Board renewal strategies

Term limits mean that there is a requirement for continual board renewal. In these instances planning for succession should be clearly identified as a required organisational activity. Predetermined time-bound decisions need to be made about replacements, facilitating discussion and decisions about the prerequisite criteria for new board members, and the development of human resource management strategies for recruitment. If well managed, the planned turnover has the potential to bring in new people, with innovative ideas, new and expanded networks and relationships, and associated sources of revenue (Yeh and Taylor, 2008). Renewal and succession planning can be used to ensure that board has members with the optimal mix of skills and experience for their respective organisation’s goals and aspirations.

The consideration of designating appropriate limits on board service to ensure timely renewal of board members is one way to address the concerns outlined in the previous section, but there are also other methods that can be used to achieve positive outcomes. For example, as mentioned earlier, many Olympic sport organisations face particular challenges with respect to board composition as many sports board members are elected in line with federated model requirements or representative structures, or, in some cases, to recognise length of service. In order to address this, it is becoming increasingly common in National Federations to be able to directly appoint (versus elect) directors to the Board in order to address skill gaps. The Australian Sport Commission provides this advice:

An NSO board, through its nominations committee, should have a clear process to determine the skills mix of directors required to carry out the board’s governance role at any point in time. NSO boards need to have the ability to appoint directors to address gaps, and board-appointed directors should have the same terms as elected directors.

The IOC has a Members Election Commission, comprising of at least one representative of the IOC Ethics Commission and one representative of the IOC Athletes’ Commission. This Commission examines each candidature file and forwards these in the form of a report to the IOC Executive Board. The IOC Executive Board proposes candidates to the IOC members who then elect these by secret ballot. In the past, the criteria for what constitutes a suitable candidate has not been discussed, nor have the criteria been made public. However, as a consequence of Olympic Agenda 2020 recommendation 38, the IOC Members Election Commission will take a more proactive role in identifying the right candidates to fill vacancies in order to best fulfil the mission of the IOC. The Commission will identify the fields where there are or will be a lack of expertise in the Membership to then conduct a recruitment process, including interviews if required, to fill the identified gaps.

The Il’C elects its Governing Council from its members and this is done by secret ballot. There are no criteria to guide who may be nominated or criteria for the members to use to differentiate candidates.

Another approach to facilitating effective board renewal is through having a programme of systematic board member development, which includes providing training for board members in aspects of governance and strategy. For example, in 2018, the Executive Board of the IOC decided to conduct self-assessments and regular information sessions for each of its members, aimed at optimising their skills and expertise to effectively face current and future societal, political, and technological governance challenges. The activities undertaken included:

  • • Education about the updated staff regulations, which strengthen existing formalities and include a robust code of conduct, based on the IOC Code of Ethics;
  • • An e-learning module on ethics for all staff;
  • • An awareness programme (including real-life scenarios, as well as past experiences) on all ethical matters, including conflicts of interest, delivered to all the IOC Members, IOC staff, and directors;
  • • Information about the dedicated ‘Alert Transmission Mechanisin’, which IOC staff must use in the event of concerns about possible unethical conduct to alert the Ethics and Compliance Office;
  • • Customised ethics training for IOC Members; and
  • • Wide dissemination of the Code of Ethics across various stakeholder groups.

If this type of activity is supported with a performance appraisal and evaluation process, an organisation can ensure that board members are up to date with the sporting context, the issues facing the organisation and their role in dealing with these. A board review process should be undertaken annually and provide an opportunity for the board to reassess not only the contributions of departing board members, but also assess the skills, experience, and knowledge represented on the board, and to plan board development accordingly. When boards evaluate their qualifications and performance, they should consider the specific skills required for the board, its committees, and individual directors to carry out their responsibilities effectively. In their assessment, boards need to determine the extent to which those skills exist and whether they have been properly exercised or if there is a need for any skills improvement. Then the board, or a subset of the board, can craft a plan to address the board’s talent needs. For example, new directors with specific identified experience and expertise might be recruited to succeed board members whose terms are coming to an end.

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