The news that the government has created an industry task force to address the issue of employee motivation, dwindling in the face of rising inflation, taxation and lower actual salaries, got me thinking.

Firstly the idea that government has a place in employee motivation. Sure, government does have a role in creating the conditions which make business a success and in protecting the rights of employees and employers.

But is ensuring employee motivation really an area where government should have a voice? Sure, it’s an issue of great importance for productivity and competitiveness. But at what point do we draw the line between regulatory influence and day to day management and leadership?

The second piece that got me thinking was the list of companies that will be participating in this task force. I was so struck that I shared the list with some colleagues to see what they thought. One said, ‘it’s a bit old school isn’t it?’

Judge for yourselves:

Alex Lewis, HR director, BAE Systems
Stephen Lehane, HR director, Boots
Sue Round, learning and development director, British Gas
Alex Wilson, group HR director, BT
Katja Hall, chief policy director, CBI
Doug Mclldowie, group HR director, GKN
Angie Risley, group HR director, Lloyds
Tanith Dodge, HR director, Marks & Spencer
Jacki Connor, director of customer service, Sainsbury’s
Geoff Lloyd, HR director, Serco Group

Now I don’t have anything against this group of companies being involved. They are all big, impressive businesses. Two feature in the Sunday Times top 25 big companies to work for (Boots and British Gas).

I only worry that this list is perhaps woefully narrow, and even potentially narrow-minded? All long-established, large, generally listed, mostly British businesses.

Does the government not think that SMEs have anything to say about motivating employees?

And that there isn’t more that we can learn from overseas businesses?

I’ve always found people who work at Google are amazingly engaged. And that pretty much goes for the folks at Apple too. The company I wrote about last time, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, also has a buzzing workforce. Meanwhile, some newly established companies like Zappos have completely rethought the employee model to create unprecendented engagement (and customer service too).

So why does the government always turn to the usual suspects?

Incidentally, these companies are also very male-dominated at board level, with only 18% women on their boards.

Would there not be value in selecting at least one company with a woman CEO? They say it does lead to a different type of engagement.

Fact is, I think I’m looking at this all wrong. I think this is a group of similar businesses who share a problem – employee motivation – and who probably attend many of the same networking groups. As a result of this, at one of these networking events, one of them probably said, why don’t we convene as a task force to try and sort this out? And why don’t we seek approval from government to lend our initiative more authority?

Then government, under fire for the current economic conditions which are squeezing the life blood of the UK workforce, decides not just to lend its endorsement but actually to take ownership for the task force as its own baby.

At least I hope that’s how this task force came about. Because otherwise I really despair of a government that places so little value on the opinions of so many businesses who are just as well placed to contribute to this debate.