Virtually every aspect of corporate America has been affected by the adoption of new technology. Social networks and collaboration technologies are revolutionizing and changing the way companies are run, products are made, information is shared and the way employees are recruited.
There is one aspect of nonprofit, private and public companies, however, that has made little or no progress when it comes to innovation — the way corporate boards are recruited and managed.
Corporate America is fully aware that this process is flawed. Most recently, headlines from scandals that have occurred at Best Buy, Chesapeake Energy, Groupon, Wal-Mart and Yahoo have put the spotlight on corporate governance. Besides a general disdain for illegal and deplorable actions, corporate boards have suddenly felt the pressure to fortify their teams with the same virtues they always strived for, with an increased emphasis on personal and professional integrity.
Despite the numerous corporate governance reforms adopted worldwide since the Enron days, we continue to see a proliferation of corporate governance scandals in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. The reason for this is that reforms are only as good as the boards that implement them — and nothing has been done to improve the methods in which these boards are built.
Today’s options are limited to tapping into a network of slow, pricy and established board recruiters. More frequently, the process is limited to the annual “who do you know” conversation around the boardroom table, which only lends itself to the “good old boy network” and results in a shallow pool of out-of-touch director candidates. That limits the potential talent, skills, experience and expertise in the boardroom and affects the goals and integrity of the company.
You wouldn’t rely on this method when recruiting employees for an organization so why would you do so when building your board?
This is not the American way. We’ve invented solutions to problems we didn’t even know we had, yet this is one issue that continues to plague corporations. It’s time to transform corporate governance.
Innovation and technology can simplify and improve an organization’s journey through the board development and management process. For its own good, your organization must commit time, energy and resources — exhaust all possible avenues — to a board search that goes beyond the traditional recruitment process. This is the only way to find the best talent available, especially as it relates to specific areas of expertise your company needs.
Most critical and complementary to these commitments is helping your organization get over its fear of online recruitment and social technology. There are many tools out there that can help with this search, and they must be utilized. Social networks, such as LinkedIn and Facebook, have generally been used only as reactionary strategies — such as checking backgrounds, resumes and personalities — when they can become the initial search for specific board seats.
Digital footprints serve as proof of candidates’ knowledge and experience. At the same time, you should be prepared to take inventory of your organization’s digital footprint — what message are you sending to potential board members?
Complement the “who do you know” conversation with social networks. Your search does not have to revolve around the connections of your executives and fellow board members. Elevate your networks and your recruitment process into the 21st century to find the best available talent for your board.
Mark Rogers is the co-founder and CEO of BoardProspects, an online professional community dedicated to building better boards for private, public and nonprofit organizations. Before founding BoardProspects, Rogers was partner at a law firm in Boston, advising nonprofit and for-profit entities on corporate governance and boardroom matters. Rogers received his J.D. from Suffolk University Law School and Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of the Holy Cross. E-mail Rogers at [email protected].