Firms put more effort into recruiting graduates than Board directors

May 01 2005 by Nic Paton Print This Article

Employers often put more time and effort into recruiting graduates than their Board directors, a business school has warned.

John Gilkes, chairman of Roffey Park, told delegates at a recent conference that organisations needed to review their criteria for recruiting and appraising Board directors.

The conference was looking at the dynamics and effectiveness of British boardrooms, a key issue in the wake of the Higgs corporate governance reforms.

"Some organisations put more effort into recruiting graduates than Board members," said Gilkes.

"The challenge is to develop a cohesive team at the top that is strong enough to withstand any domination from any one powerful individual," he added.

To improve the effective of a Board, new members needed to have the ability to challenge, a "can do, will do" attitude, technical expertise and an affinity with the organisation's culture and values, recommended Gilkes.

New non-executive directors should be given a thorough induction, as well as extensive and ongoing training and coaching.

Organisations also needed to have appropriate, Board-specific performance management processes in place to evaluate Board performance, Gilkes suggested.

The conference highlighted the fact that Boards needed to foster a culture of open debate, using resistance as an opportunity to learn.

"Board members have a duty to challenge each other constructively," said Gilkes.

"Dissent on the Board is important, otherwise overassertive individuals can dominate the proceedings. This culture of openness at Board level can then be cascaded down, resulting in a more effective and productive organisation," he added.

In the search for an effective Board, the role of the chairman is pivotal, research by consultancy Board performance experts the Change Partnership found late last year.

It argued that the traditional image of company chairs as arrogant, ill-informed fat cats would have to change, and rapidly, if the health of UK plc was to be preserved.