Although the body of research and practice on HR management in private sector organisations has grown at an astonishing pace in recent years, much less is known about the nature, role and meaning of a strategic HR department within public sector organisations undergoing commercialisation. This article addresses this gap by exploring the changing role of the HR function within a British public sector organisation responding to the New Labour government's 'modernisation' agenda. The findings are based on in-depth interviews, focus groups, analysis of documentary evidence and observations carried out over a period of two years. Drawing on role-set theory and concepts of negotiated order, the study sheds light on the factors that support or hinder the shift towards a more strategic role for the function and suggests a number of conclusions and implications for both theorists and practitioners.
strategic human resource management role of the HR function organisational change public sector