La place des jeunes sur les conseils d’administration de grandes sociétés : Êtes-vous pour ou contre ?

Vous trouverez, ci-dessous, les coordonnées d’un article d’Alan Mak et Andrew Hill sur le Blogue du FT du 2 juillet 2014. Les auteurs se questionnent sur la place des jeunes (millennials) dans les conseils d’administration du futur.

Vous y découvrirez plusieurs raisons qui militent en faveur de la nomination de jeunes au C.A. (Alan Mak) ainsi que la prise de position d’un auteur qui ne croit pas à la contribution des jeunes sur des C.A., principalement à cause de leur manque d’expérience (Andrew Hill).

Comme vous vous en doutez, je partage entièrement le point de vue d’Allan Mak qui propose l’engagement des jeunes sur les conseils.

La lecture des arguments pour et des arguments contre est intéressante. Qu’en pensez-vous ?

Bonne lecture !

Should under-35s sit on company boards ?


Alan Mak

Lord Davies in his report “Women on Boards” rightly said the best boards contain “a mix of voices [that] must include women”. It should also include millennials.

Today’s rapidly changing marketplace is more complex than ever and businesses that want to stay competitive, especially in customer-facing sectors, need Generation Y to help them deal with the big trends, from the rise of digitally empowered consumers to the febrile post-financial crisis business environment.

The business case for younger directors is strong. Generation Y, also known as millennials, are aged 18-35 and, at 2bn people, are the world’s biggest demographic group. By 2018 they will have the biggest spending power of any age group, Deloitte says. And three in four millennials say they influence the purchasing decisions of other generations. So, every business needs to understand Generation Y’s behaviour and aspirations, and younger, suitably qualified directors can be their champion in the boardroom.

Meanwhile, better decisions are made when companies draw on the widest possible range of talent regardless of age, and when directors bring to bear the broadest range of experiences, perspectives and lifestyles. In this context, “diversity” must include generational diversity, not just gender diversity. Adding a Generation Y perspective can be a powerful antidote to age-related groupthink. For example, millennials are more likely to take a longer-term approach to risk taking because they have to live with the financial and reputational consequences of failure when older colleagues may not.


The financial crisis caused an irreversible cultural and structural shift. Corporations from banks to supermarkets are redefining their values and business models to become more accountable and sustainable. As David Jones explains in his book Who Cares Wins, for business, “the new price of doing well is doing good”.

Generation Y instinctively understands this new paradigm, and they are best placed to act as boardroom cultural translators.

Such rapid cultural change is itself largely driven by fast technological and demographic change. Social media have given today’s consumers more information about how companies do business than ever before. Whereas the industrial revolution empowered the corporation, the digital revolution empowered the consumer. As Jones observes, “ … there’s not been another time in history when the youngest people understood the most about what is going on”. Companies that fail to understand this new “good business zeitgeist” find their brands and share price diminished.

Generation Y directors add value by helping their companies to navigate this volatile, Twitter-driven landscape. That is why Starbucks appointed social media expert Clara Shih, then 29, to its main board.

Meanwhile, globalisation has created increasingly complex decision-making environments that require new skills and fresh insights – for example, into emerging markets and new technologies – that were simply not around, or as needed in the past. Every company must now balance Gen X’s experience with Gen Y’s inherently global outlook, digital aptitude and commitment to life-long learning. Putting younger leaders into the boardroom helps that development while sending a wider message that an organisation rewards talent and ambition.

Pessimists may say younger figures lack the industry knowledge or operational experience to step into the boardroom. These qualities can all be developed and naysayers should listen to Peter Cave-Gibbs, former London head of recruiter Heidrick & Struggles: “Board chairmen want outstanding leaders who can help their business succeed in today’s global marketplace. Gen Y talent is highly educated, multilingual, and comfortable with change and technology. They are changing the way business is done: age is just a number in business now.”

. . .


Andrew Hill

Boards are changing. The devastating economic and financial crisis has exposed the risk of groupthink in the boardroom and the weaknesses in established corporate governance, as pursued by establishment people, who, let’s face it, are still predominantly “white, male and stale”. Business logic and a simple sense of equity dictate that the gender and ethnic balance in the boardroom should alter. Research increasingly suggests that diverse teams come up with better ideas.

So, if more women and people from ethnic minorities are becoming non-executive directors, for these and other excellent reasons, shouldn’t large companies invite more young people to step up to the board?

No, they shouldn’t, and here’s why.

First, the immediate priority for large companies ought to be to assemble a balanced board with an accumulation of experience that will help supervise the executive team. By definition, younger candidates have less experience.

What ambitious and talented young people know could still be useful to the board and to the company. Millennials may help a consumer products company tailor its offering to younger customers.

While the boardroom dinosaurs are struggling with their iPads, they could help a natural resources company to understand coming risks to its reputation (posed, for example, by social media protests). But these contributions can be sought in better and more efficient ways than by inviting a representative into the boardroom. Smart companies are already tapping social media – the natural heir to focus groups – for a quantitative assessment of youth trends. Phil Clarke, Tesco’s chief executive, has a 20-something staffer in his office, precisely to keep him updated on such trends.

I am as suspicious as anyone of the power of vested interests. When a headhunter recently told me that a boardroom should “not be trying to reflect the demographic” and warned that 20-something non-executives with little corporate experience might “throw in grenades that are inappropriate”, I was almost ready to help them pull the pin.

Boards do need shaking up and young people with proven records of relevant achievement could have what it takes to hold their own in a boardroom packed with company veterans. But these candidates will be few and far between. Youth per se is no qualification.

Second, a bigger priority for boards is to reflect the gender and ethnic mix around them without compromising on experience. I would choose, say, a female executive informed by diverse experiences ahead of a promising younger businessperson with only youth on his or her side.

Finally, if companies want to draw on the energy and inspiration brought by younger people – and they should – they should employ them and promote them to executive roles. It may not have dawned on aspiring Gen Y non-executives, but the board is not the engine of creativity, innovation and strategy at big companies: it is a regulator of the engine, and an important sounding board for ideas brought by the executive team.

Most entrepreneurial young people I know would simply be frustrated by boardroom politics and bluster. Those young managers who feel they should start their non-executive portfolio in their 20s have got their careers back to front: they should be directing their best efforts to founding start-ups, or at least changing the way companies work, not the way they are supervised. If it is revolution they seek, they stand a better chance of pursuing it from the bottom up than from the top down.

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