Invariably, all board directors will take their board seats having various levels of board and governance education; it’s up to the board development committee to get all members on the same page. Regardless of how much or little education a board director has, everyone can improve their knowledge and expertise on board governance. The more educated the board is, the better they will do their jobs individually and collectively. A board development committee, which is usually a standing committee, is sometimes called a governance committee.
The benefit of having a board development committee as a standing committee is that it has the time to break down the tasks of identifying the types of education each board member needs, make sure that board members follow up on their training and continually strive to develop the board to its fullest potential.
What Does a Board Development Committee Do?
The board development committee identifies and provides ongoing education and training to their fellow board members. Committees and work groups provide an appropriate structure for accomplishing specific tasks such as board development. Not having to address routine matters and procedures allows committee members to work on issues quickly, giving them the time they need to provide effective training.
Board development committees support their boards in the following ways:
1. Identify and Utilize Board Member Skills
A board development committee provides a forum to utilize the special talents of various board members. For example, a board member with a solid foundation in governance and who has served many years on boards makes a prime candidate for chair of the board development committee. This gives the board member an outlet for their specific skills and experience and can help get the board closer to their goals.
2. Educate Board Members
Nearly all boards will have quite a range of board education and experience around the board table. Some board directors will need more of a beginner level of board education. Others may already have a firm foundation in governance and may need specialized development in strategic planning, succession planning, facilitating, leadership, risk management, information technology or some other area of expertise.
Boards benefit greatly from board education and development. In addition to gaining information and expertise, continued education helps boards become more devoted and invested in their duties.
Tensions, crises, growing pains and economic developments are just a few things that can signal a need for increased board development. Board turnover can create a gap in skills and board development can help to keep educational continuity on the board.
3. Keeping the Board Adaptable
Board development committees are accountable to the board for developing a well-rounded, competent board. By delegating the task to a committee, the board becomes more flexible and, thus, able to adapt more quickly to changes in the environment.
Areas of Board Development
The areas of board development are plentiful. Trainings may be based on general governance principles or may coincide with the organization’s current challenges.
One way that board development committees can identify areas in which board members need training and education is by conducting regular surveys. A Diligent board portal with fully integrated director and officer self-assessment software makes this task easy. The high level of security on the platform makes the surveys highly confidential as well. The board portal helps boards keep track of each board director’s training efforts and offers a secure place to record the details of development and training opportunities.
The Diligent Governance solution can do things like record evaluations and feedback from previous trainings that board directors reported as valuable and can be used for future directors. Here are some other helpful areas for board training and development to consider:
- Board evaluation
- Conflict management
- Risk management
- Organizational ethics
- Creating a corporate culture
- Board diversity
- Strategic planning
- Effective communication and social media
- Information technology
- Facilitation skills
- Board leadership
- General governance topics
Use this list as a starting point and keep adding to it.
Board Development Committee Roles & Responsibilities
Much work goes into identifying, recruiting and nominating new board directors. That’s just the beginning of the work boards need to do to ensure that all board directors arrive at their first board meeting fully prepared and ready to make meaningful contributions.
Board development committees can get their new board directors off to a great start by providing them with a comprehensive board orientation. After that, continued education opportunities will strengthen the board's capacity and effectiveness and enhance the potential for board retention.
Succession planning is also a notable task of a board development committee. Board director positions and senior leadership positions may become vacant as terms expire due to an executive firing or an unexpected retirement or resignation. A board development committee continually stays in the loop of industry talent and recruits the best talent as potential recruits to fill vacancies. This is a sure way to attract and retain top talent.
What a Board Development Committee Needs to Be Effective
Several different components join together to form an effective board development committee, including the board charter, a board chair and committee members.
The board development charter states the committee’s purpose and whether it’s a standing or ad hoc committee. The charter also spells out the committee’s authority and the limitations on its authority.
Choosing Board Development Committee Members
A capable, experienced board director is the most prudent choice for a committee chair. The individual who holds this position must be able to effectively facilitate a group that brings a variety of opinions to the table. A quality board chair is adept at decision-making and can lead the group to a consensus and appropriate decision-making.
Finally, a board development committee needs dedicated members who are committed to good attendance and are willing to spend the necessary time performing research inside and outside the committee meeting time.
Qualities of an Effective Committee Member
Committee members need to be willing to ask probing questions, seek alternative courses of action and understand how to evaluate data's adequacy, relevance and completeness. Committee members should be chosen for their ability to offer opinions, even when they’re contrary to the opinions of others, and be willing to delay making decisions until they have all the research and input that’s available to them.
Training Tools for Development Committees
Every community offers some semblance of educational and training opportunities. For very specialized topics, use technology and look for educational opportunities such as online courses, webinars and podcasts. Don’t overlook opportunities for offsite training, such as retreats, conferences, workshops and special guest speaker presentations.
High-Performing Boards Have Successful Board Development Committees
The efforts of a hard-working board development committee won’t go unnoticed. In fact, board development committees often set average-performing boards apart from high-performing boards, which is why setting your board up for success is so important. The Diligent Governance solution provides board development committees with the technology they need to build and maintain an effective leadership team.
Not only will your board development committee have visibility into the individual skills and experience of each board member but they'll easily be able to provide the ongoing education and training board members need to serve their organization effectively. That’s what makes technology for board development committees an asset for any business that wants to remain competitive.