Managing employee performance in transition economies: A study of Vietnamese public organizations

Date01 May 2019
AuthorEvan Berman,Geoff Plimmer,Meghna Sabharwal,Tai Anh Vu
Published date01 May 2019
Managing employee performance in transition economies: A
study of Vietnamese public organizations
Tai Anh Vu
|Geoff Plimmer
|Evan Berman
|Meghna Sabharwal
School of Management, Victoria University of
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
School of Government, Victoria University of
Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand
College of Social Sciences, National Chengchi
University, Taipei, Taiwan
School of Economic, Political and Policy
Sciences, The University of Texas, Dallas
Evan Berman, Victoria University of
Wellington, Level 8, Rutherford House,
Wellington 6011, New Zealand.
Employee performance management (PM) is a public sector reform that furthers
development objectives by increasing employee performance, aligning employee
efforts with organizational goals, and addressing poor performance. This study dis-
cusses employee PM in development contexts. Based on varied employee PM efforts
in Vietnamese public organizations, it finds that (a) advanced employee PM practices
significantly increase perceived organizational and employee outcomes compared
with less advanced employee PM practices, and that (b) executive accountability,
Human resource (HR) autonomy and entrepreneurial leadership are strongly associ-
ated with successful implementation of employee PM. This article provides detailed
description of employee PM practices and suggests implications for implementing
public sector reforms in transitional settings.
employee performance management, human resources management, public leadership, public
sector reform, Vietnam
Public employee performance is a frequent target of public sector
reforms in developing countries. Notwithstanding many hardworking
and exemplary public employees; employee passivity, irresponsibility,
corruption, poor performance, and low work ethic are also common,
and these are seen as impeding economic and social development
goals (Ho & Im, 2015; Taylor, 1992). Although past employee perfor-
mance reforms have targeted selection, appraisal, and discipline, and
have provided some changes to performance rewards, agreement
exists that the above employee problems persist (Berman, 2015; Tong,
Straussman, & Broadnax, 1999). Improving employee performance has
proven difficult in both developing and developed countries, indeed
(e.g., de Waal & Counet, 2009; Haines & StOnge, 2012). In the past
decade, employee performance management (PM) has been discussed
as a further public sector reform in this area. Employee PM is defined
as a continuous process of goal setting, evaluation, feedback, and pro-
vision of consequences (Kinicki, Jacobson, Peterson, & Prussia, 2013;
Ohemeng, 2009). Described in further detail below, employee PM
describes a reform that is multifacetted and which varies in degree.
Employee PM is used in support of varied organizational reform objec-
tives such as improved public service delivery, increased efficiency,
improved transparency, and upgraded organizational capacities such
as for innovation.
This study examines practices of employee PM in transitional
settings. Specifically, it addresses two research questions: (a) How are
different types of employee PM associated with employee attitudes
and organizational performance? and (b) How do contextual factors
affect the use of employee PM? Our data is from public sector settings
in Vietnam, which has allowed public organizations to experiment with
employee PM. Study methods include a survey and interviews of
employees and managers in 29 Vietnamese agencies and departments.
This study increases our understanding of public sector reforms in
transitional countries. First, it shows how the development context
affects these reforms. Prior studies show that flawed legal systems,
poor management capacity, and cultural characteristics of some devel-
opmental settings may cause employee PM to fail (e.g., De Waal
2007; Ohemeng 2009). This study examines how reform contexts
of executive accountability, entrepreneurial leadership, autonomy,
and HR competency, discussed in other studies, affect these reforms
Received: 6 April 2018 Revised: 4 October 2018 Accepted: 5 March 2019
DOI: 10.1002/pad.1850
Public Admin Dev. 2019;39:89103. © 2019 John Wiley & Sons, 89

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