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Earlier last month, many employers and recruiters were facing an all-time high in job vacancies. And while some are now facing fears of having to lay off staff due to the forecasted recession of next year, many are still noticing a shortage of labour. As a result, employee retention is becoming an increasingly important priority for many. But salaries and benefits can only be stretched so far, especially if the organization has to take into consideration the projected recession. So, how do you motivate your young employees in the workplace and make them feel like the integral part of your company that they are?

Now might be the right time to implement a shadow board into your organization!

What Is a Shadow Board?

As Jennifer Jordan and Michael Sorell state in their article on the Harvard Business Review, shadow boards are groups of people who may not have the highest ranking position in the company, but may nonetheless have some innovative ideas to offer.

Especially since many executive boards have only older, more experienced (maybe even all-male) staff members, new ideas might be hard to come by. So, a shadow board—one that shadows the executive one—may be the best way to bring both experienced and fresh ideas to the table.

These team members may meet with executives semi-regularly to discuss marketing and other tactics to ensure all strategies are as innovative and productive as possible. But these board members should be implemented as soon as possible in cases of declining sales and productivity. After all, many mistakes you may encounter might just be prevented with the insights of younger, more unique perspectives.

How Shadow Boards Can Motivate Young Employees

If your organization is predominantly led by similar types of people, it may be only a matter of time before your success plateaus. Specifically, if your executive team seems to only ever come up with similar solutions, a new, less experienced team may be able to offer some fresh ones.

Italian fashion giant Gucci, for example, created its shadow board in 2015, and since then has seen a 136% sales growth. And the company attributes this great success to the innovative problem-solving skills offered by their shadow board.

Gucci’s shadow board specifically is a group of under-30s who showed exceptional talent in cutting-edge fashion and problem-solving. But the main purpose of a shadow board is specifically to get solutions from new and unheard voices.

This might mean hiring younger workers, certainly, but it also might mean hiring a board full of more diverse voices. After all, diversity is not just for show! Building diverse teams allows organizations to gain insights from folks who have a broader background and whose unique experiences may give them insights that others lack.

And while this opportunity may mean employees are taking on an added responsibility in their position, it may also mean they have a more meaningful connection to their work. That is, if their ideas eventually contribute to the company’s overall growth, they may feel motivated to continue doing so. That means more consistent and reliable work from employees who feel integral to the company.

However, it should go without saying that this should be an optional opportunity that comes with rewards. If your shadow board is successful, you may want to offer them, for example, a small pay raise with some added responsibilities moving forward.

How to Start a Shadow Board

Shadow boards can be as exclusive or inclusive as you’d like, but the more you open up opportunities, the more likely you are to hear new perspectives that otherwise may go unheard. Start with the younger workers, and as Jordan and Sorell note, they don’t have to all have the same potential for success. In fact, some of the best ideas may very well come from the employee whom you least expect. And this might even showcase potential in employees you hadn’t even recognized.

The most effective and equitable means of building your shadow board, then, starts with establishing your goals. What might you be aiming to solve that the shadow board can offer input on? And what may be a marker of success from the shadow board?

Then, in order to achieve these goals, consider what kinds of personalities may contribute to a team who may reach these goals. Realistically, your shadow board will not only have four of the same kind of high-potential, extroverted, leadership-oriented workers. It should have a good balance of personalities that will be able to work collaboratively on innovative game-plans.

And crucially, Jordan and Sorell insist that it is never enough for an HR professional to manage the shadow board alone. In order to most effectively implement ideas offered by the shadow board, the CEO or another higher-up should be involved in and even mentor the shadow board.

And your shadow boards don’t have to be forever. Offer the opportunity to a few employees as a 6-month or year-long position to start. And if employees enjoy the added responsibility and power for change, they may be more inclined to stay on-board and even with the company as a whole long-term.


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