Onboarding new board directors should be rapid and effective – here’s how
Engaged director voting at board meeting
November 6, 2019
Ian Warner

Onboarding new board directors should be rapid and effective – here’s how

When new recruits join your board of directors, you need to have onboarding in place to help them contribute both meaningfully and quickly. Our panel of leaders from various industries, interviewed earlier in the year for their expert opinions on modern governance and board performance challenges, agree that organizational performance hinges on being able to onboard and engage new directors in a rapid and effective way.

Why? Because boards are often continuously recruiting to fill open spots, and new recruits have high expectations about contributing to board conversations and making decisions right away. To manage both these factors, you’ll need the right processes and technology in place to engage new directors and leaders.

Why the delay in directors making meaningful board contributions?

It’s common to think that the moment a new board of directors recruit agrees to join the board is the same moment that the board gains a valuable new contributor.

But director research reveals that new directors, though committed to being constructive contributors to your organization, often join with a critical perspective. In fact, board surveys show that first-year and second-year directors are more likely to be less positive about an organization’s strengths or strategic direction than longer-serving directors. Is this a result of clear, fresh perspectives, or a misunderstanding based on poor onboarding? Making sure it’s not the latter is essential.

Director onboarding used to look like an administrator painstakingly walking a new director through pages of paper in a three-ring binder. Or, it looked like handing new recruits a copy of the director handbook and benefits brochure, and crossing fingers they would read each from cover to cover and actually retain the information.

Ultimately, these are slow and ineffective ways to onboard directors. Onboarding is far more than just a transfer of information. It’s your opportunity to create a director onboarding process that caters to next-generation recruits who are comfortable using technology in every aspect of their lives and elite C-level recruits who are likely to be short on time.

Board onboarding is more than just an exchange of information 

During the onboarding process, new directors should:

  • Receive background about their organization’s goals, opportunities, frustrations, and challenges
  • Understand what their role is, what their responsibilities are, and how much time they’ll need to spend on their governance duties inside and outside of meetings
  • Learn who their main stakeholders are (e.g. funders, clients, customers, public, staff, etc.)
  • Have a good grasp of how board meetings are run and how the board makes decisions
  • Have knowledge of the board’s governing policies and practices
  • Know how they’ll be sent materials like meeting agendas and updates (paper copies or electronically) and if their board has portal software for online voting and communication – meaning they’ll be able to contribute on the go
  • Have insight into how their unique background and experience will help them contribute to the board (and some insight into the backgrounds and experiences of other directors)
  • Have the opportunity to learn how their current board operates differently than other boards they’ve served on.

New board member shaking hands and being onboarded

How board portal software technology can streamline director onboarding 

Board management software can help you check everything off the list above and improve the way you onboard new board directors. Here’s how.

Information, all in one place

A board portal solution like Aprio puts all the information a board needs (meeting minutes, committee contact information, and background materials) into one, easy-to-access place. Information is secure and made available to the right stakeholders and sub-committees. It’s simple for administrators and directors to use.

Self-serve access and easy-to-digest information

You can easily orient new recruits with Aprio software. Aprio presents board information in a way that’s labeled intuitively and organized for easy, ongoing access. Unlike SharePoint or free document sharing applications, board management software presents information in a way that directors can quickly understand (and that includes directors who may not be particularly comfortable with technology).

Decision transparency, historic board documents, and efficient meeting preparation

Keeping directors engaged in evolving organizational decisions and information is as important as the initial orientation for new directors. With board portal software, every director is alerted in real-time with links to the most current information each time information is added – meaning new members are just as informed as long-time directors.

In Aprio, pre-meeting preparation and the ability to make decisions between meetings is simple and transparent for all directors. And, you can keep conversations and discussions going between meetings with polls and annotations on documents.

Board portal software also gives new members access to historic discussions and decisions. In Aprio, all members can chat directly with their peer directors and get answers to their questions in between meetings with the Aprio discussion feature

Director training and webinars

Highly trusted board portal technology providers will include free training for new directors to ensure they embrace your portal immediately upon joining the board. While good board portals are easy-to-use and intuitive from the start, Aprio’s one-on-one director training is also credited with the rapid director engagement on many high performing boards.

As part of onboarding new directors, you can depend on Aprio’s one-on-one training sessions to get each new director up to speed. Both your directors and administrators will also benefit from our  ongoing how-to webinars that explain the new features we add to the software every quarter.

It’s time to commit to better board onboarding and engagement

With our extensive experience guiding health agencies, credit unions, non-profits, government organizations, and corporations across North America, our team would welcome the opportunity to give you a tour of Aprio board portal technology. We can also answer your questions about how the software helps make board onboarding rapid and effective and help you decide if board portal software is right for your board.

Want to learn more right now?

Download our free Board Portal Buying Guide to learn about the top 10 things to assess when evaluating board management software. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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