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Why Board Training Needs To Be Part of the Business Curriculum

05/01/2014 04:30 EDT | Updated 07/01/2014 05:59 EDT

Not only is the millennial generation changing the meaning of corporate, they are also changing how corporations are run. Increasingly, corporations are changing their mission statements to better reflect the "triple bottom line," which emphasize their corporate social responsibility initiatives as a means to better appeal to the next generation of employees. Corporations are thus redesigning their organizational processes to better empower their staff, as the millennial Generation demands more responsibility along with more meaningful work.

The millennial generation is no longer content to just "pay their dues" and wait for career success. This generation is increasingly pursuing their own opportunities to achieve their career goals, which in turn explains why startups are growing popular amongst this demographic.

With the increasing popularity of startups, one question that arises is whether or not the current business curriculum is providing the right knowledge to the next generation of startup founders and leaders. The biggest gap in business curriculum today (especially for startup founders and leaders), is that they do not receive any information or training related to the corporation's board of directors.

Whether a for-profit tech startup or a social entrepreneurial startup, an increasing number of millennials are deciding to found their own startups as an outlet to achieve their goals and ambitions on their own timelines. While the current business curriculum educates today's Millennial Generation about the basics of business through a high level review of core corporate functions such marketing, finance and operations, the roles and responsibilities of the board of directors are often overlooked.

Many argue that it is pointless to train business students on the board concepts, but is it really so pointless? The traditional model of a board director is typically a white male with significant industry experience or business connections to be able to provide strategic and operational direction and expertise. However, some board activists would argue that board seats are filled with friends who failed to fulfill their fiduciary duties because they don't have sufficient accreditation or relevant industry experience. A number of factors are changing these long held stereotypes, including:

(1) Globalization: Emerging economies such as India and China are changing the way business is done and forcing multinational corporations to adapt to the increasingly interlinked economy that is dramatically different from how business was conducted 30 years ago.

(2) Increasing Management Diversity: The traditional stereotype of white males in management positions is gradually being replaced with the next generation of managers and leaders who are a better reflection of societal diversity. Increasingly, women and minorities are leading multibillion dollar corporations as these corporations realize they can ill afford to ignore valuable resources that can be used to grow their organization.

(3) Greater Government Regulation: Since the scandals of Enron and Worldcom, regulators have been increasing their scrutiny of corporate boards to ensure they are meeting their fiduciary responsibilities to both shareholders and employees.

(4) Startups Growing In Stature: From Facebook to Google, publicly listed corporations are increasingly being run by young founders who are learning on the fly how to manage and grow not only their operations, but also their board of directors.

Additionally, it is not only the changing global economy that is forcing multinational corporations to evaluate the effectiveness of their board of directors, but individuals as well. Introducing board training into business curriculum would benefit individuals by:

(1) Meeting Growing Demand: With the increasing number of millennials founding startups, it is critical to provide them with the knowledge required to effectively leverage a board of directors. No longer are millennials waiting until their 40s and 50s to participate in corporate decision making and governance. Due to their interest in direct action and direct participation, many millennials are increasingly finding themselves on boards of directors sooner as a result of startup activities.

(2) Knowledge Empowerment: Providing information such as the directors' liability and individual roles and responsibilities of various board positions will enable individuals to make effective decisions about why they should serve on a board of directors or even who to appoint in the event they are tasked with forming one for their organization.

(3) Better Understanding & Comprehension: For many unversed with the requirements and necessity of having a board of directors, the concept can seem very nebulous and conspiratorial, particularly when looking from the outside in. Providing individuals with a better understanding of why boards of directors work the way they do will reduce the antagonism that has been directed towards them over the past decade.

(4) Growing Need: From multinational corporations to non-profit organizations, the need for board of director members has never been greater. With multinational corporations requiring diversified boards of directors that better represent both their respective workforces and markets, it is critical for them to have a diversified one. Non-profit organizations are also looking for fresh young talent to fill the next generation of leaders to continue their charitable works and take the organization into the 21st century.

As the above mentioned points suggest, adding even a basic understanding of boards of directors to the business curriculum is critical to the stability of the global economy. As millennials currently found startups at an unprecedented rate, it is increasingly critical they have the right skills to grow not only their operations, but their boards of directors as well.