A new age of enlightenment for boards

Getting in the heads of the younger generation, talking in a language they speak and generally honing in on all those hot buttons that get them charged up, passionate, excited and engaged seems to be a perennial moan among people of our generation.

And, doubtless, the generations before, when confronted by we baby-boomers back in our salad days…and before our time too, probably all the way back to when Adam was a boy.

What’s more, it’s a challenge that goes way beyond the confines of the dinner table or social circuit discussions of the more mature generation and is increasingly being played out at board level, both in the corporate and not-for-profit sectors.

The more astute boards, even when comprising mostly elderly gentlemen, are fast coming to appreciate that diversity makes sense – and cents – on every level.

And just as they are now looking to a greater gender spread across the board, so too are they grappling with how best to tackle the age imbalance.

After all, research has shown time and again that well-managed board diversity produces better results than you’d get in a mono-dimensional environment.

The dynamics of the discussion in the boardroom and the quality of decision-making improves. The range of issues canvassed increases and includes usefully different perspectives, while innovation abounds and the wants and needs of all market sectors are understood and considered.

And best of all in the competitive corporate world, profits soar.

I was interested, then, to learn earlier this year that there’s an organisation in Australia doing some pretty neat stuff in this space, preparing younger skilled individuals for board positions.

The not-for-profit Jewish Care Victoria’s inaugural Board Foundations program, Yesod – meaning ‘foundations’ in Hebrew – was launched last year and aims to engage a younger generation of advocates and supporters.

In so doing, it hopes to attract and involve a more diverse range of community members in the organisation’s leadership.

Packaged in partnership with the Australian Institute of Company Directors, the 10-month program leaves participants with a solid understanding of the professional duties and responsibilities of not-for-profit board directors via a mix of, among others, interactive workshops, governance training and a mentoring module.

On a more practical level, they’re also called upon to prepare board papers and materials and participate in one board meeting during the year.

One of the participants, law graduate Romy Grace, said the initiative highlighted how millennials, when given the opportunity, will quickly gain invaluable insights and understanding regarding the complex issues facing not-for-profit organisations and experience first-hand the challenging and rewarding nature of governance and leadership.

“Organisations that can successfully engage a diverse and often younger network are more likely to remain relevant and sustainable going forward,” she said.

We will leave the final word to Jewish Care CEO Bill Appleby who put it rather succinctly when he said:

“When young people’s opinions are sought and valued in decision-making, it’s not just the organisation that benefits. These experiences have the potential to positively impact on the entire community, creating a strong, cohesive and connected community. ”

Until next time,

Kate.

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