Governing Boards and Diversity
Boards of any organisation should be well placed to provide strong and transparent governance. This means the members of the board all need to understand the organisation structure, strategy, finances, client base, market changes and employees for the context in which they are operating. This includes knowledge of behaviours, culture and ethics. The behaviours of all organisational board members gets reflected in employees to set the culture within the workplace which is experienced by the clients and those advocating for them, their family/whanau and friends.
The skill of judgement is necessary for board members to base decision-making on a set of agreed standards or a clearly defined constitution, organisation vision/mission or philosophy. To have a progressive Board, there is the need to recruit board members with greater skills than already exist within the board. This ensures progressive diversity of thinking and culture based on more than gender and ethnicity. A greater diversity is needed to also include creativity, innovation, current commercial practice knowledge, information givers and information seekers to increase depth of conversation and concepts being explored. The Board member profile could do well to include these attributes, abilities and skills. Collectively they need to advance the organisation purpose, vision/mission or philosophy in a way that meets client current and future needs.
Boards are not the place for the faint-hearted or those at the end of career who simply ‘want to give back’ who may base todays decisions on yesterday outdated models. Diversity will become a more visible part of boards with the introduction of the new Health and Disability Service Standards later this year. While they are currently in draft, it seems clear the final version will require more diversity within boards. This will include increased desire for Maori representation and inclusion on Boards. As American diversity advocate and activist Verna Meyers says, “Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance”.
If Maori representation isn’t part of your board make-up, it may be advantageous to look at forming relationships with local Iwi who fit the attributes needed to fit your board member profile. All Board members will need to be available, ethics driven, commercially aware and able to contribute. The Board Chair will need to show these same attributes and also provide consistent innovative, clearly communicated strategic leadership. The Board as a whole will also need to be agile in their response to unplanned events. 2020 and the emergence of COVID-19 reminded us of this. It appears 2021 and into the foreseeable future will also present the need for agile thinking and innovation. I suggest now is the right time to review how your board is made up and how effectively they perform. How can this be improved in your organisation?