Congratulations on recruiting your new board members. You now have the brightest and most experienced people in one room — be it physical or virtual. The next trick is to get the newcomers up to speed, comfortable with their colleagues, and working at their full capacity as quickly as possible.
This article will help you build a structured and efficient onboarding process for newly appointed members of the board. Keep reading for tips on how to make the announcement, welcome them into the company, foster informal communication, and familiarize them with their roles and duties.
Announcing new board members
The first step of introducing new directors is making an official announcement. It’s a great way to assert the value and authority of the new members, as well as an opportunity to reiterate the company’s mission and goals.
However, before appointing and inviting a new member to the board, you should put a great deal of effort into your board recruitment campaign. That means you’ll go through preparing position descriptions, arranging interviews, shortlisting relevant candidates, and conducting a board assessment. For some extra advice on the process, be sure to check out our article on board recruitment steps and best practices.
Once board recruiting is done, it is important to make the new board member announcement both within the organization and through public communication channels. Focus on the message you want to deliver to each audience and choose the wording and tone most appropriate for each situation.
The standard way to inform the world about your new board members is by issuing a press release. Here is a template we recommend for public announcements. Feel free to use it and make changes according to your company’s particular needs.
Title: [Name of Your Business] Appoints [N] New Members to the Board of Directors[Place, date]. Today, [Business Name] announced the appointment of [N members] to its board of directors: [New Directors’ Names]. [A sentence or two about the company’s mission and how the new board members will help follow it].
“[A quote from a senior board member about the new directors, and what they bring to the table].”[A brief introduction of each new member, along with their achievements, accolades, background, etc. A few words on the responsibilities each new director will assume].
“[A quote from the new director/s on joining the company]”[Company’s mission statement with a more detailed list of achievements, future plans, partners, and so on].
Company Contact Info:
- [Phone number]
Depending on your audience, you can use different communication channels:
- Post the announcement on the company’s website
- Include it in your email newsletter
- Spread the news via social media platforms: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
As you’re preparing the official press release, consider making a version of it for internal use.
When it comes to sharing the news within your organization, you may want to rephrase your press release to make it less formal. However, don’t miss the chance to remind your employees of the company’s goals and values.
Explain the impact the new appointments will have on specific areas and departments, add pictures of the new members, and provide some background information. The idea is to make the internal announcement more personal and engaging for the employees and facilitate the integration process.
However seasoned and experienced, your new board members need all the support they can get to feel at home in their new environment.
How to welcome new board members
You need a proactive onboarding tactic to make sure your newly recruited directors become part of the community long before their initial board meeting. But first things first — informing new members of the board of their responsibilities should be at the top of the agenda.
Getting started on the essentials
Your business is a complex organism, and new board members need a clear understanding of their function. To prevent them from drowning in a sea of documentation, consider creating a “Welcome to the Board of Directors” guide that should include:
- A list of board roles. Detailed descriptions of what duties and responsibilities each role entails with a specific focus on your business model.
- Information on committees. The names of the committees and their members, along with their functions.
- Your company’s story and leadership. A brief overview of the company history with a mission statement, information on key executives, and current board members. Adding pictures and short bios is also a good idea.
- Your organization’s bylaws. A comprehensive collection of the bylaws your business is built on.
- A calendar of events. This should include board and staff meetings, team building events, and all other activities directors might participate in.
As your new board members become fluent in the terms and principles your company operates on, they will gain the confidence needed to make quicker and better decisions.
A closer acquaintance
There are things you can do in advance to make the process of onboarding more personal and custom-tailored for every new board member, including:
- Schedule a tour of the office. Whether virtual or on-site, an introductory visit will make your new directors feel more welcome and at home. It will also help them get acquainted with other employees and get the lay of the land before they move in permanently.
- Start including them in your company’s communication. This is a great option for introducing the new board members to the processes of your business. When you’ve signed all the contracts and NDAs, give the new recruits access to company email, Skype, Zoom, or virtual data room meetings. They can participate passively, learning about their colleagues, the company’s culture, and the decision-making process.
- Set up an orientation program. Led by senior board members, such a program should cover basic aspects of company governance, internal bylaws, board functions, etc. This way, during actual board meetings, your new directors will be less distracted from performing their primary roles.
- Assign a mentor. Also referred to as a “board buddy”, this is a very effective approach to board member training. The key to an effective mentorship is choosing an existing board member who has the versatile experience and is passionate about their work.
It’s generally advisable to keep a healthy balance between formal training and informal communication. Building a strong corporate culture is impossible without promoting engagement on a personal level. A work environment where your board members feel safe and comfortable will keep them motivated for years to come.
Notice how we’d been looking at the situation from a business owner’s angle? Let’s view this from a new board member’s perspective. (We know you’re reading this, too.)
Recommendations for new board members
Joining a board of directors comes with responsibilities and expectations. For instance, most companies expect new board members to share their business philosophy and promote their values. Knowing these expectations in advance can help avoid misunderstandings and speed up the onboarding process.
Assume an active role
Build rapport with your fellow board and committee members. Learn from your mentors, apply your expertise, and draw from previous experience. Remember to take part in discussions during meetings. You can’t deliver value by quietly observing from the “back seat”. Your board member training will be incredibly more effective with a proactive attitude.
Absorb company’s values
You’ve probably spent a fair amount of time and went out of your way to get this position. Or maybe the company headhunted you; the point is — it was a mutual choice, and both parties have to honor the original agreement. Working for a business involves accepting its values and code of conduct, so it’s best to research those things beforehand.
You will soon find that it’s much easier to perform your duties as a board member after aligning your values with those of the company and your colleagues — that is the backbone that builds a business.
Be true to yourself
Sometimes trying too hard to fit in isn’t the best strategy. You are not a collection of titles and achievements — to a large extent, the company hired you for who you are. Your opinions and convictions, your passion, and your dedication are invaluable assets — just like your education and experience.
Stand your ground, argue when necessary, look for better solutions, and make a difference. Remember why you took this job and think about the people whose lives your decisions will impact.
No matter how unique your expertise or background, your business reputation can be easily damaged by unprofessional behavior. We’re not talking about unlawful or fraudulent activity — even smaller things like not following through with commitments or not meeting deadlines can be detrimental. To avoid that, you have to know your limits and manage your duties realistically.
The bottom line
Making a great first impression is important and requires preparation. Onboarding is a two-way street where existing board members and new appointees can take steps to meet each other in the middle.
Due to the controlled nature of the process, the “newbies” don’t feel like they’re thrown into the deep end. With a little help from current board members, they can test the waters and quickly make it to the surface instead of drowning in formalities.
In an interconnected world no longer geographically limited, most of this can now be done remotely. Using board communication software is a secure solution to speed up onboarding and save costs.