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Workforce Enablement

In Search of Technically Savvy Boards of Directors

Having digitally aware leadership pays

In the early 1980s, and throughout much of the 1980s and early 1990s, it was common for CEOs and executives to never have touched a computer keyboard. They had executive assistance to take care of any of that. If they had something to say to someone, it’d be dictated and sent by their assistant. Refusing to even touch a keyboard was a status signal to the rest of the world.

Old executives being technically out of touch is one of the reasons why then General Electric CEO Jack Welsh created the first reverse mentoring program in 1999. A program where younger staff could teach older executives about newer technology.

A recent study from Deloitte suggests perhaps more companies should have embraced those reverse mentoring programs.

In the MITSloan, Deloitte report, Leading Digital Change, the two published a study based on the analysis from surveys, interviews, company communications, and the bios of 40,000 directors.

The study found that when it came to companies with more than $1 billion in revenue, only 24 percent had boards the researchers considered to be digitally savvy. These businesses, researchers said, significantly outperformed others on key metrics such as revenue growth, return on assets, market cap growth, and more.

Additionally, the percentage of digitally savvy boards across vertical industries varied considerably. Not surprisingly, information industries ranked highest with 57 percent of boards being technically savvy. Though it’s hard to imagine how well the remaining 43 percent of unsavvy boards in information industries thrive. The industry with the lowest percentage of savvy boards was construction, with 4 percent.

The study and report is worth a look. You can find it here.

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