When boards welcome a new director, the focus should be on setting that individual up for success. Whether the person is a first-time board member or a veteran of corporate governance, offering them a purposeful orientation process can go a long way toward building a strong leadership team. While slight variations will exist, the basic principles of productive onboarding are universal whether your company is public, private, or not-for-profit. Consider these suggestions and how they can take your board to a higher level of effectiveness.
- Provide a guide.
A guidebook or board handbook is a great tool for new board members for a number of reasons. First, it can help them catch up on historical, organizational information. Second, it can outline the expectations for board members in regard to meeting attendance, travel policies, boardroom roles, and so forth. Third, it can provide an overview for the current strategic plans as well as recent committee reports.
- Hold a meaningful orientation.
Rather than throwing a new member right into the mix of the full boardroom, set aside some time to get them up to speed. Consider holding a small session with the board chair, the CEO, and/or a seasoned board member. Encourage the new member to ask as many questions as possible. Discuss how the board committees are organized and express who leads them and who serves on them. If possible, give them a tour of the headquarters or an important facility. It’s impactful to connect new board members with staff members at the organization they’re serving.
- Celebrate the new addition.
Send out a press release to publications that might be interested in sharing the news about your new board member. Hold a reception for the new member, too; this offers an opportunity to get to know fellow directors on a personal basis, and it’s also a good time for them to connect with c-suite leaders. Both of these actions show the new member that they are highly valued and create quicker buy-in.
- Pair them with a mentor.
This doesn’t have to be a mentorship in the traditional sense. Think of it more as someone who the new board member can call on if they have questions or require more detailed background information. This helps the new member feel less like the “new kid on the block” and also helps them acclimate to the culture faster.
- Review good governance practices.
It’s never a bad time to reacquaint board members with the importance of good governance. Consider assigning some reading material or paying for the individual to take a short governance course. This may seem like overkill to some—especially if the individual is an experienced director—but re-emphasizing good governance principles can only strengthen your board in the long run.