The Implementation of Welfare Reform Policy: The Role of Public Managers in Front-Line Practices



This study examines the extent to which staff in local welfare systems have embraced new welfare reform goals and, if so, the extent to which local management practices contribute to the alignment of staff priorities with policy objectives. It looks at agency structure and several aspects of public management from a microperspective that prior research has linked to agency performance including training, performance monitoring, staff resources, leadership characteristics, and personnel characteristics. The research indicates that front-line workers in welfare offices continue to believe that traditional eligibility determination concerns are the most important goals at their agencies. It also finds that management practices and the structuring of agency responsibilities matter: To the extent that public managers want to redirect local staff to focus their attention on the new goals associated with welfare reform, they can create the conditions under which staff have clear signals about what is expected and could provide them with the resources and incentives to realign their priorities.