Empowerment and human capital utilization deficit in public sector organizations: Gulf states in comparative perspective

Date of Completion

January 2005


Business Administration, Management|Political Science, General|Political Science, Public Administration




This study of bureaucracy and organizational leadership behavior examined the strategic importance of power-influence sharing (participation) and organizational culture to human capital resource utilization and organizational effectiveness in work organizations. The analysis is based on a recent survey of Saudi public administrators (n = 390). The findings expose a disturbing “competence utilization-empowerment deficit” in the public sector. The most significant outcome of participatory decision making is a reduction in underutilization of competence and thus the attainment of cost-effective human resource development. Both participation and skill utilization were significant predicators of job satisfaction, effectiveness of decision-making, and predictability and acceptability of new policy changes. Under favorable conditions, this may lead to more effective public organizations and contribute to good governance. ^ At the same time, the study depicted a slight shift in managerial values and attitudes towards modern management and democratic institutions. This may be consistent with the theory of an emerging trend leading to a more international convergence of managerial values as suggested by universalist-convergence hypotheses. Contrary to previous studies conducted in the Middle East, the data demonstrates that respondents have greater interest in and support for participation and involvement in decision making than the popular system of consultation provides. This might coincide with improvement in management training and knowledge acquisition, growing role of private sector, and local management exposure to workings of modern and global management. ^ The implications for institutional modernization and policy human capital development are profound. The effectiveness of human capital and management development is related to effective practices and structures that support de-concentration of power-authority and knowledge-skill utilization necessary for improved performance. The problem in many institutions may not be the lack of skills/capabilities, but the absence of appropriate mechanisms to utilize them. Without such important utilization schemes, investments in capacity development do little to improve organizational performance and (sustainable) administrative development. At advanced stages of capacity development, it is essential for modernizing bureaucracies to increase influenceinformation sharing found to enhance the recognition and utilization of workforce's skills and capabilities and the effectiveness/success of decision making. Without changes in bureaucratic culture and structures, additional development and knowledge building might prove inadequate and largely irrelevant to performance improvements and institutional modernization. ^