The Effect of Organizational Reputation on Public Employees’ Retention: How to Win the “War for Talent” in Constitutional Autonomous Agencies in Mexico

Published date01 December 2023
AuthorEdgar O. Bustos
Date01 December 2023
Subject MatterArticles
Review of Public Personnel Administration
2023, Vol. 43(4) 794 –822
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0734371X221130973
The Effect of Organizational
Reputation on Public
Employees’ Retention: How
to Win the “War for Talent”
in Constitutional Autonomous
Agencies in Mexico
Edgar O. Bustos1
Retaining valuable employees is a critical task for public organizations to present
themselves as competent and efficient to their multiple audiences. However, despite
the importance of staff mobility dynamics for public organizations, retention is an
issue that has not been thoroughly studied in human resource management research.
In the case of Mexico, retaining the most valuable staff is becoming more difficult
because its public administration is characterized by corruption and patronage. The
article argues that reputation sustains a reciprocity exchange between employees
and employers, which is reflected in longterm labor relationships. Using a survey
of employees of five Constitutional Autonomous Agencies in Mexico, the article
shows that having a positive reputation is a crucial factor for public employees when
deciding whether to stay or leave their jobs. The findings imply that building and
maintaining a positive reputation must be relevant for public managers because of its
implications for HRM.
retention, organizational reputation, reputation management, social, exchange,
turnover/organizational mobility
1Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, Aguascalientes, Mexico
Corresponding Author:
Edgar O. Bustos, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, Circuito Tecnopolo Norte 117,
Aguascalientes 20313, Mexico.
1130973ROPXXX10.1177/0734371X221130973Review of Public Personnel AdministrationBustos
Bustos 795
A crucial task for human resource management (HRM) in public organizations is to
retain1 valuable employees—those who are considered to provide organizations with
a competitive advantage (Redondo et al., 2021). In a setting where public jobs are
scarce resources and the demand for high expertise employees increases (Chordiya et
al., 2017; Llorens et al., 2018), recruiting, training, and developing staff is costly, and
turnover becomes expensive and disruptive (Cardy & Lengnick-Hall, 2011; Grotto et
al., 2017). Furthermore, turnover is significant because it lowers public services’ qual-
ity and stability (Mor Barak et al., 2001). The growing competition for valuable, expe-
rienced, and qualified employees—not only between public and private organizations
but also among public organizations—is becoming more intense every day, causing a
“war for talent” (Meaney & Keller, 2017).
According to the OECD (Äijälä, 2001), the public sector is not well-paid compared
to the private sector; the public sector’s image is not positive and therefore is not
attractive to future candidates; merit systems are unreliable, and HRM practices are
insufficient for staff development. These factors lead public agencies to have problems
retaining their most valuable employees. So, how do public organizations retain their
most qualified and experienced employees in the middle of this “war?”
Organizational reputation is a vital asset that influences retention in public organi-
zations (Arnold et al., 2003; Carpenter, 2001, p. 29; Huang & Provan, 2007, p. 438).
However, the implications of organizational reputation have not been thoroughly dis-
cussed in HRM research in the public sector (Wæraas & Dahle, 2020). Particularly,
there is a gap in the literature concerning the empirical relationship between reputation
and the retention of public employees; studies that have addressed retention issues in
the public sector drawing on reputation theory are conceptual proposals that have not
tested this relationship empirically (e.g., Bankins & Waterhouse, 2019). Thus, this
article aims to fill this gap in the literature by examining the relationship between
organizational reputation and the retention of public employees. It argues that organi-
zational reputation influence on public employees’ decisions is critical when evaluat-
ing whether to stay or leave their jobs.
This article contributes to the literature and practice of HRM and organizational
reputation in several ways. First, this study argues organizational reputation is an
intangible asset with various impacts on HRM practices (e.g., Dahle, 2022; Larsen &
Vesan, 2012; Lee & Zhang, 2021; Wæraas & Dahle, 2020). Particularly, the study
shows that the perception of public employees about their organizations helps explain
their intentions to stay or not in their organizations; employees who perceive a better
reputation in their organizations are more likely to stay in their jobs. This argument is
complementary to the public service motivation (PSM) perspective (Cho & Perry,
2012; Perry, 1997; Perry & Wise, 1990) as this work demonstrates that reputation is an
intangible asset that motivates public employees to sustain long-term employment
relationships. Drawing on organizational reputation scholarship, this article considers
organizational reputation a set of perceptions of internal and external audiences regard-
ing the public organization’s past actions and current performance (Capelos et al., 2016;
Carpenter, 2010; Christensen & Lodge, 2018; Wæraas & Byrkjeflot, 2012).

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