Strategies to Reduce Your Board Meeting Workload

Lena Eisenstein
It may surprise you to learn exactly how much time board members spend on board duties. According to the 2015-2016 NACD Public Company Survey report, the average board director spends 248 hours on board-related matters. Some quick math tells us that a board member's workload equates to about a full month a year. A recent iCompass survey tells us that board members and trustees of municipalities feel overburdened in many of the same ways and share many of the same worries about their workloads.

The meeting workload lessens for all board directors when all members of the board prepare well before the meeting, keep themselves organized during the meeting and follow through with the actions they agreed to take once the meeting ends.

While there's no practical way to streamline many of a board member's duties, there are practical ways of streamlining many of the processes that make board business lighter. Electronic board solutions eliminate much of the worry about issues such as agenda preparation, budgeting, transparency and openness.

Complying With Basic Duties Helps to Streamline the Workload for All

Because of the heavy workload that all board directors carry, it's important for each board director to be accountable for the little things, as well as the big things that create a heavier workload on their peers.

All board directors bear equal responsibility for making sure that they follow proper protocols, such as posting proper notices of the meetings, following meeting protocols and conducting proper voting procedures.

They are also responsible for reviewing the agenda, asking questions and adding items well in advance of a meeting. Municipal clerks appreciate board members keeping last-minute updates to a minimum.

Giving notice of meeting attendance or absenteeism seems like it should be a 'given'; however, board directors sometimes fail to let others know if they'll be attending. Board meetings are more likely to get off on the right foot when board members show up on time and are ready to work, or let the board chair know if they can't attend for any reason.

It also reduces the collective board workload when all board members spend the necessary time reading through all reports and other information in the board packets ahead of time, so they're fully prepared to ask pertinent questions.

Using a Consent Agenda

Most boards find it helpful to use a consent agenda during meetings. A consent agenda groups routine business items and reports into one agenda item. Consent agenda items typically include things like approving meeting minutes, financial reports, staff appointments and committee appointments. The consent agenda may also include non-controversial items or other items that the board has already discussed at length and where there is likely to be a consensus on them.

Boards can approve the consent agenda as one action, which saves them the time of conducting multiple votes.

Dealing With Challenging Workloads in Municipal Boards

iCompass surveyed all staff at various local governmental agencies about what their number one challenge was. Regardless of what their role was, or which department they worked in, the vast majority of government employees responded that workload was the number-one challenge. In fact, when we looked at multiple questions that queried municipal workers about the challenges of their workloads, we began to see an overarching theme across departments related to challenging workloads.

Our survey indicated that just over 28% of elected officials felt that they'd be facing challenges with their workload in the next 12-18 months. Many individual issues added to their sense of concern over their workloads. Themes that emerged were balancing their workload, budget concerns, operational inefficiencies, improvements in transparency and open government, and concerns over staff changes. Municipal board members also expressed concerns over how they can make the best use of technology while keeping costs down.

And the Survey Said...

Our survey also gave us an indication as to the specific types of challenges that worried boards most. Implementing technology was high on the list for elected officials. Almost 38% of elected official expressed concerns over implementing new technology within the next 12-18 months.

Budgets are always a top concern for board members. Almost 42% of the respondents in the elected officials category stated that they worried about the municipality's budget so much that it kept them up at night. It's easier to accept increasing costs when it's possible to save money in other areas or when it improves the flow of operations. According to our survey, just over 22% of the elected officials said that they worried about operational inefficiencies.

Today's social and political climates bring much pressure on local governments to operate openly and transparently. Just over 26% of the elected officials who participated in our survey indicated that the issues of openness and transparency worried them enough to keep them up at night, or at least occupied more of their time than they thought it should.

Just over 40% of elected officials also indicated that they worried extensively about the impact of key staff changes in the office and in senior management.

Electronic Solutions Customized for Municipal Boards Alleviate Workload-Related Challenges

If you could work smarter and not harder to cut down on workload challenges and inefficiencies while reducing worry and cost, is that something that would interest you? Let's take a look at how software solutions for municipal governments by iCompass can help your municipality operate more efficiently and transparently.

Transparency Portal

Have you wondered how public citizens can view records and documents online without having to call in with a request? iCompass's transparency portal integrates seamlessly with the municipality's website. This alleviates much of the board members' worry over openness and transparency.

Our survey also indicated that a large number of our respondents were concerned about employee turnover. The results showed that municipal governments expected a 66% turnover of their staffs within the next 10 years, due to retirements. This is a large amount of institutional knowledge that will be walking through the exit doors for the final time.

Cloud-based solutions like the Transparency Portal will live on long after retirees begin enjoying their senior years. These programs will be the training ground for the next generation of municipal employees.

Elected officials perform best when they are well-rested and worry-free. Whether you're worried about agenda preparation, budgeting, transparency and openness or something else, contact iCompass for the best electronic solutions for municipal governments.
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Lena Eisenstein
Lena Eisenstein is a former Manager at Diligent. Her expertise in mission-driven organizations, including nonprofits, school boards and local governments, centers on how technology and modern governance best practices empower leaders at these organizations to serve their communities with efficiency and purpose.