Five steps to improve boardroom recruitment

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Based on the insights gained from conversations with our clients and board leaders across Europe, we have identified five practical steps to improve boardroom recruitment.

1. Structure

You can start by realigning the composition of the board with the evolving needs of the business, looking at issues such as numbers and profile of non-executive directors, duration of service and sector-specific needs.

You might also consider rotating non-executive directors regularly and appointing individuals with a wider range of skills. This can help open up the board’s approach to managing changes effectively and sharpen its awareness of future developments.

2. Process

You could investigate ways of using headhunters more effectively, such as rotating recruitment firms and separating evaluation from search. You could also consider hiring headhunters who represent the candidate, rather than the client. Instead, you could advertise for boardroom posts, or use the growing number of databases to identify candidates who could bring new perspectives to the board.

3. Criteria

In order to create a larger pool of potential candidates, you should abandon the requirement that candidates “must have experience of a PLC board.” Instead, you should widen the search to include those with analytical skills, independence of thinking and a capacity to support as well as challenge.

4. Succession

Make a succession plan and keep it transparent. Then, in order to create a high-quality pipeline of talent, provide training for would-be non-executive directors within your own company by placing them on committees just below board level. You can bring them in occasionally for presentations to the board, or appoint them as observers on a rotational basis.

5. Support

The ideas above are all based on the principle of individual companies changing the way they think about boardroom recruitment. But, might it be possible for large cross-border businesses to collaborate in the creation of a “board secretariat” to provide support for all non-executive directors, in terms of resources as well as opportunities?

Such an organization could potentially provide training for those who aspire to be non-executive directors, with their employers recommending them for participation in suitable courses. This is a radical idea, and one that would undoubtedly prove challenging to implement – but it may be one whose time has come.