Get on board


Looking for new ways to develop the skills of valued members of staff? Get them to join the board of an arts organisation, suggests Arts & Business regional manager Kirsten Whiting

In these challenging times you can be forgiven for focussing more on Robert Peston’s blog and scratching your head over the bottom line than on thinking up interesting and innovative ways to develop your team.

Now it is no great secret that the workforce is business’s most valuable asset. Retaining all staff and in particular Generation Y (those currently under 30) requires a concerted effort to constantly offer new development opportunities.

Young workers are driven to make a difference and work where their values align, according to London Business School’s recent research. During a recession, investing in your workforce now leads to commitment when the market improves.

At a time of great uncertainty and change, strengthening the psychological contract to align business values with employees’ values is vital, especially with your younger workforce.

So what if you could offer some of your skilled or ‘promising’ team members the opportunity of a long-term programme of development, inspiring confidence and bringing new skills to your organisation?

And for less than the price of some of those one-day courses we’ve all been on that keep us energised and motivated until the end of the week if we’re lucky? Well, here’s an interesting idea for you: get them to join the board of an arts organisation.

Since 1988, Arts & Business has placed more than 5,000 business people as non-executive board members and advisors with not-for-profit arts organisations. Being a board member offers the opportunity to further develop key skills in areas such as strategic management, leadership, influence and negotiation, problem solving, creative thinking and networking. It is an enjoyable and rewarding way to engage with the cultural sector, put something back into the community and deliver on both personal and corporate social responsibility goals.

You don’t need to be a ‘culture vulture’ to sit on the board of an arts organisation – indeed, it can be more beneficial for the arts organisation to have someone with an entirely different perspective who can enquire, challenge and assist in a completely different way from board members with a vested interest.

Sometimes it is not only a business perspective that an arts board needs, but a generational one. The Young Professionals on Arts Boards programme is an extension of Board Bank and is aimed specifically at talented young professionals between the ages of 18 – 30. Piloted in 2007, it has already proved to be a highly successful and beneficial way of developing your potential high flyers and can rapidly advance their personal and career development.

One of the most recent YPOAB participants, Amir Yasdi, an associate director from RBS said: “These are skills you’d never ever learn from a book, and you’d never ever learn from a bank.”

Robert Bourns, senior partner at TLT Solicitors believes participating in the Board Bank and Young Professionals programmes has brought new skills and expertise to the company: “As a firm we take the development of our people very seriously. We have sought to move away from relying purely on traditional training courses for ‘soft skills’, as well as allowing people to develop relevant skills from outside of the firm that are directly transferable into the workplace.

“As a result, we are delighted to have formed an association with Arts & Business which allows our staff to contribute to the boards of art-based businesses.”

So you see you can have it all – a flourishing and productive team, a flourishing and productive business, and still keep an eye on Robert Peston’s blog.

This article first appeared in the Dec 2010/Jan 2011 issue of Business Cornwall