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Driving Cognitive Diversity in the Boardroom—NACD Helps Senior Military Officers Transition to Boardroom Service

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Realizing that many of those who have served in the military have diverse leadership experiences and functional skills, the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) has developed a new program to help senior military officers transition to boardroom service. This program will help advance high standards of director professionalism and increase cognitive diversity on corporate boards.

The first-of-its-kind forum—From the Battlefield to the Boardroom—will be held Tuesday, February 28 through Thursday, March 1 in Washington, DC. The agenda, speakers and program details can be viewed at www.NACDonline.org/Military.

In a Reuters story announcing the event, NACD President and CEO Ken Daly remarked that, “Developing an engaged community of men and women who retired from the most senior ranks of the military will raise the standards of directorship, provide diversity candidates for future director positions and provide opportunities for retired military officers currently serving as directors to mentor those with an interest in serving in the boardroom.”

In an environment where corporate boards and their enterprises face intense scrutiny, having qualified, well-prepared directors with diverse backgrounds and skill sets is critical. From the Battlefield to the Boardroom will continue NACD’s mission of preparing directors to professionally oversee the affairs of the corporation and building strong, diverse boards to serve as strategic assets for their enterprises. Since its founding 35 years ago, NACD has been focused on driving director professionalism, and has held several forums aimed at promoting diversity in the boardroom.

During this two-day forum, leading public company directors and corporate governance professionals will discuss boardroom realities with retired military flag and general officers and detail how their service-connected, core skill sets and experiences can be applied in public and private company boardrooms. The forum will also provide sessions on skill and knowledge development to help the participants apply their wisdom within the context of board leadership and corporate governance practices.

Full information, including an up-to-date agenda for the two-day program, is available at http://www.NACDonline.org/Military.

The Boardroom as Economic Indicator

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In Tuesday’s NACD Directors Daily, a Chicago Tribune article reported that “Companies see growth but few new jobs.” According to an industry survey by the National Association for Business Economics, two-thirds of respondents expect no change in employment at their companies in the next six months. However, 65% of respondents predicted that a growth in gross domestic product of over two percent would accompany the stagnant job market.

According to NACD’s Boardroom Confidence Index (BCI), directors share this more positive view for economic growth in 2012. More than half of respondents (52.6%) forecast economic conditions to be at least “substantially better” in the upcoming year. The BCI also tracks expectations for employment growth. Specifically, whether directors forecast that their companies will expand, contract, or maintain the same workforce in an upcoming quarter. Throughout 2011, directors most commonly responded that their companies would retain the same amount of employees in the upcoming quarter. The most recent BCI, in line with the findings from the National Association for Business Economics, predicted that job growth would remain fairly stagnant in the first quarter of 2012.

Produced in collaboration with Pearl Meyer & Partners, the BCI measures corporate directors’ confidence in the economy on a quarterly basis. Results of the Q1 2012 BCI will be available in April.

Annual NACD Private Company Governance Survey

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While public companies often dominate the news cycle, privately held companies play a major role in the global economy. According to Forbes, the largest 212 private companies in the U.S. represent $1.33 trillion in revenues. Although they aren’t subject to the full gamut of requirements as dictated by listing exchanges and regulatory agencies, private companies are inching closer to their public counterparts in terms of governance practices, according to the 2011 NACD Private Company Governance Survey. To be released next month, this survey details the governance habits of America’s private company boardrooms. According to our data, in few cases do the practices between public and private boardrooms differ greatly.

All companies are faced with an extremely challenging economic environment. As a result, private company directors, like their public company counterparts, have maintained focus on strategic planning and oversight. In fact, boards have listed corporate strategy as their top priority for the past three years. Oversight of corporate performance is consistently ranked as second. These two concerns indicate that private company directors, despite the economic volatility, focus their attention on the long-term sustainable performance of their organizations.

While some priorities remain unchanged, private boards have also made adjustments in response to the current environment. This year, the need to build bench strength is a top issue for directors. Executive talent management and leadership development rose to the third most important issue, its highest ranking to date.

The findings from the private survey are typically a leading indicator of the “hot topics” being discussed in America’s boardrooms. At a time when corporate leadership is under heightened public scrutiny, the rising importance of executive talent management is a positive sign.