The Board: Millennials or Not?

Intuitively, most CEOs recognize the need to have Millennials on Boards. However, one should make an informed decision regarding inclusion. In doing so, you might consider following benefits and risks.

Benefits
Financial Sense: Adding Millennials is smart business because it can result in membership growth and program participation growth. Even if the Millennials aren’t currently making membership decisions (for example, in a trade association environment), they will be making future membership decisions. The positive impact on program participation is two fold: Millennial input can ensure programming is relevant to this cohort and they will engage in word of mouth promotion, albeit via social media.

Diversity: Millennials bring a different perspective to Board conversations and their insights will enrich the dialogue. However, the benefits of diversity are only realized if you focus on inclusion; ultimately, it is the organization’s responsibility to ensure that all Board members, Millennials included, feel welcome and are comfortable making contributions.

Relevancy: Millennials can provide immediate feedback regarding a large segment of the market place. This is especially important considering that older Board members’ needs are often different than the needs of the greater membership. Of course, Millennial participation is no substitute for being data driven.

Leadership Development: There are two primary leadership development benefits: preparing Millennials as future leaders and further developing current (older) Board members. Of course, to take full advantage of potential leadership development benefits, you must do more than simply elect Millennials; thought should be given to how you are going to structure their involvement in a manner Millennials could learn from older Board members and the older Board members could learn from Millennials.

Risks
Financial Risk: Often Millennials aren’t in a position to commit significant dollars. If your organization’s Board is expected to support programming, financially or otherwise, replacing senior Board members Millennials could have a negative financial impact.

Alienation: Adding Millennials could potentially alienate older Board members. This could be due to different priorities between younger and older members or due to a belief held by older members that they have “earned” their seat on the Board through a lifetime of work.

CEO Recruitment Challenges: As CEOs consider Board participation, many consider the prominence of the other Board members. Having too few prominent senior executives may make it difficult to recruit CEOs and other senior executives.

It is not so much a question of including or not including Millennials, but how to best include Millennials to further the mission of your organization, ensure relevancy and manage for any potential risks of including Millennials. In doing so, you should consider the culture of your organization and what, if any, diversity and inclusion training might be needed with your current Board before recruiting Millennial Board members. Further, you should identify any potential risks and take appropriate steps to mitigate those risks. Likewise, you should engage in practices that amplify the benefits of Millennial Board participation.

What do you think the risks and benefits are of Millennial Board members? What have you done that worked or didn’t work related to Millennial Board involvement?

Of course, as you consider generational engagement, you can’t only think about Millennials. The Digital Natives are fast approaching. Click here to subscribe to my blog and get my upcoming article on Digital Natives.

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