Smooth Transition: 5 Tips for New Directors | Aprio

Onboarding the next generation of directors: 5 tips for a smoother transition

There comes a time when you must make room for the next generation of members on your board. This need will become even more evident as the scores of baby boomers who sit on boards begin to retire over the next decade. Focusing on recruiting the next generation of board members is an investment in the future success of the organization.

The board’s goal should be two-fold: to attract a diverse crop of new board recruits who bring with them applicable skills and traits, and to onboard them effectively to ensure they can make a significant contribution within their first year.

But sometimes the process of onboarding new directors doesn’t go smoothly, especially if the new members are new to the environment, or if the established members are keen to gloss over challenges.

Here are our top tips for smoother onboarding of the next generation of directors on your board.

Invite a fresh perspective

Executive role: Some boards resist recruiting young directors because they don’t want to upset the apple cart. But there’s significant value in a new generation’s perspective. As you choose new directors, they will likely pitch some of their fresh ideas. Encourage new directors to take the time to think about how and when to constructively bring up these new ideas and industry perspectives.

To maximize their input, invite your recently recruited director to help prepare an annual planning meeting report on new challenges and opportunities, and market shifts.

Orient and educate

Executive role: Effective boards have often mastered how to orient directors, taking time to share core knowledge on the organization’s strategic goals, risks and threats so that directors can more rapidly get up to speed and contribute meaningfully.

The new twist with young recruits is that you should also orient 0on the role of being a director. Even if they have been on another board, they have likely not been on five or more like more senior directors. Communicate what’s expected of them by using high-performing directors as examples of meaningful contributions at meetings and ethical conduct overall. Consider choosing a seasoned director who could act as a role model to the new recruit. Be sure to let the new directors know how and when their conduct and contributions will be evaluated.

As you recruit your new directors, resist only focusing on strengths and successes. A new director can only contribute their breadth of expertise and experience to resolving issues if they also know a board’s challenges before they agree to come aboard and now what’s expected of them in their role.

Partner up

Executive/veteran directors’ role: It’s more comfortable to ask a peer for help than the board chair. Pair up your new recruits with an experienced director who is willing to be a mentor. Remind them to constructively draw out fresh perspectives from the new director.

Ask the experienced directors to check in with new directors before and after the first two meetings, and let the new directors know that board portal training is offered if there’s any confusion with using your board’s technology.

Leverage technology

Administrator role: In the old paper binder days, administrators would walk through many inches of documents, flipping through tabs and explaining details. This often left new directors wondering if they had taken on too much. The new crop of board directors will likely already be very comfortable with technology but will still need your guidance when it comes to information overload.

Orient directors using your board portal, focusing on where things are stored for new board members to read in their own time. Have a checklist for yourself to make sure all key board portal assets are covered from board documents, to board dates, contacts and agreement history. Note: Aprio offers this type of director training using your own board portal data – directors rave about it.

Reinforce good governance

Executive role: It’s crucial for executives to state to new directors that they are under board obligation to behave with utmost care for privacy, confidentiality and protection of the organization’s strategic goals. Outline your governance principles. Make this clear during the recruitment phase.

Administrator role: The corporate secretary or executive administrator can go into details on how communication is conducted to achieve good governance. Walk through the do’s and don’ts of exactly how to communicate and operate within governance rules – such as no emailing on confidential topics, communicating through the secure board portal or no printing of key documents for travel due to loss risk.

Have other tips for effectively transitioning new recruits? Please share your ideas – email us at

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