Board Smarts: Welcome a New Voice
A young member gets a seat at the board table at the Emergency Nurses Association.
Until recently, there was a voice missing in the boardroom at the Emergency Nurses Association. While almost a third of ENA members are young professionals, defined as having five years of experience or less, no one on the national board fell into this category.
Secretary and Treasurer Mike Hastings, MSN, RN, CEN, said the problem begged the question: “How do we make sure we don’t lose sight of our younger professionals?”
The answer was to create a new young leader liaison role. The first liaison began working with the board earlier this year. “Right now, it’s a two-year pilot, and each liaison serves a one-year term,” Hastings says. “We will call on them like a board member and say, ‘Hey, from your perspective, what do you think about this?’”
The key difference is that the young leader liaison is not an elected official and therefore does not have a board vote. But the liaison participates in board meetings and is responsible for completing common tasks between meetings, such as reviewing readings and recorded meeting minutes.
Already, the liaison has helped to change the ways in which ENA engages younger members. One new method is to create more opportunities for microvolunteering.
“When we work on national committees, the appointment process is for two- or three-year terms, and that is not what our younger generation typically likes,” Hasting says. “So, we are doing smaller, incremental projects this year.”
Hastings recommends three steps to recruit and engage a young leader liaison for your board:
Create a call for applicants. Once ENA’s board approved the liaison position, it was posted online and disseminated to local chapters. More than 40 members applied, and the board devised a scoring system to review and rate each candidate. “What we wanted to have was somebody that had a nice background and truly represented the voice of the emerging professional,” Hastings says.
Give the liaison full access. The liaison is invited to all ENA board meetings, including the board retreat. Full participation establishes trust and empowers the liaison to speak up, especially during board conversations on difficult issues.
Make the job mutually beneficial. The liaison brings a valuable viewpoint to the board but also benefits from working alongside national leaders who serve as career mentors. It can also help to break down any real or perceived divides between generations within the profession, Hastings says. “What we really want to make sure is [that] we help to support and give them the tools and resources they need to succeed.”