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Millennial Board finds new questions to old answers

Heikki Leskinen founded Millennial Board to combat the status quo in corporations.Roni Rekomaa

As times change, even the most traditional businesses need to adopt their ways of existing to stay relevant. Millennial Board brings along the views of the most talked-about demographic.

If you haven’t heard the word ‘millennial’, you were probably born yesterday – and, most likely, to millennial parents. Millennials are today’s 20- to 35-year-olds, the folks that approach life sometimes with vastly different values and expectations to those of their predecessors, particularly when it comes to things such as ownership and status.

Many of the parents of millennials are now decision-makers and senior managers; but the different sets of rules between the two generations can collide in workplaces as well as business. Through his work in management consulting, Heikki Leskinen stumbled across plenty of conventional companies searching for ways to adopt startup-minded perspectives.

“I noticed that there’s no platform that would enable and encourage a senior management-level dialogue to support the transformation of their company,” Leskinen explains. “I decided to build an adapter between the current leadership and the future.”

This is important, because what happens next isn’t in the hands of those in power now.

“Old business models might lose their energy if they just remain in their bubble. We need to find new problems – as well as radical ways to solve them.”

Stripping off fancy titles

Millennial Board has founded a community of millennials from diverse disciplines, now consisting of over 300 young professionals. Whenever a corporation is looking for insights, a team of suitable individuals is sent out to the task in the form of workshops and meetings.

Founder and CEO Leskinen hopes that one day the board could serve multinational companies with multinational teams. At the moment, Millennial Board has communities in four cities in Finland as well as one in Oslo, London and Stockholm.

“By the end of the year, we’ll have a community in 10 countries,” he promises.

“It can come as a genuine surprise that our generation doesn’t see owning a house as a necessity, or deem a summer cottage or a car a status symbol.” Image: Roni Rekomaa

Sara Peltola, Millennial Board’s community manager in Helsinki, says that although the community members come from different fields, they share innovativeness as well as courage to be vocal about their opinions to established experts.

“In the meetings, there are no CEOs or CTOs or students, but people go by their first names,” she notes.

That appeals to the community of millennials, too. Although the financial compensation for their participation is not significant, they gain experience in industries they might’ve never really taken note of before – especially the ones that struggle to make themselves attractive in the eyes of the young. Those tend to be the companies in need of Millennial Board’s services, such as insurance and utility businesses.

Changing priorities

For companies, the benefits lie in new aspects as to how to maintain the relevance of their products or services, or even how to pivot completely if necessary. The other angle is recruiting: how can a company ensure the biggest talents are eager to work for it?

At times, the answer might be something the senior managers never thought about.

“For example, once we were asked how much we’d need to be paid in order to work for the company,” Peltola recalls. “We told them they’re asking the wrong question. Instead, they should contemplate what other value the work can offer, how it betters society and what skills it teaches.”

Community member Perttu Pölönen has noticed the same thing.

“Sometimes we’re asked if we really think how we claim to think,” he says. “It can come as a genuine surprise that our generation doesn’t see owning a house as a necessity or deem a summer cottage or a car a status symbol.”

Some clients have already asked community members to join their boards. As change is constant, Leskinen’s goal is to develop Millennial Board’s presence in its customer companies to a long-lasting partnership.

“That would make us a continuous sidekick, a sort of devil’s advocate,” he says laughingly. “That way companies can ensure they’re on the ball and ready to disrupt their own business models. If they don’t, their competitors will.”

(l to r) Perttu Pölönen, Heikki Leskinen and Sara Peltola wish companies had more time for proactive development instead of just reactivity. Image: Roni Rekomaa
By: Anne Salomäki