On the surface, it may seem that board members don’t need any training. After all, they were likely recruited to join the board because of their knowledge and expertise of the organization and its business. Yet, no one can know everything that there is to know about a business or organization, especially in the fast pace of today’s business world. While some board members may be knowledgeable about running board meetings and following parliamentary procedure, it’s almost impossible to remember every facet of the rules, especially when unusual circumstances arise. That means there are no board members, officers, SEO’s or managers that are exempt from needing board training.
There is no existing list of “rubber-stamped topics” for boards of directors, because of the uniqueness of every business, but several topics make for good training workshops for nearly organization. Boards should assess their members’ needs and the needs of the full board to identify additional topics for training. Here are some ways to find typical training topics to get started.
Pull Topics from Board Educational Materials
Have you and other board members read your organization’s brochures? Think about what others know about your organization. Any information that is printed on brochures, the website, online, or in other public spaces is information that board members need to know. If they seem unfamiliar with the content, a topic on getting to know the organization better would be a fabulous first topic. This could also be an opportunity for board members to review the company brochures and other literature to make sure that the content is accurate and relevant.
Discussion and Review of Board Handbook
Despite giving every board member a board handbook, it’s tempting for many board members to set it on a shelf and let the dust collect on it. By scheduling time to do a formal review of the handbook, board members will gain familiarity with it so that they know where to look if problems or disagreements arise.
Review of the Strategic Plan
Every board member should be familiar with the organization’s strategic plan. They should also be aware that every board member carries a responsibility for carrying out the strategic plan. Reviewing the strategic plan and allowing time for questions is a valuable topic for training.
Identifying the Needs of the Organization
Board members should be keenly aware of the needs of the organization. Any of those needs would make a good topic for board training. This is also an opportunity to invite guest speakers in to expand the board’s knowledge of specific issues.
Identifying the Needs of Board Members
The board should have a process for evaluating each board member’s performance. Using a board member self-assessment tool may uncover some areas where board members need more education. The training committee could certainly develop trainings around board member weaknesses.
Review of Robert’s Rules (Parliamentary Procedure)
A review of Robert’s Rules will take more than one session. A good topic would be to do a training on an overview of Robert’s Rules and make sure that everyone has a chance to participate in making and seconding motions so that they develop a comfort level with voting. As problems arise within the board, it would also be appropriate to schedule a training around what Robert’s Rules has to say about how to manage a specific problem in a democratic way.
Board Member Recruitment
All boards of directors need to be concerned with recruitment. Typically, board member terms will be staggered so that only a few seats will be vacant each year. Boards that don’t have a process for actively recruiting more board members may find themselves with too many board member vacancies. This poses a problem in getting a quorum. Obviously, it also makes it difficult to get business of any other kind done as well.
Discussion Around Relevant Articles
When some of the typical topics have been mastered, consider sparking some lively debates about current industry topics. Pull a relevant article out of a newspaper, trade magazine, or online source and start a board discussion about it. A healthy debate just might ignite some new ideas or prevent potential problems.
Learning the Lingo
Nearly every industry uses acronyms, terms, and other vocabulary that is specific to their industry. Managers may have standard terms that they use every day. Board members may need a little help getting up to speed on the definitions of common terms or what all the acronyms stand for. Learning the industry lingo makes for an interesting and informative training topic. Committees can be very helpful in bringing out some of the words and terms that board members are not familiar with.
These are just a sampling of some of the topics that serve as training sessions for board members. It’s less important which topics the board selects than it is to just get started with something. Get the board excited about training and start slow. Additional trainings are sure to spark some new ideas for the kinds of topics that really matter to board members.