August 18, 2021

Board Effectiveness: How the Pandemic Affected Collaboration

Anecdotally, there seems to be a perception among some folks that in-person board meetings yield better interaction & decision-making. But a recent OnBoard survey of nearly 300 directors & staff members says those assumptions could be misplaced. Here are some takeaways:

– The rapid shift to remote meetings created a lot of challenges, but 79% of respondents said their boards have improved effectiveness in the past 12 months, including 56% who said they have improved slightly and 23% who have seen significant improvements in effectiveness.

– A full two-thirds of survey respondents said board collaboration has improved since the shift to remote work and meetings, with 54% saying they have seen some improvement and 12% seeing a lot of improvement. On the flip side, that means that nearly a quarter of respondents said their board’s collaboration deteriorated at least a little since Covid-19 forced their meetings to shift to a virtual format.

– About half said their boards have spent more time discussing strategic issues over the past 12 months than prior to the pandemic, while 39% indicated they spend about the same amount of time discussing such issues.

– When asked to describe the effectiveness of their board’s governance in a virtual environment, 54% of survey respondents said they have achieved good governance under challenging conditions. Board administrators and staff were slightly more affirming, with nearly 60% of non-directors saying good governance had been achieved versus 53% of executive and non-executive directors.

Like many corporate governance issues, investors and advisors may have to get comfortable with the notion that “best practices” don’t deliver the same results for every board. This particular survey seems to support the notion that the “future of board meetings” will include some lessons learned from pandemic times.

Liz Dunshee