Human Capital Drivers of Employee Intent to Innovate: The Case of Public Procurement Professionals

Published date01 December 2023
AuthorAna-Maria Dimand,Sawsan Abutabenjeh,Evelyn Rodriguez-Plesa,Mohamad G. Alkadry,Susannah Bruns Ali
Date01 December 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2023, Vol. 43(4) 727 –753
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X221123294
Human Capital Drivers
of Employee Intent to
Innovate: The Case of Public
Procurement Professionals
Ana-Maria Dimand1, Sawsan Abutabenjeh2,
Evelyn Rodriguez-Plesa3, Mohamad G. Alkadry4,
and Susannah Bruns Ali5
Innovation is often promoted as the path to overcoming the burdens of bureaucratic
organizations and fostering improved service to the public. In a moment where
governments face dynamic administrative and policy challenges, there is great need
for leveraging innovative ideas from public sector employees. What is less clear
are which factors of employee human capital correlate with feeling encouraged
to innovate. We test how three types of human capital influence innovation:
organization level, industry specific, and individual specific human capital. We also
explore whether there are differences in feeling encouraged to innovate linked
to education, training, and demographics such as gender, race, and age. Using
survey responses from 2,191 public procurement officers from various levels of
government in the United States, we find human capital components including
experience, and age correlate with feeling encouraged to innovate, though not
always in expected ways.
human capital theory, gender, race, education, age, innovation
1Boise State University, Boise, USA
2Mississippi State University, Starkville, USA
3North Carolina Central University, Durham, USA
4University of Connecticut, Hartford, USA
5Florida International University, Miami, USA
Corresponding Author:
Ana-Maria Dimand, Boise State University, 1910 University Dr., MS 1935, Boise, ID 83725-1935, USA.
1123294ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X221123294Review of Public Personnel AdministrationDimand et al.
728 Review of Public Personnel Administration 43(4)
Organizations have the potential to serve as incubators of innovation. The success and
often survival of an organization is contingent on its ability to adapt to changing envi-
ronments through innovation. While there is no consensus on the definition for inno-
vation (De Vries et al., 2016), it generally occurs when new ideas or processes are
adopted for the first time by an organization (Fernandez & Moldogaziev, 2013; Krause,
2011; Walker, 2014). Merits of innovation can include stimulating job creation, sup-
porting different national strategies and driving growth and development (Casier,
2018), improvement of public service delivery (Brimhall, 2021), increase in trust,
legitimacy, and efficiency in public organizations (Demircioglu, 2021a). New public
management (NPM) reforms have emphasized the importance of innovation for orga-
nizational performance (Bartos, 2003; Breul & Kamensky, 2008; Gore, 1993;
Kamensky, 1996; Kettl, 2005; Pollitt & Bouckaert, 2004; as cited by Fernandez &
Moldogaziev, 2013). Challenging times, where governments confront health and eco-
nomic crises that demand tremendous resources while struggling to maintain their tax
base, make performance and innovation even more central. After over 40 years of
hearing that government is the problem and not the solution, the ability of government
to innovate in ways that responds to the needs of the people is fundamental. Citizens’
faith in government can be enhanced with increasing performance (Yang & Holzer,
2006). As revealed by the COVID-19 global pandemic, innovation is critical in this
endeavor (Patrucco et al., 2022).
While scholars often examine innovation at the organizational level, the mix of
competencies, lived experiences, characteristics, and motivations of the individuals
within the organization also drive innovation activity (Demircioglu, 2020; Suzuki &
Demircioglu, 2019; Østergaard et al., 2011). Often, new knowledge and ideas are
developed in the context of a complex social system in an organization, where the dif-
ferent types of individual knowledge come into play (Woodman et al., 1993; Østergaard
et al., 2011). Innovations are driven by people. Thus, the characteristics and capabili-
ties of individuals within an organization are important factors for understanding and
advancing innovation (Demircioglu, 2020; Gullmark, 2021). This applies to public
procurement officials who face various barriers to innovation adoption, including
human capital (Casier, 2018).
The public procurement function has also been transformed from a simple admin-
istrative task into an innovation tool (Abutabenjeh, 2021; Trammell et al., 2020).
Public procurement is no longer a field that values mere adherence to policies and
procedures as competence. Innovation has increasingly become more critical to the
procurement function as a procedural instrument that may be utilized to achieve sec-
ondary policy goals (e.g., environmental protection, social equity, etc.) (Alkadry et al.,
2019; Demircioglu & Vivona, 2021). Additionally, by increasing demand for innova-
tion, public procurement can be a substantive instrument for governments to spur mar-
ket innovation (Demircioglu & Vivona, 2021; Edler & Georghiou, 2007). The role of
public procurement in innovation became very clear during the COVID-19 crisis.
Suddenly, governments faced urgent need for goods and services while supplies were

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