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10 trends changing the conversation in boardrooms in 2016

Edited by Divina Paredes | July 15, 2016
From Brexit to the ‘Uber economy’, the WomenCorporateDirectors (WCD) Foundation lists issues expected to disrupt the fundamental business model.

"When you look at talent and culture, it most notably manifests itself when a company is going through a crisis or difficult time," says Bella Goren, former CFO of American Airlines, Inc., and AMR Corporation, and Director of Gap Inc., LyondellBasell Industries N.V., and MassMutual Financial Group. "It is critically important to tie employee engagement to the mission of the company, so that every person feels that their work and contributions are integrally linked to the company's ability to recover and succeed. Having every person feel that they are connected and know that they can make a difference not only has direct operational and financial implications, but can truly shape the future and ultimate success of an organisation."

8. Competing for talent

"Competition is great for making better products, but our biggest competitors are those who steal our talent," says Estelle Metayer, Director at Ubisoft Entertainment SA, a multinational video game developer and publisher, and at BRP (Bombardier Recreational Products) Inc. "We sometimes have limited flexibility in how we compensate employees, so our challenge is in understanding how we will keep employees engaged. Do they find meaning in what they are doing?" Avigail Dadone, the Chief People Officer at Diligent, echoes this belief: "What I've seen work well and what I advocate for in any of the organisations that I'm part of is clarity of career-pathing and being able to articulate to new joiners what the various paths are at the organisation. It's all about keeping people really interested in what those various opportunities could be. It's not just being able to talk about it but really putting some time and energy into putting that down on paper and having some data to back it up in terms of movement that's occurred."

9. Managing activist shareholders

"The rise of shareholder activism is here," says Julie Hembrock Daum, North American Board Practice Leader, Spencer Stuart, and Director, Seacoast Banking Corporation. "We saw 106 total board seats won through campaigns in 2015, and 44 CEOs that experienced activist campaigns are no longer CEOs this year." This influence is increasingly becoming accepted by the public, says Daum, and boards should be aware that "activists are targeting larger companies with a much smaller percentage of shareholding. But these shareholders are gaining in sophistication - they are very well advised, they have better research positions, and they're going mainstream."

10. Putting strategy on the boardroom agenda - always 

"Board involvement has truly improved and evolved to best meet organisational needs. For instance, the days of the one-off, catch-all strategy session are over," says Andrea Jung, President and CEO, Grameen America, and Director at General Electric Company, Apple, Inc., and Daimler AG. Rather than just checking the box through offsite strategy sessions, she says effective boards are now required to provide proactive strategic guidance and thoughtful follow-up through ongoing conversations. "Now, more than ever, we need to ensure there is a connection between what is discussed in board meetings and subsequent follow-up. That discipline is essential."


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