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Opinion & Analysis

Boards must change tack in collaborating with millennials

Young workers believe they can achieve anything with the right focus and access to learning. FILE PHOTO | NMG
Young workers believe they can achieve anything with the right focus and access to learning. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Millennials are considered to have been born between the early 1980s and mid-1990s. In 2009, this age group was aged between 14 –29 years.

Six years later, in 2015, only one sat on a board of a company listed on the NSE.

A 2012 Kenya Institute of Management Study entitled ‘‘Bringing the other half to the boardroom: Case Study of State Corporations and Listed Companies in Kenya’’, revealed that public sector or state corporation boards had greater gender diversity than boards of companies listed on the NSE.

The study found that state corporation boards had 20 per cent women and 80 per cent men. Composition of women on boards of public listed companies was only 12 per cent.

The 2010 Constitution now makes it imperative that membership of elective and appointive bodies should have at least one third from either gender.

Rightly so, 52 per cent of our population is female. However, it seems to me, that not much seems to have been done to address age. The same study revealed that the average age of Board members is 57 years.

I want to quote a piece of research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) entitled ‘‘Millennials at Work: Reshaping the workplace’’, ‘‘This generation has a sense of entitlement. They look for higher starting salaries, flexible work schedules and company provided iPhones… they want constant praise and promotion almost the minute they join.’’ PwC found this was a common characterisation of millennials by older people in the workforce.

The PwC Survey also showed that young workers believe they can achieve anything with the right focus and access to learning. Many respond well to mentoring by older employees.

They expect regular feedback and praise for a job well done and relish the opportunity to engage, interact and learn from senior management.

It also noted that while they excel in the use of technology and collaborate much more easily, millennials require training in basic workplace behaviour and culture – ‘they are accustomed to instant responses when they chat with friends via instant messaging (IM), yet may not realise that older workers do not always treat IMs with the same immediacy.’

Does your board strategy include managing talent from different generations? The retirement age will most likely extend; making it harder for millennials to advance as quickly as they wish.

How do you ensure your youngest and brightest talent remain engaged and do not leave you for the competition?

One of the key learnings from the NSE Leadership and Diversity Chairpersons’ Forum on November 5, 2014, was, ‘investing in intellectual capital and capacity, i.e. the right mix of professional skills, experience and perspectives, as well as ensuring leadership continuity by recruiting younger Board members, were considered the primary focus for Board diversity.’

As a board, you need to provide the leadership required to manage a multi-generational workforce and to also ensure that the businesses you shepherd, appeal to millennials.

We need to learn to engage and collaborate with them as our employees, as customers, and mentor them to succeed us on our boards.

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