Corporate Social Responsibility and Recruiting the Next Generation of Leaders

By Warren R. Phillips


Corporate Social Responsibility Online Article

CACI International has an active board of directors that is supported by an involved nominating and governance committee. Over the last several years, the makeup of our board has changed with regard to both gender and ethnicity, benefiting us with new ideas that come from leaders with diverse backgrounds.

We continue to recruit emerging executive board members who have the skills needed to support our growth strategy and respond to today’s challenges. I believe there are two key factors for successful board recruiting: The nominating and governance committee must pay attention to the challenges a publicly traded corporation faces, and the board should recognize shareholder and stakeholder interest in the culture of the board and how it affects decision-making.  

It is no secret that the culture of a corporation strongly influences the success or failure of the whole enterprise. Corporate social responsibility, which includes the social, governance, and environmental policies of the corporation, has a strong influence on the growth and reputation of any business. These factors have always affected the success of companies, but now more than ever, in a time of pandemic-inspired changes in market trends and general uncertainty, the board must provide leadership, guidance, and foresight when selecting its next generation of leaders for the new normal. How can we choose our leaders wisely and grow the company responsibly?

A diverse board that reflects today’s society is essential to ensure that opportunities are not overlooked and multiple points of view are heard. If we look at the number of graduates from high school through graduate school, the majority is female in almost all disciplines. In United States graduate schools, students come from countries all over the world. Many remain in the U.S. and make their home here. These and other developments have drastically changed the make-up of the workforce in recent years, in addition to opportunities for advancement becoming more available to all. While much of this change was led by industries and institutions like the military, education, and health care, diversity is prevalent throughout the economy today. 

What is much newer is the widespread expectation that the next generation of leaders in America have a strong sense of corporate social responsibility. In today’s corporate world, I am impressed by the participation of shareholders, stakeholders, and the public in the responsible transfer of leadership to the new generation. Demands for more diversity in the boardroom from key investors like Fidelity Investments or State Street Global Advisors and demands from other institutional investors that environmental issues be addressed in board planning documents have taken on a whole new level of importance. This has had a demonstrable influence on decision-making for future recruitment, corporate investments, employee well-being programs, and the selection of appointments to the board.

The demand is there. The question now becomes: How does corporate America address this responsibility to be inclusive and socially conscious and turn it into opportunity? I believe that there are several opportunities for well-intentioned boards to find assistance. A company’s human resources and communications functional areas can provide tremendous value in fostering and communicating the tenets of great cultures. CACI found out early that by establishing a culture committee at the board level—the first at a New York Stock Exchange-listed company—the importance of promoting high standards of ethics and innovation were brought to the fore at board meetings. It has been a tremendous benefit that recommendations to further solidify the company’s corporate identity and corporate social responsibility were embraced by employees and shareholders.

We also knew that our relationship with the investor community was becoming more important as we grew. Thus, some form of board interaction with the investor community was important to us. The culture committee has taken the lead in providing insight into CACI culture and its evolution to the next generation of leadership to all shareholders. It has underscored the importance of focusing on next-generation leadership in our planning documents and in our quarterly financial discussions with interested investors. I am confident that it has helped and will continue to help new investors to better understand how the company operates. I know it has helped the board to evaluate the success of last year’s planning cycle, as well as point out new areas of culture and talent management worth addressing for the future.

For companies who see the way forward to developing the next generation of leaders: Good on you. To those who feel they need help, there is no lack of available aid. NACD helped me when I accepted the lead director role at CACI, but there are also a number of legal and search firm options that can help you choose a smart path into the future. I wish you a successful quest, but I encourage you to accept the challenge of first developing a clear forward vision.

Warren R. Phillips
Warren R. Phillips is the lead director of CACI International.