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Gen Y in the Board Room


Tuesday, 9th July 2013 at 9:38 am
Staff Reporter
Many boards recognise that they need greater diversity in their board members. The attraction and retention of Gen Y individuals into governance positions is critical to organisations remaining vital and relevant, according to Gen Y-er Chris O’Neill.

Tuesday, 9th July 2013
at 9:38 am
Staff Reporter


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Gen Y in the Board Room
Tuesday, 9th July 2013 at 9:38 am

Many boards recognise that they need greater diversity in their board members. The attraction and retention of Gen Y individuals into governance positions is critical to organisations remaining vital and relevant, according to Gen Y-er Chris O’Neill.

O’Neill is a Board member of Arts Wellington and General Manager of BATS Theatre in New Zealand. He shared his tips for recruiting and retaining Gen Y Board members with delegates at the Better Boards conference in Melbourne last week.

It is not new that young people want to change the world but now we live in a digital world we are more connected.
We are a generation who recognises the challenges ahead and we can make a real difference on your boards.
Get Gen Y on your board- we are desperate to help.

The Depressing Part of Gen Y:

  • The number one goal of Gen Y-ers is to get rich- 81% report this as the number one priority in life. Their number two goal is to be famous.
  • In 2012, a survey of Gen Ys aged between 18 and 30 believed they were very important.
  • This is compared to just 12% of people in the same age group in 1950.
  • This is actually a real change in self confidence.

The Good Part of Gen Y:

  • 96% believe they will do something great in their lives and 42% are very happy with their lives so there is a real optimism in the group.
  • We are also- I’m not going to say the smartest- but the best educated [generation].
  • We are a generation that wants to make the world a better place.
  • We are really keen to help other people- 81% have volunteered in the past 12 months.

Every generation grows up in a time of change but the change for Gen Y has been massive.
We have really got used to living in diverse cultures, we value professional development really highly and we are also incredibly connected.

How to Identify and Connect with Gen Y

  • It is about diversity
  • We have been raised in a digital world so we do think differently
  • You need to take a pro-active approach- don’t be a secret society
  • Often there is an implication [the Board] is a closed club, you need to be invited in and it is for ‘older people’.
  • If you are looking to recruit Gen Y on your Board don’t be secretive about it- shout it from the rooftops.
  • Be realistic- make sure they understand the risk so you both go into the relationship with the same understanding.
  • Don’t underestimate the commitment- tell them the downside and the potential risks
  • Get your house in order- Gen Y are going to be a bandaid on your disfunctional Board
  • Focus on the impact their presence on the Board could have-impact is absolutely important

If you really want Gen Y on your Board let them know they are going to have a voice- Gen Y are ideas generators and they will want to get involved.
They have a lot more to bring than just social media advice

Commit to training

  • Give them a Board mentor
  • Don’t assume the come with all the life skills they need
  • Gen Y are really keen to advance

Managing Gen Y

  • The research shows we like and value our time more than money and we will choose training over a fancy title
  • We love flexibility and we really dislike routine- but that’s a preference
  • You are going to have to continuously keep them engaged
  • Gen Y will always think they are worth more than you are paying them- be imaginative with your benefits
  • Gen Y need external validation- its not consistent praise, it is consistent feedback. They need more than a ‘you did a good job, lad’ at the end of the year.
  • Gen Y would like an outside coach or mentor

Ways to retain a Gen Y Board Member

  • Training
  • Feedback
  • Pay
  • Coach
  • Opportunities
  • Benefits


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