We’ve all heard the statistic that millennials will comprise over 50% of the global workforce in 2020 and we are constantly reminded that this generation is different to those that came before. They are technologically savvy and adapt quickly to new technologies, they have a strong sense of community (both local and global) and they are more health and environmentally conscious than any generation before them. So how do organisations harness these new drivers to build their workforce of the future? How can they engage and retain their millennial workforce and think about taking it a step further? What about putting millennials at the heart of an organisation’s future success? Rather than simply engaging in new ways, let’s put millennials at the centre of the organisation’s decision making, in the engine room and tap into their unique viewpoints and to shape the future.  Introducing the concept of a Millennial Board – time to get on board before you miss out.

A Millennial Board is where a diverse, gender neutral collective of employees born after 1982 are selected to work collaboratively with, and in parallel to, the organisation’s existing Board. This “shadow” board, comprised of the same roles and positions, receive the same information and materials provided to the main board. They discuss and deliberate on the key decisions and their insights and outcomes are shared with the main Board to inform their decision making and help them think differently.

There are multiple benefits of introducing a Millennial Board.  They will generate new ideas given their different perspective of problems and opportunities, delivering new lessons and insights. They will define different and new markets based on their interpretation of the information provided. They will challenge organisations to think about their business or operations from a new paradigm.

By genuinely engaging millennials and valuing the different perspectives a Millennial Board will bring to your organisation, you will attract new talent and capture the hearts and minds of those within your organisation who will see the opportunity to shape the future.

Our research shows that some organisations are already harnessing the power of their millennials through various forums, such as:

  • Estee Lauder’s Millennial Advisory Board offers advice to their executive team. Jane Hertzmark Hudis, their group president, expresses that this is in readiness for ‘Millennials soon having the greatest purchasing power of any demographic’.
  • French Hotel Group, Accor has launched ‘Comex’, a shadow Executive Committee comprising millennials to challenge company decisions and help Accor revamp its digital strategy.
  • Aurecon understands the war to attract young engineering talent and, in response to this, they run a highly successful Young Professionals Forum whereby forum members are involved in key company decisions.
  • Marketing Agency LIDA, whose clients include Land Rover, Boots and IKEA, have established ‘Shadow’ or ‘Mirror’ boards to meet the desire for business tomaintain a healthy relationship with their younger customers, as well as employees. Their intention is to have the ‘Millennial voice ratifying the decisions’ providing a ‘different perspective’. Mirror board members also serve as reverse mentors for existing board members.

These examples are not of technology start-up companies, they are organisations with rich histories in various industry segments; we believe that millennials can be engaged across all industries.  Imagine how the image of an oil and gas organisation could evolve to attract the next generation of smart creative engineers if they had millennials influencing decisions made at the top? These organisations are at the forefront of engineering innovation and can show true innovation in the optimisation of their millennial talent.

For those diversified consumer business organisations that are facing the introduction of Amazon to the Australian market, how differently would they react to this challenge if their Board was advised by millennials who consume differently and have only ever known life with the internet?

Finding new ways to increase the influence of the millennial workforce does not need to be onerous.  Start with an internal initiative or business unit and let them teach you ‘how to learn’, ‘pick up speed’ and ‘embrace constraints’ should you choose to expand the idea more broadly. However, as succinctly summarised by the CEO of LIDA Marketing Agency, ‘make sure you’re serious about it’.  Shadow, mirror and advisory councils are a good start, but unless your intentions are genuine, millennials will see right through you.

For many organisations, the introduction of a Millennial Board would be a significant cultural change and one that may not immediately gain traction at the top. However, we believe there are organisations that are well placed to begin to engage their workforce differently and provide opportunities to shape the future. With millennials soon comprising 50% of the workforce, is it too radical to think they could contribute to half of the membership of the board? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean they can’t provide advice through an innovative Millennial Board.