This guide is to help anyone who is building a board of directors for a growing business.
As a business owner, you know your company can mature and expand in many ways, depending on your industry, your funding, and the products you have to sell.
Another factor that can help drive growth is the skills of your board members.
Finding the right board members to fuel business growth means taking a close look at the skill sets of your directors.
There has been a change
With the worst of the pandemic behind us and the new challenges we face now, it’s easier to see the last two years as a clear-cut separation between old and new.
Companies’ priorities have changed. When thinking about business growth, the skills they want at the board level have changed too.
In a recent interview with CGI, board recruitment expert David Schwarz said demand had shifted away from traditional corporate governance and towards adaption.
“In the past, finance, audit risk, and legal were the three most requested skill sets at the board level,” he said.
“But the percentage of those people on boards is decreasing, and replacing them are HR, marketing, IT, change management, and general industrial senior leadership experience.”
In short, companies realise that to grow; they will likely need fresh talent at the highest level.
What new skills do boards want?
The short answer is anything that will help a company conform to the new normal.
This doesn’t just cover post-COVID shifts in the ways of working, but the change of attitude – geared towards a more sustainable future.
The most in-demand skillsets are:
- Environmental, social and governance (ESG). It’s probably the hottest topic in corporate governance. Green initiatives, employee welfare, governance integrity – all, and much more, fall under the ESG heading. Companies want experts on their boards who can navigate this topic, which is why it’s such a valuable skill. Anyone new to ESG can always think about getting qualified.
- Digital transformation. Lockdowns or no lockdowns – the pandemic has thrust countless organisations into the digital age. Many grow online, whether they like it or not. In a 2021 HBR survey, 83% of board members named cybersecurity improvements their number one goal.
- Diversity and company culture. Changing attitudes and new laws are forcing companies to rethink their treatment of employees drastically. Are the right equality policies in place? Are multiple viewpoints recognised? Do workers have a way to voice their concerns?
Risk management. New trends and fresh ways of working bring unknown risks. That’s not automatically bad, but it can become bad if a company lacks the right risk management expertise.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking these skill sets have replaced older trends like legal and finance. These are still important; they’re just sharing their prominence far more with newer demands.
What hasn’t changed in board member recruitment?
Board may want new skills within their ranks, but zooming out, they are still looking for the same type of individual who can land in their role and excel from day one, fuelling growth the entire time.
They want someone
- who has enough experience to qualify for a boardroom environment
- who has a strong contacts book, knows people in the industry, and networks with them for advice, partnerships, etc.
- who believes in the organisation, has read its mission statement and thought, ‘I’m behind this effort.’
- who is an excellent cultural fit for the organisation.
Growth is fuelled by innovation, and that doesn’t just apply to products.
Leadership needs innovation too, so it’s crucial to pay attention to the current trends in board recruitment and realise your company may need some of the newly popular skill sets.