In my regular meetings with business leaders from the financial services sector, we nearly always discuss their ongoing challenges for the recruitment and retention of key staff. In this context it can seem inappropriate to discuss their own career plans in the same conversation, especially if it means leaving their current employer.
So, when I invited those same executives to discuss adding ‘Board Director’ to their career accomplishments at a Slade Executive Boardroom Lunch, I wasn’t surprised that spaces at the table filled quickly.
Led by experienced Director and Boardroom consultant, Nicholas Barnett, we discussed Australian boardrooms now and moving into the future.
While Boards are still heavily populated with older white males who have been approached directly through their own network, we are definitely seeing changes to this long established practice. More progressive Boards are recognising the value of greater diversity amongst Directors, challenging gender, generational and sociocultural norms. Nor are successful companies promoting diversity simply to achieve compliance or a feel good factor. Numerous studies have shown that best results are achieved where there is greater diversity in the Board of Directors and Executive team. The Australian Institute of Company Directors publishes regular research and reports on board diversity.
Board recruitment processes are changing too. Nicholas, through his company InSync, is regularly being engaged by Board Chairs to undertake Board reviews to identify strengths and capability gaps. From these reviews new Directors are being appointed. Yes, the traditional networks are still prevalent, however, we’re encouraged to see that the trend towards a structured and independent recruitment process for Board positions, facilitated by engaging external consultants such as an Executive Search firm, is becoming standard practice.
If you’re considering adding a board role to your executive responsibilities or transitioning your career to the Boardroom, here are the key factors to consider:
- Board positions are highly competitive. According to Nicholas, the number of people interested in joining a Board has increased significantly, whilst the number of roles has remained largely unchanged over the last ten years. Therefore, you must be able to articulate what you can bring to the Boardroom and how you can make a positive contribution.
- As in any role you’ve had in your career, you will be more engaged within an industry or company that you are passionate about. Your network or an Executive Search consultant can help you to identify suitable organisations that align with your interests, as well as your knowledge and experience.
- Do your due diligence. You want to be part of an effective Board, and Boardroom culture is often set by the Chairperson. Insist on meeting other directors, as well as the Chair, to evaluate whether others are engaged.
- A Board position involves a significant time commitment – can you fit it in with your other responsibilities?
- If it’s your first time looking for a Board role, consider Not-For-Profits or unpaid roles, keeping in mind that many NFPs have high profile Board members who have a number of Directorships. Over time, opportunities to be considered for Corporate Board positions may present through this wider network.
- Don’t leave it until you are at the end of your executive career. Consider your first Board appointment in parallel with your current role to see if it’s really for you. While establishing a track record as a Director, you’ll build a network of fellow Directors, which can lead to a growing portfolio of Directorships as you wind down your executive career.
What are your key considerations for a boardroom position?