What will board composition be like in the future? When thinking about future board members there is a danger in assuming everyone in a demographic grouping is alike. However, there are some basic similarities that reflect the characteristics of different generations which may be useful in imagining governance for the future.
Who Will They Be?
Board members in the next 20 to 40 years will be composed predominantly of the Gen-X, Millennial and Gen-Z generations.
- Members of Gen-X, now aged between 38 and 53 years, are typically described as entrepreneurs, optimists, confident, patriotic and philanthropic. They are serving and will continue to serve on boards for another 20 to 40 years.
- Millennials, aged 23 to38 today are described as inclusive, confident, and tolerant. They believe in a work-life balance, in political correctness, have a strong social consciousness and highly value volunteerism. By 2020, Millennials will make up one-half of the workforce. They are serving and will continue to serve on boards for another 40-60 years.
- Members of Gen-Z, aged 3 to 23 today are described as loyal, compassionate, responsible, determined, open minded and curious; as digital natives, they have grown up with technology. This group could serve on boards into the 22nd century.
What Will Their Challenges Be?
What will boards of the future need to grasp to lead their organizations? Some things won’t change. As boards today, they will need to know how to define success and set clear direction. Boards must understand trends in their organization’s industry. In an evolving market place, they must continually be asking:
- Where is our industry going?
- What opportunities do our mission, vision, & values create (or not)?
- What do present opportunities say about the future?
- What should we be looking for?
- What gets in the way?
- What capabilities will our organization need in order to be optimally competitive in the emerging landscape?
As the pace of change continues to increase, future board members will have to be prepared to respond even more quickly to change, pivot as new trends emerge, imagine alternative futures, and articulate vision and values in light of ever-changing circumstances. Board composition and board recruitment can be expected to become more competitive, with increasing scrutiny of individual board members.
Is the Policy Governance® model itself positioned to help boards of the future navigate the challenges they will face? I would argue that it is. Designed as a system to enable boards to fulfill their responsibilities, it provides a point of stability in a rapidly changing world. With its emphasis on constant attention to desired future results, it provides a springboard for boards to be true leaders, well-informed about complex issues, and leading the way to a desired future.