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How is the role of succession planning in delivering high performing, diverse Boards?

The role of succession planning in delivering high performing, diverse Boards. Historically it wouldn’t be unusual to find the board of housing providers, populated by a heavy housing compliment, with little diversity and no clear strategy for succession. Thankfully thinking in this area has moved on significantly over the last decade, supported by changing expectations being placed on the sector and tighter regulatory scrutiny.

In part this shift has been informed by evolving expectations in governance generally, as we see the regulatory expectations and codes of governance across a range of sectors clearly showing a push for diverse, highly skilled boards and clear succession strategies. Other influencing factors include a number of high profile provider failures, where poor governance, a lack of the necessary expertise, and ineffective oversight have been blamed for a range of issues.

Succession planning differs from organisation to organisation, but is about preparing organisations for likely or inevitable changes now, in order to minimise challenges later. The main goal of succession planning is to smooth the transition as Board Members or Committee Members step down, and ensure that vacancies are filled through a process that is informed by the skills gaps that exist (or are being created), as well as the appropriate diverse mix of members required to ensure a rounded and well informed Board.

Diverse Boards are more likely to be better able to understand their stakeholders and to benefit from fresh perspectives, new ideas, vigorous challenges and broad experience. This diversity of thought and contribution should result in more robust governance, better decision-making, and, in turn, support continuous improvement within organisations and across the sector.

A Board that reflects the people and communities that it serves is also more likely to have credibility with them; thus promoting public trust in Board decision-making. Moreover, a provider which understands its diversity in its broadest sense, and can demonstrate the steps it has taken to secure or improve its diversity, is far more likely to be able to demonstrate compliance with its regulatory requirements.

Often informed by collective review processes, we work with organisations to map what effective succession planning looks like for them; developing their existing membership, building capacity and capability and attracting the right members to build a future pipeline of talent. We work with organisations to consider the staggering of board vacancies, and the skills, diversity and experience requirements to support their longer term strategy.

Through proactive skills matrix review and robust skills audit, succession plans can effectively be created or updated to ensure that organisations are ahead of the game in terms of developing their boards and seeking new appointees, providing them with sufficient time to plan for the future of the board and attract high calibre, appropriately skilled and diverse membership.

If you would like advice on how to shape a more diverse board or quantify the skills and behaviours you have vs those you will need in the future, then contact Zoe Wortley.

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