Having the right people on your board is absolutely fundamental to ensuring the organisation is run effectively and efficiently. As with any recruitment exercise, it is important to consider what role the board members will have, and the skills, knowledge and experience they need. The purpose of this Board briefing is to highlight the key steps in recruiting Board members.
Why recruit board members?
A healthy turnover of board members helps to ensure that fresh and independent thinking is available and strengthens the corporate governance of the organisation. This should be balanced with the need for continuity, and keeping board members who understand the history and context of the organisation.
How do we get the right people?
The first step in getting the right board team is to look at the strategic plan to see:
- What are the priorities for the organisation in the coming years?
- What are the key tasks for the board in making that happen?
- What are the skills, knowledge and experience that will be needed to face the challenges the board is likely to encounter. We need to consider what it is that the board will do in order to decide what skills are required. This will help in developing the tailored person specification for each board member to be recruited.
It is also necessary to look at the personal attributes which are important in board members. As a starting point, the values of the organisation should be used. For most boards, it is important that board members:
- Have integrity and high ethical standards
- Have the confidence to think independently, and share that thinking even when others think differently
- Can challenge and probe to get to the facts and suggest new ways of doing things
- Have strong interpersonal skills so as to be able to work as a team with other board members, and promote the organisation to key stakeholders
- Have sound judgement
What are the steps involved in recruiting board members?
- Skill gap identified on the board and agreed by all as necessary
- Role description and person specification agreed, with clear criteria. An application form is developed to help potential candidates describe how their skills and experience meet the criteria and will contribute to the organisation. Depending on the size and complexity of the requirements, specialised external support may be needed. It should be noted that the responsibility for recruiting board members lies with the board chair or nominations committee, and that involvement of the specialist is that of support
- Networks (such as the Institute of directors, the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountants, the Chamber of Commerce or Business in the Community) which might involve people with that skill identified along with other relevant opportunities to promote the vacancy
- Board or nominations committee delegates the process of promoting the opportunity among those networks (to one of the board members or to a suitably qualified specialist), and also via an open call / advertisement to ensure as many people as possible are invited to apply for the role
- The role is promoted as widely as possible through all available networks and media. However, there must be a division of responsibility between those who carry out the promotion of the opportunity and those who will assess the suitability of candidates. For this reason, those involved in promoting the opportunity should not participate in the assessment process
- The suitability of candidates is assessed against the criteria stated in the person specification by a nominations committee of at least three people, probably including the chair
- Those candidates who meet the criteria are invited to meet with the recruitment panel. The meeting should focus on how the candidate meets the criteria, what skills and influence they bring to the board, how their experience and attributes fit with the organisational culture and vision and what they hope to achieve in the role
- A proposal is brought to the board that an individual (or sometimes more than one) is invited to attend its next meeting, and to join the board
- When the board agrees to invite a new member to join it, that person may be given the opportunity to meet with the chair, observe meetings of the board and to meet other board members informally before joining, if they wish to do so. The nominations sub- committee will provide feedback to unsuccessful candidates
- Once a new board member has been appointed, the chair is responsible for beginning the induction process with them.
- Person Specifications
- Summary of Board Roles and Responsibilities
- Committee Terms of Reference
- Board Member Induction
- Board Member Review
- The Nolan Principles of Public Life
Is this an area of concern for you? Contact Leading Governance for more help.