Recruiting Board of Trustee Members: Best Practices for 2022

The board of trustees plays a crucial role in your company’s vision and direction. For this reason, its members, the trustees, should be recruited carefully and intentionally.

These best practices for recruiting board of trustees in 2022 will help you implement the right processes, before, throughout and after the recruitment.

Recruiting Board of Trustee Members

Before entering the recruitment process, a series of questions should be thoroughly examined in order to determine the specific needs of the board.

Some of these questions include:

1. Does the board have the right number of trustees?

The right number of trustees is inherent to each individual board. It can also evolve as the needs of the organization evolve–this is particularly true in times of crisis.

With COVID-19, boards have been facing challenging times all over the world. Difficulties or impossibility to hold in-person meetings have slowed and hindered business and executive decisions. On the one hand, boards with too many trustees might find themselves making decisions with limited number of representatives. On the other hand, boards with a small number of trustees might not be able to find the right solutions due to lack of crisis experience from their members.

An annual evaluation should help highlight whether you have the right number of trustees on your board, knowing that governing documents usually sets a limit.

2. Do the current trustees have the right skills and profiles for the board?

Just like having the right number of trustees on the board, having the right skills among trustees is essential for 2022. 2021 was a complex year riddled with travel restrictions, work from home regulations, product shortages and more. Boards have been running in “crisis mode” for the entire year, in addition to most of 2020. After running in crisis-mode for nearly two years, any skills lacking on the board is painfully apparent.

A skill audit isindispensable in identifying the skills the board is missing. These outstanding skills will be critical in drawing up an ideal trustee profile for the board.

3. Is there a need for training or support for the current trustees?

If it appears the board needs additional skills for the upcoming year, it is important to first look into the current trustee’s capacities. Trustees are high profile professionals with a lot of experience, so they might only need training or support to gain the lacking skills and be operational for 2022.

This should also be highlighted by the annual evaluation. If it looks like adding a new trustee is the best option, the next step is the recruitment process.

How to Recruit Trustees for Your Board: First steps

Before the Recruitment Process

Prior to starting interviews, the recruitment process should be clearly identified. It will involve both current trustees and potential candidates.

In addition to audit the current trustee skills, status and terms of office should be looked at. Be aware of the current trustee intentions for upcoming months and years. If some trustees are bound to leave the board during the year, you might need to find more than one trustee. The skills audit combined with current trustee intentions will help you to define precisely the skills you are looking for and determine the right profiles.

Then, check the organization recruitment process for trustees. It can be an appointment or an election, usually by board members. Make sure to follow up-to-date governing rules.

Once the recruitment has been agreed internally, you need to determine how and where you will find the right candidate. This can be done internally, i.e. with other members networking for candidates, or externally through the services of trustee recruitment experts or agencies.

Selecting the Right Candidate

Regardless of the recruitment process chosen by the organization, selecting the right candidate is crucial.  Selection will rely both formal and informal actions.

The formal process is similar to staff recruitment:

  • Advertising a vacancy stating what you are looking for
  • Screening CVs and selecting relevant candidates
  • Scheduling formal interviews

The informal process will be put in place for the selected candidates, before the final decision. This part of the process aims at introducing the organization and its members to the potential new trustees. They can be brought in to observe a board meeting for instance. Selecting the right candidate will have to be aligned with the organization goals for 2022. The selected candidate will also have to be a good fit with the other trustees.

Make sure that recruitment practices are aligned with ESG and sustainability objectives, and consider bringing in someone with experience in that area.

Onboarding Process: Best Practices for a New Trustee

Best practices for recruiting a trustee apply throughout the recruitment process but also the succession planning and onboarding process.

Succession Planning

If a current trustee is leaving the board, there should be discussions regarding the succession planning. This process should be provided for in the organization documentation, i.e. a trustee succession planning policy.

This helps operate a smooth transition from the leaving trustee to the new trustee, as transition periods can be critical for boards. The leaving trustee is required to facilitate the leave and the new trustee gets all necessary information prior to accepting the role.

Trustee Induction 

Once the new trustee has been elected or appointed, the board should focus on the induction. Trustee induction is critical for the success of the recruitment. The goal of the induction is to provide the new trustee with all necessary information in order to work in the best possible conditions from day 1.

Induction will be tailored to the board and trustee needs. It will usually include:

  • Presentation of the organization: main goal, values and organizational chart
  • Presentation of the strategic plan: broad and detailed plan
  • Trustee role description and expected results
  • Presentation of the other trustees and their roles
  • Last board minutes
  • Governing documents and code of conduct

The trustee induction can include anything the board deem necessary for a smooth arrival of a new trustee.

Now, more than any other time in your company’s history, is the time to make sure your board recruitment practices are aligned and comprehensive. Having the right number of trustees on the board won’t mean much if they don’t have the skills necessary to lead your company forward through 2022. Make sure your recruiting processes are comprehensive enough to ensure that you’ve checked all bullet points off the list.