Remote Board Recruitment to Attract Top Directors | Aprio
Remote board recruitment
September 9, 2020
Ian Warner

How to attract top directors with remote board recruitment

As if there wasn’t enough for boards to think about during a pandemic, they also need to continue to recruit. Attracting top board members is critical right now to ensure solid bench strength for the important decisions ahead to help organizations survive and thrive. 

Board recruitment at the best of times isn’t easy. COVID-19 has brought additional challenges, such as:

  • Most top young professionals are working from home
  • There’s a lack of in-person networking events to expand personal networks
  • Budgets for formal board recruitment have been reduced

So how can boards continue to attract high caliber directors? We’ve gathered these insights into best practices for remote board recruitment, even in times of uncertainty.

Board recruitment is crucial to stay ahead of empty seats & optimize board composition

Few board members in place today expected they would need to help their organizations through a pandemic. To ensure there are no sudden departures, it’s necessary to maintain open lines of communication with directors, which includes regularly polling them on whether they feel engaged, informed, and able to contribute fully in their roles. 

Board refreshment is also a common concern in boardrooms. Typical issues include slow board turnover, long tenures, stagnant skill sets, and lack of board diversity. 

To stay ahead of recruitment needs, investors and board members typically use one or more of these three primary refreshment mechanisms:

  1. Retirement policies: an individual director’s age 
  2. Term limits: length of service
  3. Board evaluations: absolute or relative performance

The responsibility of continuous succession planning belongs to the whole board even if a committee, such as the governance committee or nominating committee, is charged with the work. While some boards have established term limits, many have not. Setting term limits is an important first step. 

Continued board service should be contingent on an individual director’s performance. Annual re-elections should be given upon a satisfactory annual evaluation process. Not sure where to start? Here’s how to run secure and effective board evaluations.

What’s the right board size? Aim for the right capacity

A larger size board can reduce director burnout, and also allows more perspectives to be represented. But larger boards are more difficult to manage, from arranging meetings to facilitating discussions and decision making.

While it may be tempting to reduce board size to limit the distraction of onboarding new members, be mindful of the workloads of your main group and committees. This is an especially demanding time for boards. Pandemic responses and recovery will take not months, but years.

Research from Deloitte shows the most common board size is 9-10 members. While smaller boards (such as 5-7 people) tend to display more effective decision-making capabilities, organizations such as financial institutions who face more regulatory concerns often require larger boards to meet the needs for additional board committees.

So what’s the right number of members for your board? It should be large enough to carry out your board’s responsibilities without fear of burnout, while not adding more members that may inhibit individual engagement and involvement.

Remote board recruitment

Board diversity improves board quality

Today’s businesses have been greatly impacted by COVID. Boards and executives are making key decisions on employee staffing, changing health and safety protocols, prudent reviews of cash flow and financial sustainability, and maintaining responsive crisis communication plans in the event of additional pandemic outbreak issues or business lockdowns.

To successfully navigate this new world, businesses are best served by a board with specialized skills, new perspectives, and a deep understanding of current trends. It’s essential for boards to adapt to reflect the employees, communities, and customers their organization serves.  

Board diversity requires a number of elements including skills; expertise and experience; gender; ethnicity; age; geography; and independence from the organization. 

With age diversity, an emerging facet to board diversity, many boards are seeking the perspectives and experiences of next-generation directors for board recruitment. Younger directors can reinvigorate other board members to engage with new ideas and emerging technologies. Modern boards are seeking a balance between veteran experience and fresh thinking.

While boards are making progress for diversity and inclusiveness, there’s room for improvement and board technology can help. 

When it comes to board recruit evaluations, stay discerning even in uncertain times

Even if you’re faced with an immediate director opening, it’s critical to use a consistent board recruitment evaluation process. This ensures that all candidates are qualified and evaluated against the same criteria, with the same process, even if that’s over video conference.

Successful board recruitment evaluations require a well-defined role and expectations as well as an application and screening process. Some organizations start with a board composition matrix to identify the current skills, characteristics, and expertise of the existing board members. This identifies current gaps and sets clearer expectations for desired experience, credentials, and knowledge.

Using a full application and screening process also ensures consistency and reduces the potential for conflicts of interest. 

Remote board recruitment

Advertising & broadcasting board opportunities remotely 

Word of mouth is a powerful way to tap into a pool of top candidates, even while many professionals work from home. Reaching out to current directors, director alumni, and top executives in your network and asking them to spread the word and suggest candidates can help ensure a steady list of potential candidates. 

Research confirms that referrals from existing board members continue to be the top recruitment method, with 77% of boards using this method according to Deloitte.

However, relying on this method alone can introduce an unconscious bias and the tendency to select candidates similar to the existing board. 

Today’s boards need a broader set of skills, talents, and expertise. By deepening your candidate pool and looking outside your own networks, you are likely to find highly skilled people with diverse backgrounds that can add significant value to your board. 

The good news is there are a number of useful tools and options available to help you:

Organization website & social media 

At minimum, board openings should be posted on your organization’s website and distributed through your organization’s social media channels. This will attract potential candidates who are already interested in your organization.

Professional organizations & associations 

Connecting with a professional organization or association can help you tap into a pool of candidates who offer specialized knowledge or expertise you need on your board. For example, if you’re looking for accounting skills to best fill your next director role, you can send an inquiry to the closest chapter of an accounting association, such as the American Accounting Association or the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada. Many professional organizations and associations can distribute your recruitment announcement in their newsletter or send an email announcement to their members. 

Job recruitment sites

Posting board recruitment opportunities on large recruitment sites such as LinkedIn or Indeed.com can ensure you are broadening your candidate pool.

Online networking

While traditional in-person networking is limited right now, online networking can help expand your network and reach for new qualified candidates. This can include attending virtual networking events related to desired director criteria or using online apps and tools including LinkedIn and Twitter to search for potential candidates.

Board recruiting sites

The number of online community and recruitment board platforms have steadily increased over the past few years. While most are paid services, they can be helpful to source new directors from a larger pool of candidates. 

BoardProspects.com and theBoardlist offer paid services to search their extensive candidate databases. Boardnetusa.org and Boardmemberconnect.com cater specifically to nonprofit organizations. Women Corporate Directors allow you to post board opportunities for no cost.

Executive search firms

Boards may use this option if they are having trouble finding difficult-to-reach candidates, need help attracting diverse candidates or need to leverage a specific industry, market, or functional expertise. The Association of Executive Search and Leadership Consultants (AESC) offers this advice on how to choose an executive search firm.

Ways to engage board members

Highlight what makes your board attractive to next-generation directors who are evaluating board positions

Top professionals interested in joining boards look for organizations that fit their values and expertise. While they may join a board to expand their network and improve their job prospects, many also seek to be challenged and contribute in a meaningful way.

Ensure you clarify your organization’s unique value-add for next-generation directors. This could include highlighting the compelling work your organization does or how your organization’s approach to solving a problem is unique. 

Quality candidates also seek to work for organizations who engage in a culture of inclusivity, open-mindedness, and communication. Your current board and executive team should be open to contributions from professionals of all ages and backgrounds. Share how your organization has taken steps to create both an organizational and board culture that values different perspectives, ideas, and contributions.

Board technology supports board recruitment & engages diverse voices

Aprio’s board portal software helps keep directors engaged  and ensures diverse voices are heard by:

  • Appealing to younger directors who are comfortable with technology and expect convenient access to information and tools to perform their role, including via mobile devices.
  • Democratizing communication and ensuring all voices are heard with features such as instant updates, survey tools, and same-time, centralized access to board materials.
  • Improving new director onboarding with immediate self-serve access to board information including meeting calendars, contacts, bylaws and role descriptions, meeting minutes, and archives. With Aprio, directors get personalized training and 24/7 support.

Boards need the best tools possible for secure, efficient board communication to appeal to new directors, and to support their organizations by easing onboarding, especially during times of remote work.

If your board isn’t already using the Aprio board portal, we’d be glad to share how we can help. Get in touch

Ready to learn more about remote board recruitment? Book an Aprio demo

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