Welcoming your new board members is an important part of the recruitment process. This is the first time they will experience how your board works and first impressions count. A well planned welcome process (sometimes called an induction) can help a new board member feel supported, informed, valued and able to make a contribution straight away.
John Crowther, Treasurer of the Sport and Recreation Alliance and Chair of British Swimming, "A thorough and successful induction is vital if a new board member is going to make a contribution to the workings of a Board from their first meeting. It doesn’t end there; board members must ensure that they remain up to date with the general standards of governance and how they are applied in particular to their organisation.
Just reading the papers before the meeting is no longer enough. My experience is that good governance is directly linked to the overall success of the organisation. It’s not an add-on – it is a fundamental part of striving to be the best."
Before the new board member attends their first board meeting, all existing members should be told the name of the new board member and they should try to attend the meeting.
Everyone on the board should feel responsible for welcoming the new person and putting them at ease. It is worth bearing in mind that existing board members may feel uneasy about having some new board members.
What to include in an induction?
An induction should include information to help your new board member feel well informed about the work of your organisation and the formalities of how your board works. One easy way to give this information to your new board is in a welcome pack.
It is also a good idea to include other informal aspects of how your board works. Take a look at Activity 10: How to welcome your new board member, to help your board decide what to include in your welcome pack.
See example case studies below
Making the most of the skills and experience you have.
Once you have new board members it is a good idea to identify the skills and experience you now have on your board and what if any are missing. You may want to complete Activity 2: how to identify skills and experience (optional), that you may have used in step 1 of this process. You may also want to ask all board members:
- Are there any areas in which you have a particular interest or would like to become involved?
- Are there any areas in which you would appreciate support, advice or more information?
You could add these as additional points to the Activity 2 table.
Other points to consider
What else can you do to make your board member feel welcome and well informed? Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Board member buddying. This involves your new board member being paired up with an existing board member who will be able to answer any questions, be a point of contact and make sure the new board member is feeling comfortable and confident in their role.
- Ask the current board members to think back to when they were new and suggest ideas about what would have made them settle into the role sooner.
- Imagine how daunting it would be to receive a mountain of paperwork at one go! Can you stagger the information which is sent?
- If the new board member is filling the role of a retiring board member, consider asking the retired board member if they would be willing to spend time with the new board member to pass over paperwork and brief them about the role.
- At initial meetings, make sure any acronyms or technical points are explained. It can be very alienating to not understand what is being talked about. Equally, look at your minutes. Do they make sense to an outsider? Could you include an acronym sheet if abbreviations are used?
- A common anxiety amongst new board members is asking ‘stupid’ questions at meetings, or questions that everyone else knows the answer to. You should reassure your new board member that asking questions is a natural part of learning about your organisation and that it is often useful for everyone to look again at why you work in the way you do.
Activity 10 guide and examples are below.