Skillsets, Coordinative Capabilities, and Employment Outcomes in the Us Civil Service

Joshua R. Bruce (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

Abstract: When and why are some skillsets more valuable than others? This paper addresses the role of skillsets as bundles of coordinative capabilities in the US civil service. Building on recent advances in personnel economics and studies of knowledge in team performance, this paper theorizes the role of skillsets in employment outcomes by stressing the value to employers of employees best suited to coordination roles in their organizations. A novel method for skillset identification is introduced, leveraging the availability of job documentation and natural language processing software. After identifying employees’ skillsets and skill-based linkages among coworkers, panel regression models of 2.7 million person-year records, covering a subset of federal employees between 1979 and 2014, indicate that civil servants best positioned to coordinate workplace tasks are more highly compensated. Furthermore, this effect is found to depend in part on the complexity of the organization in which civil servants work. As organizational complexity (i.e., need for coordinative capabilities) increases, so too does the magnitude of later salary growth. Limitations of the analysis are discussed, as well as future directions for research on the nature of work, employment, mobility, and organizational performance.