Much has been said about the need for more diversity in corporate boards. With the way innovations in technology are fast reshaping markets, companies need to have visionary directors on their side to help them cope with changing demands.
These visionary directors are often young, tech-savvy, and have experiences in startups as founders or early employees. They’re digital natives, the label for people born or raised in the age of digital technology. They learned about computers and the Internet as they were growing up, so they’re comfortable with technology and all its rapid changes. Their experiences may still be limited compared to those of traditional directors, but they bring a fresh perspective in an otherwise homogenous corporate board.
But recruiting digital natives as directors to add diversity is simply the first step toward building a more effective corporate board. There should be a follow-through that includes engaging these new members. Considering that a typical corporate board is still composed of older directors, there’s a need for the younger directors to find their footing. Also, the gap in experience and generation can be an obstacle to fruitful collaboration. If companies are not diligent with their follow-through, they may end up with a diverse yet disconnected board.
To prevent this from happening, the orientation of these younger directors should begin from the moment they join. It’s best to partner them up with a seasoned director so that someone will show them the ropes and serve as their mentor. This will help them be assimilated into the board culture as quickly as possible. In return, seasoned directors will have the opportunity to learn more about new innovations and digital strategies that can affect the company. It’s a beneficial arrangement for both seasoned and younger directors in terms of gaining valuable knowledge and forming solid professional relationships.
Another area younger directors may need more help with is corporate governance. They may know everything there is to know about the latest tech trends, but they may have only a bare-bones knowledge of the basic governance laws. Before they can start making crucial decisions for the company they’re representing, they need to be trained in this aspect. There are several corporate governance training programs they can enroll in to prepare them for their critical role as a board director.
But even though these younger directors initially lack the skills they need in corporate governance, their ideas can still be used right away for the next board meeting. Again, partnering them up with seasoned directors will prove to be beneficial for this purpose. Younger directors and seasoned directors can collaborate on a board meeting agenda that’s focused on technological strategies and issues. To further close the gap between this diverse mix of directors, it’s advisable that they use a board portal software or a corporate governance software like Convene to enable digital collaboration. An electronic board meeting held on an iPad or Android device may be a novel idea to some seasoned directors, but younger directors can help them with the transition from paper-based board meetings to paperless ones.
Creating a heterogeneous board is a process that starts with recruitment and ends with … well, never. And that’s the beauty of board diversity. There’s always a change, but it’s always a learning opportunity for all directors.