In a pre-COVID world, board meetings were generally in-person affairs. It was rare for a board member to dial into a meeting and those who did often had a poor experience where they struggled to hear or even be heard. But pandemic-fuelled work-from-home mandates changed everything.
Organisations were forced to quickly find new ways to distribute board materials to enable everyone to join meetings remotely. And those who had already embarked on the digital transformation of their board had a head start – even if they were only at the stage of sending board materials out by email or providing access to documents on a shared drive.
In many cases, collaboration tools including Zoom and Microsoft Teams were swiftly rolled out where boards met and maintained the required stewardship and oversight of their organisations. In fact, OnBoard discovered 79 per cent of people found their boards were more effective since the start of the pandemic, according to its 2021 Board Effectiveness survey. The number one reason cited was the shift to remote work and online meetings.
Two years on from the start of the pandemic and organisations are bumping up against a new challenge: are remote meetings here to stay? Will in person meetings ever return? Will hybrid models be the way forward? While it’s too early for statistics about potential trends, it’s likely many boards will pursue a hybrid model.
Hybrid models involve meetings that combine remote and in-person participants or a mix-and-match schedule compromising both virtual and in person meetings.
Whatever your short-, medium- or longer-term plans are for board meetings, pursuing the digital transformation of your board can deliver significant benefits when it comes to driving efficiency and productivity in a hybrid world.
Four ways to digitise your board in a hybrid world
Digitising your board clearly involves rolling out technology but it’s just as important for the board to adapt its working style for the hybrid world – and Onboard shares how you can do it.
Ensure everyone has access to the latest information by establishing a single source of truth. If you haven’t already done so, create a digital repository for all your board papers, minutes, policy documents and other resources. This will help to avoid board members storing copies locally or making printouts.
Enable effective communication and collaboration in a hybrid environment. Roll out tools and technology that meet the needs of your board and are aligned with the type of organisation you are. If you’re a small business operating in a lightly regulated sector, you may find freely available software tools are all you need to allow board members to communicate and collaborate outside of meetings, and to bring them together in a hybrid meeting environment. On the other hand, a larger corporation subject to more regulation should consider using collaboration tools that offer more security features, access controls and audit trails.
Create engagement guidelines
Set and agree on a policy for engagement during hybrid meetings. This will help members joining remotely be as involved and effective during the meeting as those attending in person. For example, make sure those around the table don’t lapse into discussions that exclude remote attendees. Your chair will have an important role to play in ensuring remote attendees have every opportunity to ask questions and contribute to decision-making.
Optimise adoption of your chosen technology. If you’re introducing digitisation or taking your technology to the next level, you’ll need to manage the change. Help everyone to understand transformation is going to happen but try to roll it out at a pace that suits the most reluctant or least digitally skilled users, accompanied by appropriate support and training.
Many organisations find a board intelligence platform is the ideal digital solution to remain efficient in a hybrid working environment. OnBoard provides both remote and in person attendees with a more seamless experience – before, during and after meetings.
Your board intelligence platform should:
- Focus on ease of use and intuitive user experiences to minimise training for directors.
- Help members prepare for meetings by simplifying and securing their access to centrally stored board papers and other relevant information.
- Foster collaboration between board members and enable them to perform governance functions ahead of a meeting.
- Integrate video conferencing for a better meeting experience.
- Ensure that all decisions taken by the board are trackable and traceable.
- Provide the features and controls needed to protect data and communication – and ensure only authorised users have access to the resources.
- Be intuitive to use on any device (whether corporate or personal) to help accelerate adoption.
- Ensure you have strong cybersecurity for privileged important board data, information and content.