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Board diversity – why does it matter

Posted 6 months ago By Lynn Cadman and Christel Hawkins

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Getting the right mix of skills, knowledge and experience on your board can give your organisation the greatest chance of success.

Diversity on a board means that a variety of individuals with different characteristics, backgrounds and ways of thinking come together to think about, discuss and make decision about the management of their organisation.

A diversity on your board will bring a greater breath of experience and knowledge to your board discussions. It avoids the pit-falls of ‘group-thinking’ and opens the opportunities for more creative and innovative thinking. A wider perspective also ensures that your planning and decision making is more thorough as you will be able to explore fully the options available.

For example, bringing a service user on board could enable you to better understand any gaps in your service or to think about the impact of new initiatives on current users.

How to recruit a diverse board

The first step will be to look at your current board. Do you have the right skills, knowledge, and experience to navigate the challenges and opportunities that your organisation is facing? Get to know your board and think about the qualities of the members and the dynamic between them. Are there any gaps in the way the board thinks through information and makes decisions? For example, if individual board members tend to be quite focussed on detail would you benefit from a board member that looks at the bigger picture?

Once you have worked out what you need, think about where you might be able to find the skills and qualities that you are looking for. Who do you want to see the advert? Where would they look for a volunteering role? What type of advert would attract them? Think about whether there are any obstacles to joining your board and provide reassurances. For example, the board role is unpaid but reasonable expenses are reimbursed.

Think your recruitment process through carefully to make sure you draw out the information you need to decide if the person has the set of skills and qualities you need. Make sure that the process is one that suits your preferred type of candidate.  You should also think about who should be involved in the recruitment of your board. For example, if you work with young people why not invite a couple them to join the interview panel or to meet the candidates informally beforehand.

Once you have appointed your board member think about what support they need to flourish in their role. If this is their first appointment, think about what training they might need about board member.  If they are not familiar with your organisations’s activities, this is something you should include in their induction.

Do keep taking stock of your board – as the organisation develops or the environment changes you might need new qualities and perspectives.