Next Generation: Non-Executive Director Scheme

Published: 2nd May 2024

January 2024 saw the start of our third cohort for the Next Gen Neds scheme.

The rolling program offers opportunities for staff from the UKRN members to shadow non-executive directors on our member boards and committees to gain real-time experience of these roles.

As well as getting insights into board / committee working, involvement in the scheme will help individuals in their future careers as well as building a wider and deeper pool for NED recruitment, vital to our sectors and the economy.

This multi faceted scheme is unique in the layers of experience offered (placements and mentoring, community of interest, linked-In, networking). We are incredibly proud to support this career development and diversity within regulation further strengthening the positive vision of regulation as an attractive career choice.

But don’t just take our word for it, here are some experiences from participants and stakeholders:

Bill Emery – UKRN Chair of Chairs

Finally, our next generation non-executive directors scheme finished its pilot and we started a second wave. This initiative has been hugely successful. The rolling program offers opportunities for staff from UKRN members to shadow non-executive directors on our members boards and committees to gain real, live experience of these roles. As well as getting insights into board / committee working, involvement in the scheme will help individuals in their future careers as well as building a wider and deeper pool for NED recruitment, vital to our sectors and the economy. Our initiative goes far beyond our normal work and offers staff, at all levels in our membership, the chance to gain wider experience of senior and decision-making roles. Of course, in this initiative and elsewhere, we are always highlighting the importance of diversity. So, to encourage greater inclusivity, we have facilitated a “community of interest”, an informal part of our program to enable networking and mentoring support across a community.

Quote taken from UKRN Annual Review 2022 – 2022-UKRN-annual-review_Published.pdf

Mark McAllister – Chair of Ofgem

This year, I have the pleasure of welcome three Next GEN NEDs to the Ofgem Board. The Next GEN NED programme is a fantastic initiative which provides unique opportunities for aspiring Board members across regulators. I believe that key success of the programme is to ensure that as regulators we have an enduring pipeline of talented and diverse expertise that can become future Non-executive directors. I look forward to working with our Next GEN NED cohort in the year ahead and in the future, building their understanding and confidence as aspiring NEDs and injecting diverse perspectives into our Board discussions.

Bola – Wave 1 participant

The Next Gen NED scheme transcends a mere program—it’s a journey of discovery, empowerment, and meaningful impact on one’s career”

Why did I apply for the scheme?
Applying for the Next Gen NED (NGN) scheme was a game-changer for my career. I stumbled upon the role of a Non-Executive Director (NED) during my time as a Co-opted member of the Students Equality Committee at the University of East London. Observing NEDs question top executives ignited my interest. This journey inadvertently left behind a trail of digital footprints in pursuit of NED opportunities, which subsequently attracted the attention of NED recruitment agencies asking for upfront fees for headhunting and training. In the gaps between my tenure with UEL and my employment with Ofcom, I acquired skills and experience that ultimately contributed to my selection for the desired NGN Scheme.

What have I learned?
My placement as an observer with the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) was enlightening. Under the guidance of my mentor, I grasped big picture thinking in delivering public services. Accountability for Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and effective communication were pivotal. Boardroom etiquette became second nature. Networking improved, emphasising the art of listening and communicating

What were my highlights?
My Next Gen NED journey overflowed with highlights:

Becoming a trustee with Citizens Advice, leveraging ORR insights, solidified my NED aspirations.

The ORR experience was a brilliant start, urging me to dive into topics like biodiversity, macroeconomics, and infrastructure ahead of meetings.

My mentor’s guidance before and after board meetings fuelled deeper understanding.

What advice would you give to future applicants?
Approach the scheme realistically:

Embrace a springboard mindset; my ORR placement opened doors to skills and networks.

Peripheral NED roles, like a Trustee, are steppingstones. Learning from experienced NEDs is key.

The NGN scheme is a journey of growth, discovery, and meaningful impact.

As an alumnus of the NGN, the community of Interest meetings continue to offer valuable on-going learning, networking, and etiquette insights.

Quote taken from UKRN-newsletter-September-2023-1.pdf

Sarah – Wave 2 participant

Through our new cohort we continue to build long-term relationships and an enduring talent pipeline by offering a number of shadowing and mentoring opportunities across participant organisations’ committees and panels. Providing advice to a wider group of Next Gen NEDs via a Community of Interest. Sarah Watson shares her experience with us.

Why did I apply for the scheme?
I felt I was at a point in my career where I was ready to do more, explore more and learn more. I was particularly interested in exploring decision making and how women working in regulated environments can have ‘impact’. I looked into lots of training courses, coaching, mentoring and developmental opportunities but none seemed to fit the bill for me. Then I came across NextGen NEDs – and I realised instantly this was a totally unique opportunity.

What did I learn?
The programme has been completely transformative for me. I am not the same person I was before it started. Taking on a role as an ‘observer’ is incredibly powerful.

At first in might appear contradictory; that a forum where you don’t actively speak and participate can be so influential. It’s precisely for this reason though that it is a game changer. You become free from pressure and liberated to listen, observe, reflect, understand and play out scenarios in your own mind. You become adept at non-verbal communication and find yourself noticing everything and missing nothing.

You also get dedicated mentoring from a NED where you can share these reflections. I found these two elements of observation and mentoring worked in concert to really lift me. I was placed with the Office of Road and Rail (ORR) Highways Committee and the discussions with my mentor before/after Board meetings were truly special experiences. It is in these mentoring sessions that you begin to realise the impact and value you can have as an individual in a senior decision making or governance environment. It’s a real confidence boost when a NED or Chair raises exactly the point you were thinking!

What were my highlights?
Being part of the committee in the run-up to an important publication. Working in a regulated environment we all know the pressures of publication. Observing the process from the top in the Boardroom really brought home to me the value of the NED role and good governance. Also my mentor. Our conversations were stimulating, confidence-boosting and impactful.

What advice would I give to future applicants?
Go for it! It’s like no other development opportunity you will ever have. You are there, in the room. Invest the time and effort before and after meetings. Watch and listen. Your professional world will never be the same again.

Quote taken from UKRN Newsletter, Spring 2024 Edition

Graham – Wave 2 participant

Why did I apply for the scheme?
I guess it is partly because I’m at that interesting stage in my career. I’ve been working non-stop as a Senior Change professional for many years now and I’m keen to explore ways that I can continue to contribute in a form that works for both myself and industry. I’ve learnt a lot, often the hard way and in pressured situations, and it feels a shame not to help others in similar circumstances.

My family are also determined that I avoid a “hard stop” in my career so as to avoid being an annoyance to them, which would inevitably be the case. That said, diversity in Board membership is the name of the game and it certainly isn’t just for people toward the end of their career.

Where was I assigned?
I was extremely lucky to be assigned to the Audit and Risk committee of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) under the steely mentorship of Ailsa Beaton OBE. Ailsa was extremely generous with her time and the support from ICO was excellent.

What have I learned?
It’s tempting to say that I learnt a lot about the Information Commissioner’s fascinating world. Whilst that is inevitably true, it would be missing the point of the Programme.

The Programme is all about understanding how NEDs work. How the dynamics of a meeting, at that level, are managed. How challenges to thinking are delivered with impact and tact in equal measure. I have also learnt that it can be a very rewarding way of work, to give some of that experience back to help.

What advice would you give to future applicants?
There are so many things I could say here, these are just a few:

  • My biggest regret was not meeting Ailsa and Board members face to face until late in the process – it is so much easier to form relationships and observe when in the room.  
  • Don’t be afraid to contribute; if you have something to say or ask, then get involved. For more delicate questions, look to have a de-brief with your mentor who will help unpick the meeting.
  • I would also avoid “sweating the detail”; although it is important to understand what is going on, it isn’t about the content and the dynamics of the meeting should be the focus.
  • Don’t assume it is the same as attending a Board meeting from the “other side of the fence”. It is very different indeed to constructively challenge rather than respond to the challenges.
  • “Fill your boots” with the knowledge and experience of your mentor. They are vastly experienced people and always happy to share their thoughts.  
  • Be yourself; it is very tempting to attempt to mirror those around you. We are all unique with our own set of of experiences to contribute.
  • Stay engaged with the NGN Community – applying for roles can be frustrating, the group is a great support and resource, their enthusiasm is infectious.

Fiona – Next Gen Neds Working Group

We now have over 300 members of the Community, which provides inspiration, networking opportunities and regular online events featuring advice from a range of experienced speakers including a wide range of NEDs, HR specialists and recruitment consultants.

Two years in – reviews In the UKRN Annual Report, Bill Emery commented on the initiative’s success and how involvement in the scheme will help individuals in their future careers and build a wider and deeper pool for NED recruitment, vital to our sectors and the economy.

Participants in the scheme have commented on the increased awareness and confidence it’s helped them acquire, and a number from our initial cohort have now been successful in gaining Trustee, NED or Advisory posts.

Our Next Gen NEDs have said: “Participating in the Next Gen NEDs programme has given me great insight into how boards operate and how they consider the performance of an organisation – sometimes the focus is very different to what I expected! It has offered the chance to interact with board members that I otherwise wouldn’t had, giving the opportunity to hear their experience and discuss how meetings ran.” “In the last six months, I have observed how to add value to public services through questioning and understand accountability. I’ve learnt how to position and present issues in the most effective ways to get good engagement and high quality decision making. The importance of the out of meeting engagement and debate. The range of skills required for an effectively functioning board.”

We’re also working with a number of external bodies with similar aims to learn from their experience. We’re a very small team – but one that’s made up of passionate advocates. We’re keen to reflect on our experience, learn from others, correct our course when needed and build on our successes. “We want to broaden awareness of this unique set of opportunities and work with new UKRN partners, reaching a broader audience and inspiring more people”

Quote taken from UKRN-newsletter-September-2023-1.pdf

Hamish Finlay – Ofgem’s former Deputy Head of Governance & Secretariat Team

Next-Gen NEDS participants have observed our highest Board and its sub-committees over the last six months when Ofgem was making decisions in a highly challenging environment for energy consumers. They have been able to attend confidential discussions in a manner that upheld Ofgem’s responsibilities, provided opportunities for learning and allowed them to contribute where they had relevant experience. Ofgem’s Chair looks forward to continuing the Board’s participation in the next round.