Lack of rigour in appointments holding back Australian boards

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Conservative and informal appointment methods are responsible for the lag in upskilling and diversity across Australian boards.

Instead, according to Bridget Gray, vice president IT services for APAC at Korn Ferry, a more structured, formalised approach that weighs digital literacy and a global market understanding will result in higher levels of company success and diversity.

Further, an understanding of the global platform economy and the geopolitical landscape, paired with digital literacy, are becoming increasingly important skills within board roles, accelerated by the pandemic.

“A lot of board appointments go through more of an informal network process, as opposed to a formal structured search, and in that way, people tend to hire themselves,” she said.

“If we've got more traditional skill sets on boards already, a lot of their network are likely to be, you know, from a similar background.”

Gray believes that in the search for a new board director, individuals who challenge and question the status quo will bring immense value to an organisation.

“We need people who are going to question things. We don't want that group-think at the board level, we want people who are going to challenge the thinking and industry from a completely different perspective. Someone who isn't there just to validate a strategy, they're there to really challenge and shape it and drive it in the right direction. And that's a very different skill set,” she said.

An understanding of the global platform economy and how to navigate the product environment are crucial to a business’s strategic success, Gray said.

While she acknowledged current interest from executives with digital and tech backgrounds to contribute at a board level, she believes that this skill is still under-represented in the board room.

“I think that we appreciate and Australian boards that we need more technology literacy and digital fitness, but we probably just haven't quite got there.”

“One person is unlikely to change the world in an organisation, so we need to make sure that there's enough of a voice that we're actually going to start to steer the company in the right direction. The future is now and it is around digital.”

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