What do you think of the Department of Trade and Industry? It would be useful to hear about HR's experiences of the department whose mission is to work with business, staff and consumers to drive up productivity and competitiveness.
It is all too easy to take a pop at faceless government departments and the DTI has had its critics - from the small business community, to the Institute of Directors and the unions. And in the past, the HR profession has also been vociferous with complaints that it is slow to deliver, and that over-regulation creates too much bureaucracy and stifles development.
In this issue, we question what the DTI is achieving, and take a considered view of its role in a bid to further the debate. We conclude that the DTI is having a bit of an identity crisis, and is far from convincing as a driver of change or even as a support mechanism for business.
Some may consider this a harsh assessment for a department that's had a succession of good leaders and some brilliant civil servants within its powerbase. But the problem lies in the lack of clarity of its role and frustration over the way it communicates. As Professor Michael Porter recently said, the future is about a collaborative effort between business and the Government, not one side calling the shots.
HR is on the DTI's radar screen at last, and is viewed as a vital partner. There are definite signals that Patricia Hewitt's department recognises the value of people management to growing the economy. Several new initiatives - from Porter's productivity study, to the Higgs report on non-executive directors - suggest her team has grasped that HR is critical to the competitiveness challenge.
The most resounding endorsement of HR so far is probably the latest DTI announcement of a taskforce to provide solid performance benchmarks and guidance on how organisations can meaningfully account for their human capital assets. It is disappointing that only one HR professional - Patti Bellinger from BP - has been invited to join this working party, but let's not be churlish.
The DTI is clearly at a crossroads in its relationship with HR, and we watch its progress with interest. Let us know what you think - send your comments, views, and experiences of the DTI to [email protected]