How to Recruit a Digital Executive for Your Board

Even the casual observer has gotten the point by now: Corporate boards everywhere are seeking directors with digital expertise. Don’t despair if you haven’t signed one yet. Some of the most in-demand digital directors get 10 or more offers a year to serve on boards and, with challenging day jobs, can only pick one or two. That doesn’t mean you can’t recruit a highly desirable digital director; you just have to know how to go about it.

Attracting and recruiting a new generation of directors requires more than compensation and the flattery of being asked to serve on a board. “Prove to me,” these directors say, “why is it in my interest to serve on your board?”

Think in terms of three phases of recruitment to attract and retain digital executives who will contribute effectively to your board:

1. Before the recruitment: Present a united perspective on digital. Perceived inconsistency or lack of commitment to digital by board members may be a red flag for prospective directors. Make sure the board is aligned on the company’s digital strategy and the specific skills and attributes required for the board position.

2.  During the recruitment: Sell the opportunity.Does a younger generation of directors want to be compensated for their time and for sharing their expertise? Of course. But equally important is the chance to have an impact on a strategy and to bring lessons learned back to their own company. A board seat is increasingly viewed as a critical building block in an executive’s career. Think of it in terms of a courting process, rather than making a digital executive an offer he or she can’t refuse, and consider bridging any culture gaps, such as customary dress and other formalities, so you can focus on substance.

3.  After the recruitment: Don’t neglect follow-through. Determine how best to ensure the new director is fully engaged so there is not even a whiff of tokenism. Particularly with a first-time director, provide help so the new recruit can quickly contribute. That may require everything from an orientation pack with the “rules of the road,” to formal director education, to assigning an experienced mentor on the board, or another coach, to work with the new director.

A board that is able to articulate clearly, internally and externally, what it is seeking in a digital director; that effectively communicates the opportunity; and that provides proper support for new directors will have an advantage in recruiting and retaining these directors in a competitive market.

Nels Olson is Vice Chairman and Co-leader of Board & CEO Services and Drew Lipsher is Senior Client Partner Global Media at Korn/Ferry International.