The process of onboarding new directors at an organisation must be handled in the correct manner to help them hit the ground running. From knowing how to announce new board members to welcoming them at their first meetings and supporting them from there, you want to minimise disruption and get them doing what they were appointed to do as quickly as possible.
Discussing the process of welcoming new board members, Didier Cossin of the Institute for Management Development (IMD) Global Board Center said that effective onboarding “facilitates the smooth operation of the board and its evolution. The process is highly interactive, and it helps prevent and diminish ineffective patterns of behaviours in the early stages of the new director’s appointment.”
Welcoming new board members to the organisation and announcing their arrival are concurrent activities, and they both feed into each other. This guide explores the best practices for both.
Where to announce new board members
Announcing new members to your board of directors is basically the public way of welcoming them to the board. It shows a commitment to the new recruit, which is a good way of making them feel welcome. In addition, it shows your investors and customers how you are shaping the board to meet your mission. Another benefit is that you keep your brand in the industry (and possibly the wider) media.
You should make your announcement using the following platforms:
|Press release||Create an announcement press release and send it to journalists, newspapers, publications and websites that you know will be interested in publishing your news.|
|Newsletter||If you send out a regular newsletter featuring updates on the business, add the news of new board members into the next email.|
|Website||Write a blog about the new addition to the board of directors, listing their experience and qualification to announce their arrival.|
|Social media||Create profiles for new directors to post on your social channels. This allows them to share the update on their personal pages as a way of celebrating their new role.|
Example board member announcement
This announcement by Dutch financial services firm Rabobank introduces its new Chief Financial Economic Crime Officer, Philippe Vollot. It explains his role and then delves into his wealth of experience, providing complementary and welcoming quotes ahead of him commencing his role.
How to welcome new board members before the first meeting
It is beneficial to build relationships between the new and existing board members before the new director joins their first meeting. Having created bonds with their new colleagues, they will find it easier to adjust themselves to the dynamic in the boardroom. There are only so many board meetings a year, and you want your board to be working as cohesively as possible without having to waste time trying to understand one other.
Here are a few ideas to help the newcomer feel more comfortable:
- Send a welcome letter to the new board member once appointed. This sets out your delight in making this addition to the team and is another place in which to display your admiration for the skills and competencies they will bring to the table.
- Organise an informal social meeting for the new director to meet the current board members, break the ice and develop connections that they can use when they get to the next meeting. When all board members understand each other, it makes for a more efficient meeting process.
- Set up a meeting between the new board member and the CEO, as well as the chair and CFO if you wish. Connecting with the senior board members in advance of commencing their role allows them to understand the expectations upon them and the style of management used by the board leadership.
- Provide a board orientation document that explains everything they will need to do to be able to carry out their duties in a manner that aligns with the aims and objectives of the organisation.
The package should contain:
|Governing documents||New board members need to read and understand the organisation’s articles of association, board corporate governance guidelines and the company by-laws, as well as any other documentation that dictates how the board may operate. You should also include policies on conflicts of interest, confidentiality and compliance-related issues.|
|Strategic plan||Understanding what your board’s strategic plan entails is important for new directors to help them play their role in shaping the future of the organisation.|
|Board structure||Show the new board member how the dynamic works within the board to help them understand their role within it and where they need to go for support in the future. You should also detail the committees, who is in charge of them and when and how they report back to the board.|
|Director biographies||Provide a summary of board member biographies and their roles and responsibilities. This is another way of making the new starter familiar with their peers before they start working with them in earnest.|
|Financial information||Add in the important financials to the orientation document or welcome pack. This should include financial reports, budgets and projections.|
|Copies of meeting minutes||Reading through meeting minutes is an ideal way for board members to get a feel for the way board meetings run. Share other board materials from previous meetings, too. If you use a board portal like iBabs, you can achieve this easily by setting up their user account and granting them access to relevant material.|
|Event and meeting calendar||Of course, your new director needs to know when they are required to attend meetings, whether in person or remotely. It is important to inform them of meeting dates and other important events as soon as they start.|
|Investor relations information||Add details of any investor relations reports into the pack. This gives the new board member an understanding of how the organisation engages with its shareholders, what analysts say and how the business is perceived in the investment community.|
How to make new board members feel welcome once they begin
If a new board member has no previous experience at the board level, mentoring is key to helping orient them in their position and empowering them to work at their full potential. Even if a new director has served on a board previously, they will need support to find their feet in a new business with a board that performs its tasks in its own way.
Pair an experienced board member with the new recruit so they can impart important information. Mentoring tasks could include:
- Connecting before meetings to discuss the upcoming event and catching up afterwards for a debrief.
- Introducing the new director at the beginning of their first meeting, having agreed with the chair to find time to make a formal announcement.
- Providing assistance within the meeting, quietly offering additional detail to the conversation and explaining procedures and terms that the new stater may not yet understand, for example.
- Catch up between meetings to find out how the new board member’s committee work is progressing and whether they need any help or clarity on anything.
Provide board training
Training will help the new director understand their responsibilities in detail. You may have recruited them for their compliance expertise, for example, but they may need a steer on financial planning, strategic issues or another area of the board’s work.
By undergoing training in leadership and board best practices, you help them become a more rounded presence in the boardroom and expedite their development. Continuous improvement is essential for boards, so instilling this learning mindset from an early stage is important. It also helps to improve your succession planning in training candidates for future leadership roles.
Let them experience things first-hand
The best way to learn the workings of the board of directors is to experience it in action. This means you should let them get to work and learn through experience. The more practical work they do, the better they understand their new role.
You can assign them to a committee immediately to gain a wider view of the work of the board, rather than watch from a distance. Becoming a fully functioning member of the team from the start is more likely to help them integrate and feel at home than simply observing.
Allow them time
It is a good idea for new board members to throw themselves into their role, but you should also understand that they will take time to truly reach the top of their game and that they could make mistakes as they learn.
Offering some leeway and allowing them to take time to find their feet means that they feel less pressure. If they know that you are supportive of them in this process, they will be able to flourish.
Feedback is critical for developing a board member’s skills and refining their performance. Run regular closed-door sessions with them to discuss their progress and any concerns they may have.
Assess how they are working and offer pointers for improvement that they can take into their next meeting. They will appreciate this support as they look to establish themselves on the board.
Provide a welcome pack or orientation document to the new board member to help them understand the past, present and proposed future of the organisation. Meeting with their new colleagues and working with a mentor are also activities that help with orientation.
The new board member orientation programme should contain mentoring and training in order to allow the director to thrive as quickly as possible in their new role.
In your new board member press release, you should include their name and previous roles and the reasons why they will be a good fit for the organisation. Provide details of their experience and add a welcoming quote by the CEO or board chair. This press release template will help you get started.
Knowing how to announce new board members is the first step to welcoming them to the board. By publicly stating your excitement for them joining the team and detailing the reasons why you expect them to thrive, you show them that they are valued, as well as demonstrating to other stakeholders that the board is actively strengthening.
Communication between board members is key to welcoming new directors, and you can make it more effective by using iBabs’ board portal. Working in the cloud, your board members can collaborate with each other, ensuring everyone is fully prepared for your board meetings. Try iBabs for your company today by requesting a free demo.