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Results control in the public sector raises motivation and performance

15 January 2019
Paula Van Veen-Dirks

Using results to manage and control public sector employees appears to have a positive effect. So-called ‘results control’ increases extrinsic motivation among staff and improves the department’s overall performance. These are the conclusions of Professor Paula van Veen-Dirks and Professor Henk ter Bogt from the University of Groningen and Professor Berend van der Kolk (IE University Madrid), based on research carried out among staff working in 105 public affairs departments in Dutch municipalities. Their conclusions have been published in the scientific journal European Accounting Review.

The duties of the civil servants being studied included issuing passports, amending the municipal register and speaking directly with residents. The researchers claim that managers working in the public sector would do well to clarify, communicate and monitor the results that they desire. This refers to aspects such as production figures, customer evaluations and specific quality expectations.

All positive

Van Veen-Dirks: ‘Our findings about the positive impact of results control are interesting in the light of the discussion about New Public Management, in which results control plays an important role. Although we are often warned about the negative impact of results control in the public sector, this research shows that the effects on motivation and performance are all positive. We noted a positive impact on extrinsic motivation and no impact (i.e. not negative) on intrinsic motivation.’

Motivating leadership: what works best?

The research showed that in addition to extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation among staff can also have a positive impact on the department's performance. Van Veen-Dirks and her colleagues discovered that the intrinsic motivation of public sector employees can be influenced by the management control system in place. Whereas extrinsic motivation is largely stimulated by results control, cultural and personnel control appear to be the best ways to influence intrinsic motivation. Cultural control involves focusing on common organizational goals and stimulating mutual feedback, and personnel control implies providing training courses and encouraging self-management among staff.

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Last modified:16 January 2019 3.23 p.m.
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