM to all those who have

an interest in this initiative. Enjoy your reading!

Stefan Priesner

Deputy Resident Representative

UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina

Agi Veres

Deputy Chief, Policy Support and

Programme Development

UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre

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INTRODUCTION

The challenges that public administration structures face nowadays

call for new and innovative practices. Conventional bureaucracies

can hardly meet the growing demand from the citizens for faster and

more efficient government services. Higher demands on the part of

the citizenry are mainly due to the trends like globalization and technological

advancement which, in essence, make access to information

and knowledge as cheap and easy as ever. As a result, we live in a new

type of society in which knowledge stands as the most valuable form

of capital and where learning is an essential asset.

However, conventional learning methods can hardly be sufficient to

sustain a regular working individual in today’s world let alone an insti-

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tution or a government. Imagine the quest for information without

e-mail or internet. Remember the times when we had to spend hours

searching through the books and other documents just to find one

particular piece of information. Compare it with today’s situation where

most of our documents exist in an electronic format which enables us

to find our info in a split second. What a difference, isn’t it?

Still, the superb accessibility to information and knowledge that we

enjoy nowadays translates into something meaningful only if we know

which piece of information and what type of knowledge is actually

needed. Many hours of work have been lost in vain because we worked

diligently on something that was not needed in the first place.

In other instances, we do manage to figure out what it is that we

need but after hours of searching we ‘convince’ ourselves that ‘there

isn’t much on the topic’. Yes, in spite of modern tools, we often end up

empty-handed because the information and knowledge that we want

is not to be found in a written (codified) form. In many instances, the

things that we were looking for do exist but not in the places where

we thought we can find them. They exist in the heads of other people

whom we may or may not know. Such knowledge is labeled as ‘tacit’

because of its intangible nature.

Tapping on other peoples’ tacit knowledge is not a novelty in itself.

It has been around forever. However, technological breakthroughs

enabled people to exchange what they know faster and easier than

ever before. The process of learning acquired a strong social note and,

soon, people from various fields of interest started communicating and

collaborating regardless of the departmental, organizational or even

national boundaries. They were engaged in a kind of communal activity

which the sociologist Etienne Wenger (1991) accurately labeled as the

Community of Practice (CoP).

Why the Community of Practice?

Please read the following short story. We believe it will help you answer

the question Why the Community of Practice?

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The first days of summer can be quite uninspiring for the civil servants, who are

overburdened with laws, by-laws, decisions, rulebooks and, of course, reforms

to such an extent, that they start making their vacation plans already in May.

By June, they are intensively browsing the internet trying to find their “place

in the sun”. - It was Thursday and Goran was already telling his colleagues

about being on vacation as of Monday and that, already by Tuesday, he was

going to fly with his family on vacation to Tunisia. He was dreaming about

his “place in the sun” and, at the same time, finalizing the tasks previously

assigned to him. At that moment the phone rang. It was the Secretary to the

Ministry calling, asking Goran to come to see him immediately. Judging by

the Secretary’s tone of voice, he could tell that it was something very urgent.

Half an hour later, Goran was shaking his head in disbelief, not being able to

comprehend what was happening to him. That is to say, the “internationals” had

pressured the Minister to provide them with the inputs for the new draft-law on

the reform of salaries in civil service, which had been waiting for a long time to go

into parliamentary procedure. The Minister had coldly advised the Secretary that

the report was to be on his desk Monday morning at the latest and Mr. Secretary

had shifted the whole matter to Goran, because he (Goran) used to be involved in

these matters in the past and was “familiar with the context”. Goran knew that he

needed at least five days to finalize the report because, among other things, he had

to make a comparative analysis with the countries in the region in order to find

out whether the local salaries were in line with the salaries in the region and, if so,

to what extent. “There goes my vacation”, he said to his colleagues who were

watching him sympathetically and, out of courtesy, offered their assistance.

He phoned his wife and told her not to rush buying sun tanning lotion, because

the vacation was most probably to be postponed. Amazingly, she did not get

upset, but straight away suggested that he should seriously consider the offer

of a job at the bank. On that day, Goran already prepared the huge part of the

report, because he had the most of the material ready on his desk. However, it

was the problem of finding information from the countries in the region that

bothered him. He was browsing the internet, searching the websites of the

various institutions in the region and did not even notice that it was already

half past four. One of the colleagues from the office reminded him that it did not

pay off to work overtime, because it was not payable. Goran laughed and they

went together to the parking lot. On the way to the car, Goran complained to

his colleague that there was no chance for him to finish the report by Monday,

because he simply was not able to obtain the information from the region.


“Why don’t you try to find the answer through the Regional Community of Practitioners?”,

asked the colleague. Goran didn’t know that for already several months,

a group of civil servants had existed who were organized in an informal body,

aimed at assisting each other through the exchange of information, experiences

and lessons learned. Instead of going to the car, Goran returned to the office. He

called his wife and told her that he was going to stay late at work. When she asked

him what was that about, he just shortly replied: “Darling, I am saving Tunisia”.

At the Community’s website, Goran found a lot of useful information. Having

completed the online form, he had become a full member of the Community,

which enabled him through a web forum to ask his colleagues from the region

for all the information he needed. However, he expected the full answers to

arrive at a later point in time. Considering that up to that moment he did not

have any experience with this type of collaboration, Goran went home (for the

second time that day) thinking about whether any of the colleagues from the

region were going to respond. That night, he and his wife entertained guests, so

they decided not to burden their friends with their newly-emerged problem.

The next morning, Goran went for a meeting and was out of the office until

almost half past eleven. When he returned, he straight away checked his e-mail.

He could not believe his eyes. There were 12 messages in the Inbox, received from

his colleagues in the region who had sent the relevant information. Some of

them had even sent the specific documents related to his query. While he was

reading the messages that contained so much information, different experiences

and lessons learned, in his head he already started picturing the situation in the

region. He spent the following two hours writing that “harder” part of the report,

but he was actually only pasting the readily available details provided for him by

his colleagues from the Community. He handed the report to the Secretary at 3

o’clock that afternoon. The Secretary was delighted with the quality, but burning

from the desire to forward the report to the Minister, he forgot to thank Goran.

At home, Goran found his wife on the phone inquiring about the possibilities

for getting back the money they had paid for the vacation in Tunisia.

He took the phone from her and told the lady on the other end of the line

that there was no need for a refund, since indeed they were traveling on

Tuesday for sure. He embraced his puzzled wife and said: “You have no

idea what can be achieved through the Community of Practitioners!”

Remarks: This story is fictional and any similarity with the actual people

or events is purely coincidental.


However, retaining the best people in the civil service has never been

more difficult, especially for civil service structures in the Western

Balkans. On the one hand, today’s civil servants have an unprecedented

access to information which means that they can find new

jobs much quicker. In addition, an old belief which asserts that an

individual should be ‘loyal to his/her organization’ has been replaced

by a new one which holds that an individual ‘should be loyal to his/

her best interest’.

On the other hand, the work in civil service became highly unattractive

because potential candidates perceive it as something highly routine

in nature (not dynamic) with limited promotion opportunities (career

progression) and fixed salaries that completely disregard individual

performance. Such perception is only partially correct because the

ongoing reforms make civil service jobs in the region more dynamic

with civil servants being exposed to the new concepts, methods and

practices almost on daily basis.

Our Community will work on the establishment and affirmation of

human resources management in the respective civil service structures

in the region. We will do that by sharing our information,

ideas, knowledge and experience aimed at strengthening individual

capacities of our members and, in that way, making the respective

institutions better positioned to deliver required results. However,

networking is only one aspect of our HRM centered activities. The

other aspect is linked to concrete projects, products and/or innovations

developed by civil servants for civil servants. We strongly

believe that a combination of activities that involves networking and

project implementation (product launch) will make the HRM reform

more demand driven.

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The History of HRM CoP

Year 2005

• June

UNDP BiH, within its program of Support to Public Administration

Reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina, launched activities to organize the

regional civil service workshop aimed at enabling an effective exchange

of experiences in the area of human resources management. The idea

was first presented to directors of the State and Entity civil service

agencies who expressed their full support.

• July - December

The first draft of the Workshop’s concept paper was developed and shared

with UNDP colleagues in Bratislava Regional Centre and respective country

offices in the region. Valuable inputs were received.

Year 2006

• January - June

Improved concept paper received positive remarks from the key local

and International partners. The organisational Board of the event was

formed consisting of National PAR Coordinator in BiH, directors of the

State and Entity civil service agencies in BiH, the EC Task Manager for

PAR and UNDP BiH representatives. The format of the workshop was

agreed as well as the list of potential participants. CoP paper was

presented to the Board receiving very positive remarks.

• June - August

Technical preparations for the event were in the last phase. Many

prospective participants inquired about the plans for a CoP.


• September

The Workshop took place. Both Mr. Gregor Virant, Slovene Minister

of Public Administration, and Mr. Adnan Terzic, Chairman of the BiH

Council of Ministers, participated as well as regional PAR experts and

senior representatives of the central civil service institutions. Participants

hailed the idea for the establishment of CoP. Some even volunteered

to take an active role like moderating online discussions.

• October - February (2007)

The report from the 1st Workshop was circulated together with

the initial list of prospective CoP members. UNDP BiH pledged to

extend the support for the CoP initiative which was elevated to the

level of project. UNDP BiH approached Mr. Dan Dionisie, PAR Policy

Adviser from UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre, asking him for assistance

in the development of the draft Project Document for CoP.

Mr. Damir Ahmetovic, Chief Technical Advisor for HRM, presented

the initiative in the PAR Conference in Alexandroupolis (Greece)

organized jointly by UNDP BRC and the Greek government.

Mrs. Svetlana Vukovic, Director of the Montenegrin Human

Resources Authority, expressed the interest to host the 2nd Civil

Service Workshop.

Year 2007

• March - May

The first draft of the CoP Project Document was produced (with

Dan’s immense help). UNDP BiH sent Damir for the CoP workshop

organized by BRC for CoP facilitators. BRC decided to come up

with funding for the 2nd Regional Civil Service Workshop. Preparations

were underway for the organization of the 1st CoP Resource

Group Meeting.


• June

The first meeting of the CoP Resource Group was held in Sarajevo.

Representatives from Macedonia and Albania couldn’t make it to the

meeting but they sent emails expressing their full support for the CoP.

Resource Group adopted the vision and goals of the Community and

confirmed that the first CoP meeting will actually take place on the

second day of the Civil Service workshop. Damir Ahmetovic was named

the CoP Coordinator.

• July - October

CoP adopted its new logo which featured alongside UNDP’s logo and

that of the Montenegrin HR Authority on the invitations and other

materials related to the 2nd Civil Service Workshop. UNDP BiH updated

the CoP project Document to address the CoP’s maintenance and

support of fresh initiatives.

In the preparatory phase for the 2nd Civil Service Workshop, CoP Coordinator

participated in two Organisational Board meetings held in

Podgorica in July and August respectively.

A CoP Handbook was developed to familiarize prospective members

about the concept and goals of the CoP.

About the Community

Vision

Strengthening the capacities, at the level of the respective civil service

structures in the Western Balkans, in the area of human resources

management, through the regional coordination, sharing of knowledge,

experiences and lessons learnt.

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Strategic goals

• To strengthen the civil service reform process in the countries of

the Region

• To advocate modernization of human resources management

(HRM) based on actual needs of the respective civil service structures

in the Region

• To pledge for strengthening of the local capacities and engagement

of local experts in the reform process

• To promote reform activities in the area of human resources management

within the public administration

• To affirm the practice of collaboration via CoPs within the countries

in the Region.

Short-term goals (July 2007 - December 2008)

• To establish a functional Community of Practitioners (CoP)

• To promote the work of the Community and to build as-wide-aspossible

base of its members, by the end of June 2008

• To create the CoP Handbook to serve as the promotional material

• To organise the First CoP Meeting proper in September 2008 (20 - 21)

Expectations and hopes for the future

We will stay loyal to the proclaimed Vision but will attempt to be as

action-oriented as possible thus providing an added value in the

process of CS reform in the Region.

The Community aspires to democratize civil service reform by

creating an opportunity for all civil servants to express their views

on the issue of HRM modernization in the civil service.

We will strive on building links with similar CoP’s and other organizations

interested in the HRM reform in the civil service.

We will work hard to gain the trust of the Governments and Donor

Organisations active in the Region and be recognized as a Genuine

Voice of Civil Sevants.

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Who can participate?

HRM CoP is open to civil servants, elected and appointed state officials,

academics, independent experts and others who have an interest in

working towards the modernization of HRM policies and practice in the

region of Western Balkans.

Ways to participate

Participation from members will vary. Some people will emerge as

active in on-line discussions (forums), others will only reply to specific

questions from the fellow members. Some members will be passive

when it comes to discussion but very eager to participate in a specific

activity (e.g. research). Finally, there will always be people who are

happy with being recipients of updates and alerts.

All of the mentioned ways of participation are welcome. We must not

forget that the full potential of our CoP will only be unleashed if all of

us make sure that we contribute in one way or another.

In order to ensure the progress of the CoP, it is necessary to conduct

periodic reviews to check upon the relevance of the main idea behind

the CoP; to reexamine our approach in doing things; to reflect on the

usefulness of our collaboration, etc. These issues would be raised in the

regular Resource Group meetings but any possible alterations in the

way we work will be done through a consultative process involving all

members. In fact, members are welcomed to express their views and

suggestions regarding the CoP’s work at any time.

Four main reasons for you to join our CoP

New sources of support

CoP provides you and other group members with additional

resources that you can use to help you deliver effective services.

This includes targeted professional development activities to meet

specific needs, access to critical information in a timely fashion, and

the opportunity for you to network, exchange ideas and provide

mutual support.

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Professional development

By being an active member you will be able to tap on the knowledge,

experiences and ideas of other members which will raise your own

expertise. Also, we will try to provide our members with some training

opportunities, at later stages of our work, in order to ensure members

have the skills to meet the changing and challenging demands of their

institutions, organizations or departments.

Collaboration with colleagues

You will be able to work closely with others to achieve common goals

and outputs. This can include:

• developing joint position statements and Best Practice Guidelines

• working together to influence strategy, regulation, policy, and practice

to meet the needs of our work

• forging common understandings regarding CoP purposes and goals

• providing common in-house training opportunities, such as workshops

and seminars

Image of your profession

HRM is a rather new concept in the context of public administration in

the Western Balkans. People are yet to realize the difference between

a purely administrative personnel function and a new strategic HRM

function. Consequently, the image of HR professionals is not at the

level it should be. You can help to raise the profile of HRM profession

by publicising the CoP’s activities and results.

How do I join?

Send an email to: skovac@undp.ba and we will send an electronic

Membership form for you to fill-in. You can also complete an on-line

form by going to our website: www.hrmcop.undp.ba

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