[VIEWPOINT]How to manage employees badly

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[VIEWPOINT]How to manage employees badly

Public workers have joined in a chorus of criticism over how the government is managing human resources. A Seoul district court judge has condemned the evaluation criteria for the promotion of judges. An assistant minister for planning and management at the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries has said that the government should grant autonomy to various ministries and administrative departments in staffing and budgeting, attacking current practices as "following the precedence which is characteristic of a militaristic culture." I have concluded that the government is following old practices, full of contradictions in dealing with human resources, and that these problems cannot be ignored.

The judge's point is that the hierarchy of the court, which is based on a grading system, is a source of enormous shame and frustration for the judges. The evaluations, scored to one 100th of a point from the beginning of an appointment, are used to decide whether judges will stay in Seoul or be sent to other provinces. Judges are placed, in descending order, in administrative, civil and criminal courts. The civil court hierarchy is further divided into judges who handle cases involving large amounts of money and those who handle cases involving smaller amounts. The initial ranking follows them throughout their career, and even when they go mountain hiking, they are said to climb in the order of their rank. Surprisingly, the judiciary body opposes efforts to modernize its organization, building an entity where rank is less important.

Passing government exams to enter the civil service is not very different from what is required to enter the judiciary. The criteria for assignment are based on grades: Candidates receive points from their second stage government exam and from the training period at central and local centers and additional points for military service, with a maximum score of 202 points. Except for the government exam, the way points are assigned is the same: points for military training, job training, and individual preference for work location each account for 30 percent. Attitude at work accounts for 10 percent. Indivi-dual preference for location and attitude are meaningless. The location grade is based on the place of their military service, and candidates receive full score for attitude unless they miss the two-day job training session.

Such staffing methods may seem normal. Assigning people based on grades is not the best way, but this is a byproduct of the irresponsibility of the bureaucracy and opportunistic ideas.

Candidates for judge or prosecutor may prefer civil law or criminal law. If there are candidates who passed the government exams for administrative officer and who majored in linguistics, religion or the arts, they would be suitable for employment at the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Engineering school graduates would be best suited for the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy.

Placing medical professionals in military positions poses no problem. Young graduates fresh from medical schools must have higher scores than doctors with years of experience and thus have priority in appointments. In a word, assigning positions in the order of exam results does not use human resources efficiently.

I have pointed out on numerous occasions inconsistencies in the personnel system, which prioritizes public workers for appointment based merely on grades. I have proposed that the government use more sophisticated measures. It is more rational for employers to make decisions on appointments after they explain what workers can and must do and why these rules must hold regardless of grades, as is done in Japan.

Placement of medical professionals in the health centers should be based on the needs of hospitals, regional demand, specialty and clearly declared preferences rather than grades. Staffing based solely on grades can lead to inefficiency. Assigning personnel regardless of specialty and ability cannot fully capitalize on valuable human resources and can only mean underutilization of the workforce, which is wasteful. Government should no longer rely on bureaucratic, opportunistic ideas and uniformity in staffing. It must find new criteria suited for each ministry so that staffing promotes specialization across the board.


The writer is the chairman of the Civil Service Commission.

by Kim Kwang-woong

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