There is no denying the impact COVID-19 had on transforming boardrooms around the world. And with the digital age largely accepted as the new norm, how companies adapt to the remote changes will make or break them.
Having served on hundreds of board meetings in the past few years alone, OnBoard Co-Founder and CEO Paroon Chadha and OnBoard Chief Marketing Officer Rob Kunzler are sharing their sound experience for executives and board members to achieve outstanding results in 2022.
Collectively serving on four different boards, the OnBoard executives believe the Zoom boardroom is here to stay.
While 93 per cent of board members, executives and governance professionals polled by PwC in June 2021 have already resumed face-to-face meetings, or intend to by the end of the year, 54 per cent said they plan to keep at least some board and committee meetings virtual.
"The last 18 months has changed the function of boards more than any 18-year period in history," Kunzler says. "The pandemic was the catalyst for so much of that change over the last 18 months.
"Add to that diversity, equity and inclusion as well as environmental, social and governance, social justice initiatives, facing the economic downturn in recovery, and cybersecurity threats – it’s all surrounded by this notion of digital transformation 3.0."
But what exactly does a successful virtual board meeting look like?
- Lead with a crisp agenda: the best board meetings obsessively bias the agenda towards action
- Creating a new normal: exceptional virtual board engagements can be achieved by thoughtfully digitising all aspects of a board meeting
- Plan and plant reminders: digitally native boards are intentional about hybrid meetings and actively prevent ‘digital dissing’
- Start board meetings softly with chitchat: the lack of a physical third dimension can kill the spirit of a board; the best board meetings avoid cold opens with conversations and engagement
"Board meetings tend to take a lot of time to prepare and you always have a meeting you prepare for. Things go a certain way … if a meeting doesn’t go well and you walk away feeling, ‘I wish this was different’ – that stays with you for a very long time," Chadha says. "We’re going to share some of the pieces we’ve learned to help you prepare and be more intelligent so that all three of these things are one and the exact same thing."
And with 2,500 boards and more than 10,000 committees already using OnBoard’s platforms, the board management software company has become a global expert in the field.
"We inspire and enable organisations to do their best work in the digital world," Kunzler says.
Six best practices for preparing the board
Train up and embrace the full features of enabling technologies
"The fact that you have integration of board platforms with platforms like Zoom, you should take full advantage of these," Chadha says. "If you put meetings in someone’s Outlook calendar, often the Zoom link is hanging out there. Whereas if they only have the board meeting [in their calendar] and then through the platform like OnBoard, [when] they go to join the meeting, the platform logs them in [automatically]. You also get the chance to analyse who is able to actually do that … if a board member is left out you’ll know about it. This also keeps you more secure."
Lean into, leverage and operationalise past experiences and diversity of your board
"We’re seeing more diversity than ever before – we’re certainly applauding that," Kunzler says. "Recognising and alleviating potential blind spots, whether it’s experiential or whether it’s representative competencies. And with board members, there’s often more than meets the eye."
"You’re often not recruited for just one skill," Chadha adds. "Boards are like a national team. You are pulled together at the last moment, you don’t play with each other on a daily basis, yet you need to know who’s who, and that tends to happen while you’re in a meeting. For that, you need to have a good understanding of what skills and what experiences they’re bringing to the board room."
Embrace the nuances of ‘digital chairing’ to stay on target and on time
"When you are physically in a room, you can see people checking their watch," Chadha says. "Those [physical] cues are missing in a digital format. You also have someone taking the minutes – that’s difficult to do in the digital world.
"We’ve worked hard to build software that allows you to do all of that, to stay on top of ‘digital chairing’."
Extend the value and impact of your meeting through digital task management and collaboration tools
"With digital meetings, you often jump from one meeting to another so it’s important for all of us to get good at capturing the essence of the meeting," Chadha explains. "Extend the value through digital collaboration tools such as more ‘to-do’ lists, engaging with tech before, during and after through tracking, managing and reporting.
"The best meeting can be torpedoed by a weak closing."
Weave security and compliance into the fabric of board digital transformation
"Make sure the only record you leave behind to reduce your liability from a board meeting is a clean copy of the board book without any annotations and just the minutes – that’s it," Chadha advises. "Your minutes are also a legal record. To get them accurate is extremely important. If there is ever an audit and your minutes aren’t circulated within a reasonable time frame – the process of being lax could actually come back to bite you."
Analyse everything and create continuous improvement with meeting and board engagement feedback
"Make sure that the meeting you had in mind is the meeting you actually deliver," Chadha says. "To do that, you have to go on this journey of continuous improvement and some of those tools are already available with OnBoard."
To hear more on how you can best prepare your board for 2022, access the recording of OnBoard's recent webinar here.