Age doesn’t matter unless you’re cheese

People assume business experience can only be gained by age, and I feel this is beginning to change – if you want to be a modern, progressive and innovative company you will need to add a youth representative to the board.

Millennials represent the largest generation ever, in factbetween children and young adults it equates to half of the global population. Yet, very few of these two generations serve on company boards that sell to these age groups!

A recent study by the Financial Times highlighted that the average age of directors who govern the UK’s 100 biggest companies are over 57, while one in six board’s seats are taken by someone over 64 years old. It is even older when you look into smaller companies in the UK alone.

So why would companies change this now?

We live in a world that is ever changing with greater connectivity, social media and access, mainly provided with free movement, speech and technology (internet). This connectivity has allowed younger people to have a voice, innovate and control the solutions – a main reason more start-ups have been born and flourished. This adaptation hasn’t happened in all companies, with the potential and ability of young people untapped in many organisations. It is a scary thought to underestimate the value that young people can provide by simply engaging them in business decisions.

People are fearful of losing their jobs or being seen as weak, which are common reasons for not appointing younger people. I fear for those organisations. The companies who do not change and engage with current and future generations will not outlast their competitors. Young people are growing increasingly frustrated by their parents and older generations speaking on their behalf and it’s important to understand it’s never too early for anyone to influence an ever changing the world.

What are the benefits to have a young person (14-30 years old) involved in decision making?

• Unique & fresh perspective
• Understands markets you’re selling to (Millennials & Gen Z)
• Understands largest generation ever
• Understands new technologies and how to make the most of their potential – e.g. social media
• Understands engagement and motivation of younger staff

There are plenty of examples of young people being successful and beneficial on advisory boards. (I am sure some have also failed to, though I have yet to find one through my research):

Chelmsford Star Co-Op Society appointed 16 young people from local schools, who are known as a youth council, to report their ideas to the board. This was highly successful in the decision making of their social media strategy and company presence in the public domain.

Roundhouse, an international arts venue appointed a youth advisory board of 13-25 year olds, which is split into two age bands. One member from each age band is appointed to the main board to report back. The outcome of this has seen adaptations in the website, structure and pricing policies.

Chime Specialist Group appointed a 16 innovate mirror board model, in which every member is under 30 and the group meets twice a month. They bring their ideas once a month to the main board. Their focus is on motivation, happiness and engagement in the workplace.

Age diversity is often ignored and if you keep ignoring it, your bottom line will suffer over the next decade. The future generations are getting hard to retain with out-dated policies and culture. Also with recruitment costs rising, it is becoming more important to fast track young talent and give them a voice through opportunity, education and trust.

In summary, I am not saying you have to give them the world, I am suggesting you have to give youth the opportunity to have a voice in your company. You can appoint a mirror board, youth advisory or simply a member inside or outside of your company. This move will future proof your company for a sustained and better outlook towards the current, next and future generations.

Should young adults have a voice and able to make decision within a company?

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