With the end of the year rapidly approaching, many boards are in the process of recruiting, nominating, and electing new directors or trustees. Thanks to disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic, this year has been as tumultuous as any on record. As a result, boards everywhere are looking at how to evolve to meet long-term strategic challenges and opportunities – and much of that requires new blood and fresh perspectives. But where do you start?
Before You Recruit, Start with a Board Skills Matrix
Before you begin deciding where, how, and who to recruit, it’s vital to assess your current board members’ skills. As one director noted in a 2018 KPMG study, “Getting the right people with the right skills, both technically and personally, is as much an art as it is a science, but board composition can be far more systematic than simple guesswork.”
Taking this guesswork out of board composition will have a far-reaching impact.
- In that same KPMG survey, only 36% of directors said they were “satisfied,” and 49% were “somewhat satisfied” that their board had the right combination of skills, background, and experiences. Clearly, directors see much room for improvement when it comes to board composition.
- At the WCD’s recent 2020 Virtual Global Institute, Julie Hembrock Daum of Spencer Stuart said that low board turnover (8%) helps keep minority candidates from getting onto boards. While she also predicted “we will see the numbers significantly change” this year, this low turnover rate also uncovered an opportunity where better skills evaluations can help boards bring on new members of different genders and minority groups.
After all, if you don’t measure your current directors’ effectiveness, it’s hard to know when fresh blood is needed.
Download this Free Board Skills Matrix
Passageways have a board skills matrix available for free download at its website. At a bare minimum, your current board’s skills assessment will help you know how to achieve the right mix of skills, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives going forward. To maximize its usefulness, customize it, and align it as close as possible to your board’s strategic objectives.
There is No One “Right” Board
Board composition is the essential heart of board effectiveness. Forward-looking and strategic-minded boards should continually consider whether they have the optimum composition that reflects their organization’s strategic priorities. The results and observations you obtain from assessing your board’s skills will not only help facilitate robust boardroom conversation around board composition but also provide insights to assist you as your board tackles the difficult challenge of building and maintaining the “right” board.
Of course, the quintessential truth is that there is no one “right” board – only the board that is right for your organization’s strategic goals. In light of issues such as a need for greater DEI (Diversity Equity and Inclusion), how to adapt to the long-term reality of COVID-19, and how to respond to ongoing pressure from third-party governance watchdogs, the demand for a broader set of skills to support organizational change in a fast-changing world have never been more apparent.
About The Author
- At OnBoard, we believe board meetings should be informed, effective, and uncomplicated. That’s why we give boards and leadership teams an elegant solution that simplifies governance. With customers in higher education, nonprofit, health care systems, government, and corporate enterprise business, OnBoard is the leading board management provider.
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