Is the “Shadow Board” the Way of the Future?

Securing Your Company’s Future In A Changing World

shadows on the sidewalk
No wait, those are just shadows . . .

There’s always been a generational gap, but it seems that many companies are having more difficulty crossing it than ever before. Younger workers engage with their jobs less.  Job loyalty is harder to procure. Response from the new generation is very weak in the current market with many struggling to get the new generation interested in them at all. When we talked with Stapley Accounting, a financial services firm in Cache Valley, Utah, they said that a lot of companies are now trying a “shadow board.”


What Is A Shadow Board?

You might be wondering what a shadow board is. I know I certainly wondered that at first. My initial thought was, “That sounds like something you’d put together for tax evasion.” Despite sounding, ahem, shady, a shadow board isn’t anything sinister or legally dubious at all.

A shadow board is a group of non-executive employees that works with senior executives on strategic initiatives. They don’t have any real power, per say, but they give insight to the higher ups. By staffing a shadow board with younger people, you gain their input on what the younger generation wants and can use that to steer your business towards success in a changing world. For their part, the shadow board gets tutoring and training from the senior executives, which gives them a boost with their careers. Harvard Business Review has several stories how this practice can help your business grow with the newer generation.

Personally, I’d be more inclined to call it an “egg board” if we’re going for colorful metaphors, but whatever.

What If I Don’t Have A Board?

Maybe you don’t have a normal board. Perhaps you’re a small business run by yourself and some managers. That doesn’t mean you can’t still have a shadow board, or that it can’t be useful. In fact, for small businesses, this practice might actually be more useful. For larger companies, there’s always the calcification that comes from committees and executives. You have to run any ideas through them and votes have to be taken.

Small businesses have greater flexibility. As the owner of a small business, you can implement any good ideas as soon as you want to. If your shadow board has a good idea, you can put it into practice right away.

A shadow board in a meetingSolving the Lack of Engagement

The shadow board is a great solution for the lack of engagement and loyalty of younger employees.  Millennials have different motivating factors from previous generations. Where older generations wanted better pay, or promotion, millennials tend to want validation and recognition. A shadow board is a great way to give them that. By offering younger employees a chance to be on a special board, even one that’s only limited to advisory and opinion-giving, you offer an opportunity to be recognized for what they add to the company.

Additionally, providing the opportunity for extra training that will be good for advancing their careers in the future is an additional incentive that helps put you on the same page. You give them recognition, they give you an interest in their future – possibly their future with your company. It can garner both loyalty and engagement.

Getting Insight

The insight a shadow board gives you into the way young people think is invaluable. More than any other generation, the desires and goals of millennials are different from that of their parents. They don’t want the same things, don’t look at life the same way and are drawn to different ideas.

A shadow board composed of young people gives you insight into the things that catch their attention. They can help you understand how to market to them, what sort of goods and services they’re most interested in, and what are the best ways to engage them. You’ll not only have a better idea of how to succeed in the changing market, you’ll know how to create a workplace that engenders loyalty from your employees. You’ll do away with the terrible turn-over rate that currently plagues modern businesses and have a strong workforce of active employees.

No Cost To You

The best part of this is that there is no money cost to you. The shadow board isn’t an official position – hence “shadow.” It’s not a raise, or a bonus, it’s more of an internship. They get a chance to influence the top members of the company, along with mentoring and training in exchange for giving you their advice. It’s non-monetary compensation, which many millennials are happy to accept for the recognition that comes with it.

That’s not to say that it’s completely free. This will take a little time and you will have to make efforts in their direction. If you form a shadow board to give you advice.  If you never take that advice at all, it signals that you aren’t really appreciating them, just wasting their time. Not all of their ideas will be doable, hence the training and mentoring, but you’ll have to strike a balance with it.

Build A Shadow Board Today

The benefits far outweigh the cost in time if you manage to achieve that balance. Loyal employees are a boon to the company. They happily work harder for you and they create a workplace environment that is just as attractive for customers. A pleasant environment spreads the cheer and happy people spend more.

If you haven’t considered this option before now, then you really should. Disengaged workers with no investment in their jobs is the biggest problem businesses will face going forward. This will become especially true as the older generation retires from the workforce. If you start now, you can figure out the best methods for your company and be ready to deal with the challenges of an all-millennial workforce when the time comes.