Organisations are increasingly waking up to the realisation that they need heavyweight digital expertise on their boards.

In our recent pulse survey, strategy was cited as the most critical digital element Australia needs in 2014. This backs up our belief that boards in Australia need digital members to bring big ideas and fresh perspectives.

But as that need becomes more apparent, a race to find the best and brightest digital leaders is heating up. Winning the race at this point is important, but getting into the race is even more critical. Here’s how to get your organization into it.

Expect competition

Global B2C e-commerce sales are expected to rise more than 20 per cent to reach $US1.5 trillion this year and every business wants a bigger bite of that pie. We see it reflected in our own business: we conducted significantly more digital searches last year than ever before and there is no easing in sight.

The introduction of digital advisory boards is putting even greater constraints on digital talent supply. The last few years have seen double-digit rises in demand for board members with a digital, or the very least, a technology background.

Be prepared to fight tooth and nail for truly exceptional digital leaders and board members — everyone else is looking for them too.

Look in the right places.

Definitely be ready for competition. But also be sure to look in the right places. A few years ago, it was relatively easy to poach great digital leaders from Silicon Valley, but today’s economy is a bit different.

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It takes a pretty attractive offer and an expert negotiating partner to woo top talent from the world’s reigning technology hub. If you’re frustrated with the outlook from Silicon Valley, think global. There is a wealth of digital talent to tap; global experience can be hugely insightful and valuable to make an immediate impact on driving digital growth and success.

Be prepared for your board to look a bit different

Before you search for a digital board member, it’s important to adjust boardroom expectations. The traditional board of directors is, well… fairly traditional. Look at any company’s annual report and you see a fairly monochromatic picture. But remind yourself that you need to bring in something different to your board.

Often board members have a big say in who is accepted onto the board, but we are not looking for more of the same. We are looking for something distinctly different here. With the infusion of digital talent, board member demographics are changing dramatically. These new digital board members may look different, dress different, have a different attitude toward risk and are fully immersed in social media and emerging technology.

The face of the board is changing, but that change is exactly what businesses need to thrive in 2014 and beyond.

Choose enthusiasm

It’s crucial to find someone with a public face who can get people excited and champion your digital journey. Digital transformation is never done quietly! When you’re choosing digital talent to add to your board, the delicate flower won’t do. You want someone who is going to get pumped about your organization and get everyone else just as pumped.

This is no time to be shy, especially since great talent attracts other great talent. The power of having inspirational digital leaders on your board is enormous. More top talent will want to join your organization – enthusiasm over digital is contagious, and your investment in digital talent will serve as a major beacon for more fresh talent.
So what are you waiting for?

Digital is the future. It is right now. So get moving! The race is on to digitize the board… are you ready to join it? If the challenge seems overwhelming, that’s understandable. Finding that key digital component for your board is a huge task, so don’t be afraid to call in executive search experts to help.

About the author

*Bridget Gray is the managing director of Harvey Nash Australia as well as the global Media, Digital and Communications practice leader. For the past decade, she had been involved in recruiting some of the world’s best technology and digital talent.

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