ACEVO Guest Blog – What skills do Trustee Boards need today?

Grant Taylor, Founding Partner with ACEVO Strategic Partners Peridot, discusses the important factors all CEOs should consider when recruiting for their Board:

The days of presenting all white, over 50, male candidates have gone. What is becoming more influential is the market expectations for Board composition. This has given us the opportunity to find people who would not have made it on to Boards five years ago; HR, Commercial, Legal and Company Secretaries have all been good sources of talent – we are now free to look more widely for talent.

Trustee boards have been seeking and utilising those kinds of skills in their Trustees for many years. But, just as Board composition is changing in the commercial sector, it is also changing in the charity sector, and I’m not convinced that as a sector we are aware of which skills are increasingly sought after on our Trustee Boards.

There are common challenges to developing an effective Board and in securing a skills mix that supports the charity in moving purposefully towards its objectives, but I want to challenge you to think seriously about the following three areas:

 

Modern marketing skills

The value of marketing is in the ascendancy globally and strategic marketers understand markets, products, services, customers and positioning, which should play a vital role in shaping strategy. With the added complexity of digital marketing and social media, not having somebody with these skills, to appraise / advise and support your charity’s positioning, seems ludicrous to me.

 

Technology skills

Technology is an enabler for business, and people who work in high-tech sectors understand the interface between business and technology better than the rest of us. Technology is changing our world at an increasing pace every day and we need to know about social networks, technology, changing workforce attitudes, and disruptive business models, which our technology leaders know a great deal about. How wonderful would it be for somebody offer ideas on not only transforming how your Board undertakes its work, but who has ideas for how the organisation can utilise technology to operate more effectively in this rapidly changing world?

 

Entrepreneurial skills

Entrepreneurial spirit is valuable in every context these days. Entrepreneurs are people who work with urgency, see opportunities, solve problems and find innovative solutions. They have the potential to help you get to the heart of how you have the most impact and they are likely to have made many more mistakes than most people so have a great deal of valuable experience to help manage the risks of doing new and innovative things. It is important however to consider the environment that you are bringing entrepreneurial people into. They are likely to need a sense of ownership and responsibility. The culture needs to be appropriate as their appetite for achieving progress / success can be disruptive if wildly out of kilter with the attitudes to risk and expectations of progress of other Board members.

Think of it another way. What is the opportunity cost of not having people with such backgrounds and skills (offering their time and expertise for free) in your organisation?

It’s good that agenda is shifting from gender, age and ethnicity to skills and therefore Boards are looking at the potential contribution of their members rather than ‘what they are’.

Striving for diversity is great, striving for maximum board performance is better, but recruiting people from these three skills backgrounds offers opportunities to widen the diversity of your Board as well, perhaps through reducing average age and broadening the gender mix, but almost certainly in terms of attitude, ideas and backgrounds.

The only challenge left you is in finding these people.

For more information about Peridot’s Board Development or Trustee recruitment services contact Grant at grant@peridotpartners.co.uk or 07958 690184.

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