A comprehensive induction process for new board members will help them to contribute more quickly and appropriately.

    But there’s also a governance aspect, says John Harte, Managing Partner of Integrity Governance.

    "A director’s liabilities begin the day they’re appointed. So the sooner we can get a director up to speed, in terms of knowing the business and their duties and responsibilities, the better," says Harte.

    And it begins with the advertising and interview process, he says. For example, expectations of directors should be mentioned early then repeated in the letter of offer and mentioned in the board code of conduct.

    Harte recommends thinking of the induction process as an 18-24 month "journey of learning" for the new director. He says there are four important elements of this process:

    1. Familiarisation. This should include site visits, including meeting and talking with all people to make sure the director gets a thorough understanding of the organisation.

    2. Training. There may be a need for formal director training covering duties and responsibilities, such as workplace health and safety or risk management. 

    3. Mentoring. If possible, some form of informal mentoring is useful, says Harte. "My concept is what I call the ‘Godmother’ or ‘Godfather’ director who takes the fledgling director under their wing for the first 18-24 months. It helps them understand the way things work and the history of issues.

    4. Tailoring. Most boards forget to tailor their induction programs to the knowledge and needs of the new director, says Harte. "People are time-poor and a one-size-fits-all approach can be a bit frustrating." Harte recommends that the chairman take some responsibility for monitoring the new director’s induction.

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