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Board recruitment processes – is it time to change?

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‘The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.’

-Albert Einstein


Due to the ever-changing nature of governance, it is essential that the board of your association remains fit-for-purpose as times change. Having a board of appropriately qualified individuals with a keen focus on setting and achieving your strategic goals is imperative to any organisation’s success.  


But how do we assure the selection of functional directors with a drive for success?


Practices such as open invitations to members, selections based on geographic location or circumnavigating screening processes are historically common when it comes to NFP board recruitment. It begs the question – with not-for-profit boards lacking in the professional processes of their for-profit counterparts, is it time to change?


1. Identifying the gaps


Associations often contain the most elite individuals from their respective fields in the industry, however this does not necessarily translate to a diverse, multidisciplinary board. Holding a regular review of your directors’ skill sets and qualifications is important to help you identify areas where your board might be lacking in necessary expertise.


For example – should there be a lack of commercial/financial knowledge in your board, you might consider headhunting a more specialised individual to act as treasurer. This can strengthen your overall knowledge as a board and help fill the skills gap required to maximise its performance.  


2. Nomination process


Basing board nominations on geography or similarly restrictive criteria can be dangerous. They often lack the processes needed to ensure you are recruiting the right individuals that will be of the most benefit to your organisation. This can be avoided by regularly reviewing your constitution and ensuring current processes are working for you the way they should. When in doubt, ask yourself – do these processes improve board diversity? Do they allow for the selection of individuals that bring measurable value to the table?


3. Screening measures


Once the nomination or pre-selection process has been adjusted as necessary, it is important that the board maintains adequate power to screen potential nominees. Make sure to ask questions that will provide insight into the candidate’s personal attributes and values to see whether they align with the those of the organisation. Address whether they have the relevant qualifications and experience, and question whether the candidate will add value in the areas needed. 


Another approach that has been successful is to ensure the clear and detailed outlining of all responsibilities and expectations for prospective directors. This can be done through highlighting the KPIs and required outcomes to the candidate and ensuring each position has its own clearly established criteria. Upon election, the board then has clear expectations for each individual and measurable standards to determine whether they are being met.


4. Annual evaluation


Whilst many boards host annual evaluations, it is important to ensure that there are standards in place for these evaluations to effectively gauge the board’s functionality and productivity. As noted by a representative of the Governance Institute – continually measuring the same outcomes may not be the most effective means of improving board performance.


It is recommended that an organisation look to measure overall board performance in the first year, the functionality of the chair in the second, and committees in the third. While the idea of hosting rotating evaluations is significant, it should be noted that the order is not prescriptive and should be tailored to meet the specific need of each individual board.


Although there are ways an association can improve it board recruitment process, we hope this article provides a starting point for you to begin to question what is working for you, and what could be done better.

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Susanna Truasheim – Marketing Manager