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Transitioning from Executive to the Boardroom – 6 key factors to consider

In my regular meetings with business leaders from the financial services sector, we nearly always discuss their ongoing challenges for the recruitment and retention of key staff. In this context it can seem inappropriate to discuss their own career plans in the same conversation, especially if it means leaving their current employer.

So, when I invited those same executives to discuss adding ‘Board Director’ to their career accomplishments at a Slade Executive Boardroom Lunch, I wasn’t surprised that spaces at the table filled quickly.

Led by experienced Director and Boardroom consultant, Nicholas Barnett, we discussed Australian boardrooms now and moving into the future.

While Boards are still heavily populated with older white males who have been approached directly through their own network, we are definitely seeing changes to this long established practice. More progressive Boards are recognising the value of greater diversity amongst Directors, challenging gender, generational and sociocultural norms. Nor are successful companies promoting diversity simply to achieve compliance or a feel good factor. Numerous studies have shown that best results are achieved where there is greater diversity in the Board of Directors and Executive team. The Australian Institute of Company Directors publishes regular research and reports on board diversity.

Board recruitment processes are changing too. Nicholas, through his company InSync, is regularly being engaged by Board Chairs to undertake Board reviews to identify strengths and capability gaps. From these reviews new Directors are being appointed. Yes, the traditional networks are still prevalent, however, we’re encouraged to see that the trend towards a structured and independent recruitment process for Board positions, facilitated by engaging external consultants such as an Executive Search firm, is becoming standard practice.

If you’re considering adding a board role to your executive responsibilities or transitioning your career to the Boardroom, here are the key factors to consider:

 

  • Board positions are highly competitive. According to Nicholas, the number of people interested in joining a Board has increased significantly, whilst the number of roles has remained largely unchanged over the last ten years. Therefore, you must be able to articulate what you can bring to the Boardroom and how you can make a positive contribution.

 

 

  • As in any role you’ve had in your career, you will be more engaged within an industry or company that you are passionate about. Your network or an Executive Search consultant can help you to identify suitable organisations that align with your interests, as well as your knowledge and experience.

 

 

  • Do your due diligence. You want to be part of an effective Board, and Boardroom culture is often set by the Chairperson. Insist on meeting other directors, as well as the Chair, to evaluate whether others are engaged.

 

 

  • A Board position involves a significant time commitment – can you fit it in with your other responsibilities?

 

 

  • If it’s your first time looking for a Board role, consider Not-For-Profits or unpaid roles, keeping in mind that many NFPs have high profile Board members who have a number of Directorships. Over time, opportunities to be considered for Corporate Board positions may present through this wider network.

 

 

  • Don’t leave it until you are at the end of your executive career. Consider your first Board appointment in parallel with your current role to see if it’s really for you. While establishing a track record as a Director, you’ll build a network of fellow Directors, which can lead to a growing portfolio of Directorships as you wind down your executive career.

 

What are your key considerations for a boardroom position?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

The 5 things keeping Senior Executives awake are not what you might think

What happens when you bring together a group of Australia’s top business leaders to consider the big issues? Current media headlines would have you think the TPP, China FTA, a lumpy economy, risk, governance, or the AUD would be front of mind.

In fact the headline challenges turn out to be multi-generational workforce management, the link between organisational culture and productivity, immigration, regional development, and security – both information and personal.

Economic growth, fresh political leadership and national security also featured in the discussion hosted by TRANSEARCH International Australia.

Less publicised issues also got a good hearing around the table; the debate from the over 50s corner heated up when the conversation focused on understanding the work expectations of the next generation: “We have a young team in their 20s… they’re so distracted by what’s on their phone!” and “Young women are driven, they are totally underestimated. They’re probably going to shock us all…” (46% of the participants at the TRANSEARCH Boardroom Lunch were women).

Are we too complacent about our security? Cyber security and bio security were perceived to be greater threats for Australia than brutal terrorism. The feeling around the boardroom table was that we are well protected but complacent.  Two CEOs with insider knowledge feel that at best we’re well protected, at worst we’re living in a fool’s paradise, blind to the Dark Side. A security expert amongst the group highlighted that executive protection is also soft in Australia: executives could be held for ransom as is common in other parts of the world. There’s also a very fine line between genuine concerns about security and those motivated by pitching fear based on xenophobia and racism.

A stable economic environment may have benefited professionals, but our group was careful to consider opportunities for those who also do a valuable job that is not ‘sexy work’. The truck drivers, process workers and administration employees who will be a necessary part of the future workforce.

Purpose and Meaning is understood to override salary and job titles, and many recognise that people need, regardless of their age “an understanding of where they fit in”. Brand, engagement and corporate culture, were some of the real reasons behind why people do what they do. We talked about creating very good ‘whys’ as a great way of attracting good people and engaging employees, regardless of generation stereotypes. The fact that some younger employees don’t worry so much about risk was also raised as a positive. It allows them to risk exploring new ventures and they are much quicker to recognise opportunities. As one participant said, “What a gift!”

On the subject of risk one executive stated, “I hold traditional values about personal privacy, but my son said to me, ‘technology has made privacy irrelevant.’”

Participants went on to talk about opening our borders and welcoming diversity at the executive table. We cannot underestimate the importance of finding the right immigration solution, they said. We need to consider populating our country with skilled and educated migrants, make resources available and provide humanitarian support to displaced refugees.

Focusing on regional centres, education was raised as a way of supporting regional growth. “Successful cities are diverse, safe educational centres. Education is something Australia does well,” it was said. Success stories, such as Deakin in Geelong and Monash in Bendigo mean more young people are making lifestyle choices to leave the big cities, or not to leave regional areas for the city.

In support of our bright young stars in Australia, we heard from one executive who was mentoring MBA students. These start-ups with their own businesses don’t have a lot of capital, but they are positive and have great ideas. Raising capital has been a problem, so where is the connection between entrepreneurs and investors? Some thought we need a Silicon Valley in Australia. All agreed employment growth will come from these new businesses, from those people who want to have a go. If we don’t support them, they will go abroad to places like the USA to get a break.

If you had any preconceptions about what’s been on the minds of our senior executives, I’m pleased to report it isn’t all negative. They do seem to be getting some sleep.

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Posted in The world @work

Are you a badger or a fox?

There’s no way to dodge the digital evolution. Like winter, it’s a’coming. Our foxes know a little about a lot and badgers know a lot about a little. As organisations riding the tsunami wave of digital integration, we need badgers and foxes onboard. Those solid badgers with their deep knowledge and the agile foxes with the run of the landscape make for a healthy workplace environment.

You can probably pick the badgers from the foxes, but even the experts struggle to define digital and what qualifies subject matter experts varies greatly between organisations. The digital enabled workplace is here for you whether you’re a talented specialist with deep technical expertise or the generalist with a broad view of all areas of your organisation.

This week Slade Group brought business leaders together for a boardroom lunch to discuss Our Workplace and this Digital Economy. We presented the findings of The Australian Slade Digital Skills and Salary Survey 2015, which was the result of a year-long process conducted by Sweeney Research and involved 150 business from a broad range of sectors. At our table, executives representing banking & finance, consumer, education, professional services, marketing & advertising, news media, software development, and industrial provided some amazing insights on the digital knowledge and capability of Australian’s at work.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by new technology, take heart. We heard even the experts find it hard to keep up. In fact business is struggling to keep up with consumers, who are ahead of the game in entertainment, buying behaviours and their social networks, often at home with multiple devices watching TV, shopping online, and interacting via social media all at once! Is getting up at 5am every day or working 80 hours per week the answer? It’s ironic that the technology designed to simplify our lives has made it infinitely more complicated, while we’re drowning in electronic noise.

The Slade survey clearly indicates a digital skills shortage will affect the competitiveness of Australian companies if we don’t act now. While others play catch up, some businesses are sourcing talent from overseas. An increasingly agile global workforce presents further challenges. Taking an open door approach is one solution to higher mobile amongst technical specialists. It’s better to train someone who leaves, than not train someone who stays.  Innovative approaches, such as encouraging employees to pursue overseas opportunities, remaining connected to alumni and fostering a culture where ‘boomerang’ hires are actively pursued are some of the solutions our participants explored.

Education and upskilling is certainly required to keep pace. Typically this is occurring organically in SMEs, who have less resources available for training. Opinion in our boardroom was changing job descriptions and roles titles are make recruiting digital talent difficult. Universities cannot change course content quick enough to capture the latest digital trends. Meanwhile, the new generation of digital natives need to be nurtured from school towards Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) if we want to improve capability as well as see diversity in our organisations in the future.

When you’re building your digital team, let alone general teams, you need to be sure you’re hiring the right people. You’ll need some badgers and a few foxes. Making sure you have the right tools to assess digital talent also takes a subject matter expert.

How is your executive addressing the digital gap? What about your Board? What strategies have you implemented to future-proof your business?

Please contact me, Sally Powell, to find out more about Slade’s research and to receive a copy of The Australian Digital Skills and Salary Survey Report.

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work