Boards want broader skills amid business uncertainty

The challenging business landscape is forcing boards to be more self-critical

Boards want broader skills

70% of board directors want a broader range of skills than ever before. That’s according to a report by executive search and board advisory services consultancy Harvey Nash, in partnership with London Business School’s (LBS) Leadership Institute 

The report ‘Old Game, New Rules: How boards of today are preparing for tomorrow’ also reveals that six in 10 boards have ambitions to improve their cultural diversity.

Striving for inclusivity, overcoming groupthink – when a group values harmony and coherence over accurate analysis and critical evaluation – and the challenges of introducing new perspectives into the boardroom are some of the wider issues facing today’s boards. 

Support for fresh thinking from a wider body of people, including those with quieter, more modest voices, was one of the ideas canvassed on the subject of board diversity. Meanwhile, respondents believe that boards need to be digitally aware and ‘fit for purpose’ in a fast-changing digital world.

The research represents the views of more than 826 non-executive directors from the UK, Nordic countries and the Asia-Pacific region.

Another key finding from the report is that diversity is no longer a peripheral issue for organisations, with half of all survey respondents recognising it as a concern. More companies are prioritising diversity, seeing it as integral to a successful business. 

Many respondents note the need to move on from potentially outmoded definitions of diversity such as sexual orientation in order to explore greater board representation. Respondents are prioritising functional expertise (72%), cultural diversity (58%) and international experience (55%).

Albert Ellis, CEO of Harvey Nash, said: “We know that businesses recognise the commercial value of a more diverse organisation, as we’re increasingly asked to provide a more varied talent pool for new hires. But there’s little point for a company to broaden its hiring strategy without looking at its own culture first. 

“In order to celebrate diversity, businesses need to ensure their organisation is a welcoming and open place to work, where individuals can have their opinions heard and truly add value.” 

Commenting on the need to reach for deeper definitions of diversity, Randall Peterson, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at LBS, said: “When we used to think of diversity in the past, we thought of race and gender, but there is so much more to consider: generational, age, sexual orientation, personality and even functional diversity.”