An inclusive boardroom? Choose expertise rather than experience21 December 2021
Too often, experience wins from expertise, particularly when it comes to supervisory roles in an organisation. This makes it extremely difficult to gain fresh perspectives in the board room according to Hanneke Rinkes, Newpeople’s managing director, in her opinion piece.
There is much discussion, both verbal and written, about diversity and inclusion in the boardroom. Something needs to be done about the recurring board profile that comes up in said discussion: the man with grey hair that is the chambre de reflection for the organisation. Yet, this is the profile that always comes up when positions in the boardroom are divided up.
There is no lack of interest in such positions. Ten thousands of people have the ambition of holding a supervisory role in an organisation. These are mostly people that bring managerial experience with them.
They’ve passed 40 and see such a position as the crowning role of their impressive career or they want to gain managerial experience alongside their career. With that, the pond of potential supervisors remains small.
A lot of attention is paid to diversity in the boardroom. Perhaps not enough, but there is certainly attention for the subject. There is a legal quota of 30% when it comes to the ratio of women to men and there is an increasing amount of attention for different cultures and age groups.
Experience usually wins, since it is regarded as a safe bet
Inclusion is about giving other ideas and perspectives space to grow. It’s about straying away from the well-known path. It is especially in this regard that we see very few risks being taken.
Even if an organisation has specific goals such as growing digitally, we still see that they mainly focus on managerial experience.A great CV that breathes digital leadership often doesn’t even stand a chance. Organisations are looking for someone that can look beyond just the material at hand. Experience often trumps expertise since experience is seen as a safe bet in this specific domain.
The role of the supervisor is changing
This, even though the role of the supervisor is changing. Of course, the supervisor is still the moral compass, the sounding board and the factual employer of stationary roles. Aside from that, the role of the supervisor is more or less that of an ambassador. The commissioner ensures that societal themes are safeguarded.
However, we’re seeing that more and more is expected of a supervisor. Accountability is increasing and the commissioner is partly responsible. In the past, the role was mainly a networking one, but now, supervisors also add value. Thus, expertise as a competence is growing in importance.
With expertise comes inclusion
And that is exactly where the problem lies in many organisations today. Knowledge is certainly relevant but doesn’t provide any guarantee of gaining a supervisory role in an organisation. This is something that should change. Expertise stimulates inclusion.
Building a profile based on the desire for digital growth, guarantees a new important discipline and in many cases means a new generation and a new perspective enter the board room.
So, always start out by examining your own board of directors critically. What do we have? What is the timeline of people stepping down from certain roles? Even more importantly: which profiles complement each other?
Internships for areas of focus
There are many ways to merge experience with new expertise in the board of directors. The board of directors can add an extra member so that said person can learn the ropes – a kind of internship that covers several fields of focus, without there being any direct responsibility.
The board of directors can also add an extra discipline even if it is a ‘low risk’ one. Finally, the board of directors can create a new learning role whereby the new candidate is matched with an experienced current member on a one to one basis. Observation and coaching by another supervisor ensures a steep learning curve.