We work with a diverse range of clients in the private, public and charity sectors. The most effective organisations we work with really invest in their boards, and encourage continual learning in the boardroom. We asked them why they felt board development was so important and this is what they told us:
1. It reminds board members of their role and responsibilities
With the best will in the world, roles can get muddled in the heat of debate. We may get caught up in the needs of a specific interest group, or over a particular decision. Investing in board development helps board members to raise their heads out of the detail and think together from a more strategic perspective.
2. It helps build the board team
Time and again our clients tell us that the real benefit of board learning and development is that it helps them gel as a team. Often the board has little time in board meetings to get to know each other, as everyone is focussed on the job at hand. Taking time out for board development allows board members to interact in a less structured environment, and the resulting relationships are more resilient when the going gets tough.
3. It ensures board members are using ‘reasonable care, skill and diligence’
This was also high up the list. Directors have legal duties, as listed in the Companies Act 2006, one of which is to use reasonable care, skill and diligence. Keeping the board informed and energised ensures that they can effectively discharge this duty.
4. It shows that the organisation values continual learning
The culture of an organisation is set by the board, and permeates throughout the organisation. By investing in board development, a clear signal is sent that the organisation values continual learning. This will encourage staff to continuously learn and develop, creating a vibrant learning organisation that will be the envy of competitors.
5. It helps keep the organisation safe and legal
We live in an ever-changing world. If the board is to ensure that the organisation is kept safe and legal, it must be conversant with changes in regulation, legislation and the operating environment. Boards should be given regular updates on such changes, and should consider how they affect the organisation and what actions are needed.
6. It helps to motivate and retain good board members
Really good board members are committed to continually developing themselves and growing in their role. They therefore value an organisation which also invests in them. This leads to increased motivation and loyalty.
7. It builds trust
Boards that spend time in reflective and learning mode tend to communicate in more depth and do more straight talking with each other on the topics that really matter. By doing that, they develop a level of trust that enhances board team performance.
8. It increases innovation and improves performance
Organisations that invest in people development are the most likely to be at the cutting edge of new innovations. In his 2014 study on Innovation, Productivity and Training, Beniot Dostie shows that increasing training leads to increased innovation. Linked to an increase in innovation, increased investment in learning and development leads to improved performance. People who have been trained well in how to do their jobs are more likely to do them better.
9. It helps ‘future-proof’ the board
To develop a learning and development plan, the board will have conducted a skills audit and mapped the skills available against those that are likely to be needed in the future to add value to delivery of the strategic plan. Any gaps shown up in the skills audit may also be fed into the board renewal process, and used to guide the recruitment of new board members.
10. It gives a competitive advantage
Leading on from research on the links between learning and development and innovation and performance, we can also infer that learning and development opportunities offer competitive advantages in the form of both improved processes, and also an increased likelihood of new products or services to meet clients’ demands.
We are strong advocates for investment in the learning and development of board members. There are clear benefits for those that do. Next week we’ll have a look at ways in which you can provide learning support to your board members. If you have any examples of innovative ways you support your board members, we’d love to hear.