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Recruiting, On-Boarding and Preparing Board Directors and Senior Executives in a COVID-19 Environment

May 27, 2020

On May 19, The McMaster Collaboratorium, hosted by Dr. Michael Hartmann, Principal of The Directors College with guest panelists Michelle Richard, Partner, Leader of Federal and Public Sector Practice, Boyden Global Executive Search and Roger Duguy, Global Practice Leader, CEO & Board Services, Boyden, discussed how organization are rethinking the way that they attract, recruit, and retain their board members and senior executives in the rapidly changing environment brought on by COVID-19.

Session Highlights

Current requirements are for leaders who have an appetite for and the ability to navigate  complex stakeholder environments under a microscope, in the current pandemic.  Candidates must be comfortable in a virtual realm.

As a result of the lack of face to face, there are many more touchpoints in order to get a better feel for a candidate, including psychometric assessments.  The recruiting and due diligence process is taking longer as a result.

Relocation has become a particular roadblock to attracting candidates, as people are not interested in trying to sell their homes during the pandemic.

Over the last ten years, the process for recruiting senior executives and directors has been stable, moving in the direction of diversification of boards, in gender, age and thought.  There are a few competencies that will gain strength in a post-pandemic boardroom – culture, complimentary skills and experience and better communicators.

Board members are feeling overwhelmed by the rapid changes and evolving risks.  This is an opportunity to assess the competency of the leadership team.  Organizations are looking for creative, solution-oriented, empathetic and adaptability.

The criteria and metrics for choosing candidates in the past has been a rigid list of qualities.  In a Boyden survey of chairpersons, the majority believe that 40% of their directors are not suitable for the board.

The diversity of opinions in a crisis like the pandemic is important – groupthink is a detriment for dealing with crisis.  Better understand the financials, cybersecurity and remote workforces and be prepared to be more available.

Technology must enable remote working and security will become more critical going forward.  Risk planning will need to be broader and wider.  The CHRO can no longer be tactical, they must be strategic and represented in the boardroom.

Values alignment was an important consideration for high profile candidates pre-COVID, and will likely become even more important to them.  Leaders want to make a difference, to contribute to a larger vision of a better world.

Crown corporations are open to younger perspectives from emerging leaders with less board experience.  Age is less of a criteria for recruiting the adaptability and creativity that was attributed to younger leaders a decade ago.

It is time to take stock of your leadership talent, support diversity and ensure the tough questions are being asked.  Crown and public sector organizations will be thinking about risk in news ways going forward and dealing with all of the potential risks of an ongoing remote workforce.

If you are looking for your first board position, it will be tough to break in.  Create a network with directors who are dealing with this crisis to learn what you need to know in the future.  Be well-prepared to add unique value for future opportunities, including helping board members to expand their own networks.

Watch key messages from the webinar here.