How do you get your Board on board?

Written by Rob McWilliam on 18 December 2014

Isn’t it great when your Board shows enthusiasm and engagement in your L&D goals and activities? And wouldn’t it be great if every reader of this article could nod in agreement at my first question because they’ve got loads of positive experiences of this phenomenon to draw upon? It’s not always the case though unfortunately.

For some years I directed a leadership development programme for a large engineering and technology organisation. In that time, I focused effort so that the UK Board became so engaged and intrinsic to the programme that they collectively prioritised their attendance at key events with the participants. On reflecting on how this was achieved, I offer you the following tips and insights:

Use HR impact on the Board: I guess for some organisations, there is work to do outside our direct influence, but, if HR has a strong voice on your Board, it is more likely that L&D will be a focus. Build a strong relationship with your HR director!

Get programme sponsorship: Find a supportive board member who is an active stakeholder in the success of a development programme. Start a regular rhythm of meetings with them to keep them engaged, updated and aware of the impact the programme is having. They will be a supportive voice in the boardroom.

Link programmes to talent planning processes: Often, succession plans are aggregated, discussed and signed off at Board level. It becomes an automatic comment for those employees who are categorised as ‘develop potential’ that they will attend one of the L&D programmes.

Build a brand for your programmes: I’ve always linked L&D with a marketing job.  If you can generate positive press and a good buzz about a programme, the Board will want to be associated with it and the brand name will become a part of their vocabulary.

Generate Board member voluntary participation: There is a wide range of activities to allocate, including: mentoring participants; guest speaking at course events; observing/assessing at development centres; sponsoring projects. Then, just listen out for Board members mentioning the roles they’re playing to their colleagues to show how engaged they are and what they know!

Design formal elements that include the Board: For more senior level programmes, it can be very powerful to ask participants to present their development plans in the boardroom and to return later to describe their progress at the end of the programme.

Promote success: Board members want to talk about successes and hear good news.  They also want to see those in their own directorates doing well!

Success breeds success! By the time I moved on from directing the leadership development programme I mentioned earlier, five of the UK Board members had attended it during their career development. So, of course they were on board!

Good luck - and best wishes for 2015!

 

About the author
Rob McWilliam is executive development director at Change Formation. He can be contacted via rob@changeformation.co.uk

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