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  • Tara Rethore

Board's Role: Workforce of the Future

Defining the workforce of the future is a recurring theme among leaders worldwide. After all, securing a ready supply of qualified talent is a critical strategic imperative. The events of 2020 – sudden, global, quarantine and heightened awareness of the impacts of systemic social inequity – again pushed this conversation to the forefront.


In an earlier article (here), I described what we learned during 2020 and its aftermath. I posed three questions CEOs should ask to identify which short-term fixes they might adopt for their workforce over the long term. Their answers also inform workspaces and work norms.


CEOs need not be alone in shaping the workforce and work norms of the future. Their Boards can help.


What is the Board’s role?


The Board’s two primary roles remain critical. In its advisory capacity, the Board ensures that the C-Suite is both asking the right questions and effectively addressing them via the decisions and actions taken on the ground. For example, to what extent is the executive team delivering what customers and staff need and want? How are they actively accommodating differences, while providing the requisite equity and clarity about what’s expected?


As a fiduciary, the Board evaluates its own behaviors to understand how well it is acting in the best interests of the people they represent. They do this in the larger context of organizational purpose and the company’s desired impact for customers, communities, and staff. Three questions the Board should consider:

  • To what extent do our actions represent what each of our stakeholder groups want and need?

  • What capabilities, perspectives, and experiences will the board and C-Suite require in the future to serve customers and sustain staff?

  • In what ways will we adapt board practices to model what’s necessary to assure equity and clarity?

The Board’s external perspective and breadth of experience is particularly valuable in shaping the workforce and work norms of the future. They are charged with guiding the company to implement the infrastructure, systems, and approaches that enable staff productivity and sustain the business for the long term. Further, their own actions and ways of working signal the extent to which the company embraces its commitment to purpose and people.


Working in partnership, CEOs and Boards can seize the opportunity created by this fundamental shift in how we work and interact. Together, they’ll reap the benefits of an inclusive, resilient, adaptable, and tech-savvy workforce.