Building a Board Member Skills Inventory to Highlight and Procure Board Talent
Building a solid board of directors is much like building a dream-team of diverse professionals willing to step up to the plate when their number is called. Creating a comprehensive board member skills inventory is a necessary step in determining the right mix of diverse talent to tackle optimal organizational oversight. “Board composition lies at the heart of board effectiveness,” says SpencerStuart. “The composition of a board should be viewed as a strategic asset.”
Persistent planning and a board member skills inventory allow this strategic asset to thrive by highlighting board member talent, preparing for succession, identifying gaps in talent, finding new board members who best fit the current culture.
Using a Board Member Skills Inventory to Highlight Board Talent
The main purpose of taking a skills inventory is to help outline the talent of the current board, identify talent gaps, and recruit individuals who can best fit those gaps. However, before taking on the hiring process, a board needs to outline or inventory the talent that already exists on the board. A current board member skills inventory should include a list of strategic industry-specific needs such as laws and regulations, finance, crisis management, and technology. Each current board member should be labeled as having the skills needed to fulfill this board need.
However, sometimes boards are large and disparate in nature, which makes taking an inventory a challenging endeavor. Boards can consider using their board portal software, like BoardBookit, with this task by surveying members about their expertise in particular fields. This can be done using electronic voting technology. Answers from board members can be exported into a fully adjustable report to help populate the current skills into a spreadsheet.
Proper Succession Planning
Proper succession planning is also a key to improving the function of a board. “The need for careful planning of board succession is greater today in light of aging boards, pressure from rating agencies, governance watchdogs and regulators, and the demand for a broader set of skills to support changes in company strategies in a fast-changing world,” states SpencerStuart. “All boards, from major corporations to nonprofit organizations, need to demonstrate their willingness to evolve if they are to remain relevant.” If the board member skills inventory is up to date and comprehensive, advanced planning and the hiring of new board talent are seamless when key directors reach retirement.
Board Talent Procurement
After proper succession planning is addressed and a current board member skills inventory is created, boards can then create a matrix to help understand the gaps of talent needed to be filled by new board members. The “needed” board member skills inventory should highlight all talent gaps as well as new areas of expertise needed for industry-specific trends.
Some trends associated with new board talent are diversity in age, gender, race, and ethnicities. Boards should also include new members who have a proven track record with cyber-crime and technology. It’s also important to review director independence requirements for board positions.
Committee needs are also something to take into consideration when building a board member skills inventory. Diversly knowledgable, independent directors are needed to lead and serve as members of the audit, compensation, nomination, and governance committees. So searching for a candidate with a robust set of skills is critical.
Including Organizational Culture in Board Member Skills Inventory
A current and needed board member skills inventory is the best way to help a board grow and succeed when leading an organization. It is also a key to finding the best talent to fit into the culture an organization created and plans to uphold. “…You are creating a board culture as much as you’re seeking skills- and it won’t matter how many strategic needs a particular candidate fills if there’s no culture fit,” says Karen Beavor for the Bridgespan Group.
So, it’s also a recommendation to allow for cultural needs on a board member skills inventory, as well. Karen Beavor continues, “If he or she can’t connect with your organization, chances are the board member won’t stick around long enough to make an impact.”
Proper planning and a comprehensive board members skills inventory allows directors to envision their ideal board with a vast and diverse team to strategically lead an organization to success. A board skills inventory will also allow for an organized approach to finding the best talent that fills knowledge gaps and positively adds to the existing culture of an organization.
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