Who’s Coming to Your Co-op Board?

Is your co-op working to bring Generation Xers and even millennials onto the board of directors? (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)

Is your co-op working to bring Generation Xers and even millennials onto the board of directors? (Photo By: Luis Gomez Photos)

TAMPA, Florida—The folks who remember the lights coming on for the first time are few and far between, and now their children are rapidly retiring from electric co-op boards. Who will take their places?

"What I'm seeing with a lot of the cooperatives is they're starting to bring the Generation Xers on the board," people roughly ages 37 to 52, said Kristina Dietrick, president of Creative Business Solutions, a human resources consulting firm.

"Not the millennials. When you're 17 to 37, how difficult is it to be on a cooperative board? Not only are you working, you're raising children."

In fact, Dietrick said "the biggest challenge electric cooperatives are going to have" in recruiting board members is finding people with the time to devote. Are your board meetings during the day—when Generation X is at work?

"You have to look and say, 'Are we making our nominating process and the time our board meets open enough so that other members besides ourselves can consider board service?' "

And to engage Gen Xers and millennials on your board you have to realize they're a different breed from the Baby Boomers and the even older Veterans/Traditionalists, based on demographic breakdowns.

During an April 3 session at the NRECA Directors Conference at the Tampa Marriott Waterside, Dietrick said communication media is one of the biggest issues with multiple generations on boards.

Veterans may still be using rotary phones and writing memos, while Boomers advanced to touchtone phones that they don't mind answering any time. But Gen X is all about smart phones, and being called only at work.

And millennials?

"What do you think the No. 1 most popular way to communicate with a 16-year-old is right now? Texting? No. Snapchat. And it evolves all the time."

But rather than disparage anyone, Dietrick stressed the importance—and value—of building on a particular generation's strength, especially with technology.

"I can say to a millennial 'I need this, this and this' and how quickly do they get it done? I can do it, but that would take me two hours instead of two minutes. So why not leverage them for what they're good at?"

Dietrick also stressed the importance of having a system to get new members acclimated to the board "as quickly as possible." She said providing a mentor is an excellent way to do that. And even after the newness wears off, follow up and don't leave them hanging.

"Are we swinging back and talking to that new director a month later, two months later, six months later?"