How Remote Working Is Streamlining the Board Meeting Experience

By: Neil O’Sullivan, Business Development Manager

You’d be hard-pressed to find a group of professionals who did not learn something new about work in 2020. Whether it was the effectiveness of a 20-minute meeting or the viability of a true 5 p.m. stop, leaders figured out all kinds of new methods for getting the job done and done well… even amid unprecedented challenges.

As COVID-19’s impact on how we work seeps into the post-pandemic ethos, we expect the board experience will mirror that of directors’ day-job environments. Workplace trends we’d seen bubbling under the surface have exploded into the mainstream. As they do, the volunteers that advise organizations on growth strategies now have certain expectations of the board experience.

Strategy and focus. The challenges of working from home and the benefits of virtual conferencing combined to reintroduce the concept of brief, efficient and effective meetings. Board members that have experienced the impact of these strategic touch-base style interactions with colleagues are likely to emulate them within the board environment. The trick to enabling brief, to-the-point meetings is to get the small, time-consuming details out of the way ahead of time. Staff can send policies and other important documentation for review, like financial reports and sales/marketing results, to board members well in advance of a board meeting. They can then collect the necessary feedback and sign-offs from them ahead of time. This keeps board members focused on more strategic endeavors when they are all in a room together, virtually or otherwise.

Clouds and archives. The days of handing a new board member a 4-inch binder full of materials are long gone. New volunteers, particularly those who fall into the digital-savvy category, are used to on-demand access to an organization’s complete history. They want as much data and documentation as possible from whatever device they are using at any given time or location. The pandemic made the demand for 24×7, cloud-based accessibility even more acute, and board member expectations are likely to reflect that in 2021 and beyond.

Alerts and notifications. Numerous times a day, the technology we’ve invited into our lives pings, reminds and notifies us of moments we’ve set as important. Reminders from Alexa, text alerts from Best Buy, appointment pings from Google – all day long our devices are ding-donging. Naturally, this has spilled over into our work lives, creating something of a dependency on technology to follow through on our commitments. Integrating board processes with technology that provides alerts and notifications to individual board members can greatly improve accountability, particularly with volunteers that are balancing multiple personal, professional and civic duties. Now, when actions are assigned at board meetings or important documentation has been made available, board members want to be alerted. Keeping board members in the loop allows them to be more involved and enables them to give more value-added feedback to the organization.

Diversity, equity and inclusion. Professionals and volunteers alike are making intentional moves to broaden the types of people they bring into a team. The long-overdue awakening around the value of diversity, equity and inclusion will have a strong impact on the way board members are recruited, onboarded and encouraged to participate. As organizations grow and expand, virtual collaboration technology enables connections between people stationed as far away as the other side of the planet. That makes finding and working with non-traditional candidates dramatically easier. From an inclusion standpoint, the same technologies provide lots of options (e.g., camera and audio on or off, captioning, IM’ing) to accommodate many different abilities, styles and needs. The days of flying across the globe for a three-hour meeting are over; organizations across all industries are saving themselves lots of time and money as a result.

Accountability and transparency. COVID-19 accelerated stakeholder demand for trustworthy interactions. Today’s consumers and professionals demand the organizations they work for and with operate in a highly credible and open manner. Fortunately for today’s boards, governance, risk and compliance (GRC) automation technology, like the ViClarity platform, is making it much easier to provide the kind of evidence and audit trails they need to be able to show regulators. Examiners want to see that the board is very involved in the decision-making process. Organizations can now point to evidence of this from their system. Board member behaviors and activities, from meeting attendance to key actions assigned to them, can all be tracked on an extremely granular level. An added bonus is allowing each board member to see, at a glance, how he or she is living up to the commitments they’ve made to the organization.

Technology is the singular thread running through each of the above trends. Solutions that enable virtual collaboration, task automation, on-demand access, personalized notifications and action tracking keep board members engaged to the level regulators expect and organizations need. Future-proofing the board member experience may be a heavy lift, but integrating the right technology now gets an organization that much closer to ensuring a mutually beneficial board experience for years to come.

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