Why recruiting your board to be diverse and skilled will benefit your organisation

Governance Officer, Rob Tate, explains the benefits of an organisation having a diverse and objective board. 

The board is the primary decision-making body in an organisation, with overall responsibility for promoting the organisation’s interests. Given this pivotal role, the quality and composition of the board needs to be spot on. The Principles of Good Governance for Sport and Recreation promotes the recruitment of a balanced, inclusive and skilled board that reflects the diversity of the community it serves. Organisations are able to improve their decision-making and innovation by bringing together high-calibre individuals with varied experience, with the ability to think differently and the willingness to provide constructive criticism to board and executive colleagues.

Diverse groups have been shown to make better decisions through better diversity of thought. A group of people with the same experiences and the same backgrounds are likely to fall foul of “groupthink”, where decisions are made without any challenge or consideration of alternatives, leading to poorer quality decisions, and with a higher risk of unconsidered negative outcomes. By contrast, diverse and skilled groups bring a much greater variety of input to the decision-making process. When managed correctly in a board operating with good board behaviours, the opportunity for new ideas and constructive challenge will lead to a more innovative and robust decision making process.

The Alliance has worked hard to attract objective and diverse candidates for its board. Before the recruitment for our newly elected and appointed directors started, the board undertook a skills analysis to determine existing skills, and what competencies were required to assist the Alliance in delivering its new strategy. Identifying the skills gaps on the board meant that the Alliance could specifically recruit for those skills.

The Principles of Good Governance for Sport and Recreation promotes the need for having 30% each gender on boards and encourages boards to aim for gender parity in the long run. Understanding how diversity can be improve board performance is key any organisation to progress forward and our guidance notes provides details on how this can be achieved.

We advertised the roles through our own website and other sport and recreation specific job sites, as well as advertising through a number of external partners from outside the sector. Using this approach to reach a wider range of potential candidates meant we were encouraging as many applicants as possible.

Both elected and appointed board members should be recruited for the skills and experience they can offer a board. The skills recruited should reflect the organisation’s strategic needs. As well as skills that are necessary for every organisation (e.g. finance), there will be skill requirements that are specific to your organisation.

Objectivity is one of the most important factors on a board. It’s important for board members to remember that they are responsible for representing the best interests of the organisation as a whole, not any one section or group within the organisation. Appointing independent directors, who don’t have a prior direct link to your organisation, can help the board to take an objective view on decisions, as well as helping to bring new perspective to the organisation’s activity.

Increasing the objectivity, diversity and skills balance of your board contributes to creating a board which is more accountable to the stakeholders it represents. Skilled boards are seen to make informed decisions, and gain the respect of stakeholders for doing so. Diverse boards reflect the community they represent. Objective boards can be trusted to make objective decisions, and are seen as fair and trusted stewards of the organisation by stakeholders. 

Developing all of these areas puts your board in the best possible position to be trusted leaders of the organisation.

Learn how you can implement The Principles of Good Governance for Sport and Recreation in your organisation.