Unless a crisis occurs, board meetings usually take place three to six times a year. In the past, boards met in person. In the era of remote work, are boards still required to meet? Does working in the virtual world make it easier to find board positions in other countries?
According to the Harvard Business Review, several fast-adapting companies have discovered that virtual board meetings can be more effective than in-person meetings.
Besides the obvious benefits of reduced travel and increased attendance, virtual meetings have helped boards improve governance and collaboration with shorter agendas, sharper presentations, more inclusive and bold discussions, and greater exposure to key executives and outside experts.
Can you join a remote board, one based in a different country?
The short answer is yes. One key advantage for boards that embrace the remote board meeting model is that they can attract top talent. High-skilled and in-demand non-executive directors can be recruited from anywhere, providing CEOs and boards with a much wider talent pool.
Currently, there is a great need for people with ESG knowledge, cybersecurity expertise, and digital transformation skills. Shouldn’t boards recruit experts in these fields from around the world? Again, the answer is yes.
Are boards embracing the virtual world?
Board are embracing the virtual world, and while working remotely and virtually has certain downsides, it also has its advantages.
For example, the chairman of Uber’s board, Ron Sugar, has served on the boards of Apple, Amgen, and Chevron. He believes board meetings can often be more effective when they are virtual. “While perhaps never a complete substitute for physical presence, timely virtual connectivity can often make a huge difference in a board’s effectiveness,” he says.
Busy, highly-skilled directors prefer not to travel for meetings
Many skilled and in-demand non-executive directors serve on multiple boards, travel for work, and run their own companies. Their schedules are packed. The idea that they must travel for an extended period to a specific location in a particular country for the sole purpose of attending a meeting is absurd.
Some argue that boards should meet in person. However, what about the time wasted? For a busy director, not having to travel as much to participate in board meetings affords them more time to prepare and be focused.
The Zoom age
Globally, the next great force in boardrooms is the generation that has grown up with virtual meetings and Zoom calls.
For younger generations, joining a board meeting remotely is normal. In fact, it is expected.
Boards are also under pressure from investors to ensure greater diversity, which goes beyond gender and ethnicity and includes age, social background, stakeholder representation, and diversity of perspectives.
Recruiting future successors and selecting candidates for leadership development training now requires boards to broaden their networks.
A growing body of research links boardroom diversity to shareholder value creation, so we can expect more top executives to boost diversity efforts in the years to come. This will include setting ‘virtual’ board meetings as the norm rather than the exception.
The Harvard Business Review recommends eight practices to set your virtual board meeting up for success:
1) Emphasise pre-work;
2) Shorten and energise the agenda;
3) Spread sessions over a week or two;
4) Build trust;
5) Use breakout rooms productively;
6) Build in “candour breaks”;
7) Replicate the dinner experience; and
8) Bring in guest stars.