The onboarding process is essential to engage new starters, whether they are coming into an entry-level position or joining the board of directors. The Brandon Hall Group found that a robust onboarding process leads to increased retention by 82%. When you appoint a new director, you need them to hit the ground running and be committed for the duration of their term. And a board orientation checklist plays a key role in onboarding new directors effectively.
In this article, you will discover more reasons why board orientation is important, what the checklist is and how to create a document that will help your new recruits settle in quickly and start playing their role in driving your business forward.
Why is board orientation important?
There are many reasons why board orientation is important. These include:
|Speeds up the learning curve||It is possible to learn on the job, but directors get so little face time with their colleagues that you can’t afford to have them doing anything other than firing on all cylinders in meetings.|
|Handy reference||After a while, the procedures, practices and tools the board uses will become second nature to the new board member. The orientation process provides a handy reference guide to them as they get used to the role.|
|Create bonds||By involving your current directors in your orientation process for new recruits, you help to create bonds between both parties that they can carry into the boardroom. These connections help the board work more cohesively and effectively.|
|Clarifies roles||A new director joining the board needs to understand what their role is within the existing dynamic. Orientation is the time to spell out their responsibilities, allowing them to go into the meeting confident of what their aims should be.|
What is a board orientation checklist?
To ensure that your orientation process is complete and that your directors are ready for their first meeting, you need to put in the necessary preparation. The best way to action this is by creating a checklist of every piece of information your board members need in advance of their debut.
This checklist will vary between companies, so you need to work out exactly what fits your own purposes. By creating a document with this checklist, you can instil a consistent process that communicates the essential elements of becoming a director at your organisation.
When conducting orientation with the new board member, you check the items off the list as you go to ensure you have covered everything that they need to know.
How to create an effective board orientation checklist
☑️ Start with general information about the organisation
The first element of the checklist should be to provide the new board member with the headline details about the organisation.
This should include details of the company’s goals and objectives, its values and mission, as well as its strategic priorities. This information should inform all of the board members’ decision-making in meetings, so it is essential that they understand what they are working towards from the start.
Include an organisational chart so that the new starter can visualise the setup and their place within the business.
☑️ Explain board governance policies and procedures
Of course, for many decisions, the whole board can bring the benefits of their governance experience to bear on the debate and voting. However, there are times when the topic for discussion falls within the specific skillset of an individual or group of board members.
Diversity of skills on a board is beneficial for its efficient functioning, so it makes sense to have a board member with a specialism in cybersecurity, for example, lead the discussion and voting on that topic. Although the board can and should challenge them, their input carries weight that helps to speed up the decision-making process.
During orientation, you should explain this process and how it works for your particular board.
☑️ Outline the organisation's financial management practices
The new director needs to know the board’s role and input on financial planning, monitoring revenue, scrutiny of expenses and costs, fundraising and more.
They should understand what is required of them and how to envelop that into their decision-making and the discussions they have in the boardroom. Some boards are more hands-on than others, so it is useful to set out the expectations in this regard before the board member begins their role.
☑️ Explain the board's decision-making processes
Each board will make its decisions in a different manner, depending on what works for the directors or what the company’s articles of association require. The new director needs to understand the decision-making process within your board before they join meetings.
Some boards take unofficial straw polls on agenda items to gain an idea of sentiment before the discussion begins. If the consensus is clearly towards one solution, it means you can save time and move on to the next item with minimal discussion. Where the decision is split, that shows that further debate is required.
They also need to know how the board votes, by hand, voice, digital platform or other. Let them know if there are ever secret votes or any other facets to your process that they must understand.
☑️ Provide relevant documentation
There is a lot of documentation that board members need when they begin their new roles. It is essential that you add this to your orientation process and check it off the list when delivered.
Directors must have a copy of the company’s bylaws. This helps them understand many of the internal processes within your organisation. It also provides an overview of the board’s duties and powers within the business.
Include lists of all board members along with biographies and details of the committees too. Include roles and responsibilities with this information.
Other documentation that will help orient the new director includes financial reports to show them the state of play with the business and recent annual reports. These elements help them gain an insight on where the business is and the direction in which it is travelling.
☑️ Introduce technology and tools
Every board has a different process in terms of the technology that it uses. This means you have to walk your new director through the systems that you have in place. It might be as simple as giving them a secure login to access board emails from home, or it could be instructions on the use of a board meeting portal.
Using a portal such as iBabs helps you run meetings more efficiently, with all documents held and updated within the portal that directors can access from anywhere on any device. It facilitates collaboration between meetings and can handle voting, digital signatures, action points and more.
In order for the new director to take full advantage of this functionality, you need to make sure you cover it in orientation.
Instilling a culture of continuous improvement is key to helping your board grow and meet the new challenges that appear over time. It ensures you work as efficiently as possible and make better decisions that will help the company move forwards.
During orientation, highlight the resources that you have available for professional development. They could be online courses, in-person workshops, books, websites or anything else that will help your board improve and refine its processes.
Present details on training to your new director so that they can begin this process as soon as they can.
☑️ Prepare them for upcoming meetings
Sharing the agenda for the next meeting is a beneficial addition to the orientation process. This helps them begin preparation, understanding what is going to be discussed and other important information on the meeting.
You can also share previous meeting minutes. This will help them gain insight into how the dynamic of the board works and the nature of the meetings.
Using a board portal, the minutes are archived from previous meetings for easy reference and the agenda appears as soon as it is ready. This makes the meeting preparation process much easier to conduct.
What are the characteristics of a good board member?
Someone with expertise in business can make a good board member. They need to be a team player, vocal about their opinions but also keen to hear from others and not afraid to alter and adjust their point of view when presented with evidence that contradicts their ideas.
What do board members need to know?
Board members need to know what is expected of them in the next meeting, what they will be discussing and how it fits into the company’s objectives and mission.
When can new board member orientation fail?
When a board member is not fully briefed before starting work on the board, the orientation can fail. This is why it is important to have a documented process that works for your business and which ensures you cover all bases.
What is board orientation?
Board orientation is the process that companies use to fully prepare new directors for their roles.
How long does the orientation process typically take?
The duration of the orientation process will vary based on the size and complexity of the organisation and the amount of information to be covered. It is recommended to plan for a thorough orientation process that lasts anywhere between several weeks and several months, depending on your needs.
What resources and tools should be provided to new board members?
Resources and tools that should be provided to new board members include relevant documentation, such as the organisation's bylaws, annual reports and financial statements, as well as technology and tools used by the board, such as meeting management software and email systems. Additionally, resources for professional development and training opportunities for board members should also be provided.
Is the board orientation checklist a one-time task?
The board orientation checklist should meet the needs of your organisation and its directors. Regular reviews of the orientation checklist and updates to its content may be necessary to reflect changes in the organisation and to ensure the continued success of the board.
What is the purpose of a board orientation checklist?
The purpose of a board orientation checklist is to provide a comprehensive guide for welcoming and integrating new board members into the organisation. The checklist outlines the steps and information needed to ensure that new board members have a clear understanding of their roles, responsibilities, the organisation's values and governance practices.
Your board orientation checklist is the best way to ensure you provide a full and comprehensive overview of the role to your new director. You must refine the list to keep it relevant, but the main aspects will remain in a similar form. Adding your director to your board meeting software is a positive step in your orientation process. They can find helpful resources such as meeting minutes and begin collaborating with board members straight away, even before they arrive at the boardroom for the first time. iBabs offers unrivalled functionality for running the entire meeting ecosystem, from planning to follow-up. Request a demo of iBabs to find out how it will transform your board meetings.