7 ways to help new board members

new board member
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You’ve found a board that is a good match for your skills, successfully got through the recruitment process, and now you’re a new board member in that organisation. You want to contribute to the organisation as quickly as possible and ‘hit the ground running’, but how do you do this? Your responsibilities as a board member start as soon as you sign up, and you don’t have the luxury of much on-the-job training. This means that you are reliant on a strong induction to get you up to speed on the organisation’s culture, strategy, finances and key risks.

An induction programme is a structured way of providing new board members with all the information and support they need to be confident and productive in their role. The aim is to help new board members to understand the organisation, the environment in which it operates, and their role in making the organisation a success. The process is increasingly being called ‘on-boarding’, but it’s not an introduction to the leisure programme on a cruise ship. It’s a serious business that is essential in helping you to make good decisions quickly.

An induction programme can last for between a few months and a year, depending on the scale and complexity of the organisation.  

7 ways to help new board members:
  • Welcoming the new board member and introducing them to the board team and other key personnel, including the CEO and senior management team
  • An outline of the legal framework within which the board works
  • A clear description of roles and responsibilities
  • An introduction to the strategic plan, key risks and financial position of the organisation
  • An introduction to the governance arrangements which are in place
  • Meeting with key stakeholders where relevant
  • Regular reviews with the chair to check understanding, identify issues and encourage development

It is important that the induction plan is in place before the new board member begins. This presents a professional image of the organisation, and is very reassuring for the new board member. Indeed, an effective new board member will ask about the induction plan before agreeing to join the board.

An induction pack, which contains all the key documents required by board members, should be produced. It is the responsibility of the chair to work through the induction pack and induction checklist with all new board members.

In addition to familiarising the new board member with the documents, the induction should be used to introduce them to the culture of the organisation and their role and responsibilities as a board member. It may also involve identifying training and development needs to ensure the board member can contribute effectively to the organisation.

As a first step, be sure to introduce new board members to their fellow board colleagues. Sharing ‘pen portraits’ as part of the induction will help everyone to remember the skills and experience round the table. Ask everyone to say a little bit about themselves, and why they joined the board or what they love most about the organisation. The responses will help the new board member to identify the values of each board member, and existing board members will learn about their colleagues too!


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