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How We Recruited New Board Members and the Things We Learned Along the Way

Posted in: Blog.

seven people in a line smiling at the camera

It’s Trustees week and like so many of us in the sector, we are extremely grateful to those who volunteer their time to support and guide our organisation. There are lots of activities and events taking place this week to celebrate and inform the crucial role Trustees play. Indeed, our very own Nina Graham is participating in ‘Getting on Board’ Trustee Volunteering event in partnership with Volunteer Glasgow, GSEN and GCVS on 10th November. We thought we’d also take the time to share our campaign to recruit new trustees onto our Board, which some might find useful.

This year’s Trustees’ Week is about “making a difference in changing times”. Volunteers including trustees make a huge impact on the way companies are run. With over 1 million trustees in the UK, it’s safe to say that the expertise and decisions that trustees make have a sizeable impact not just on the businesses that they sit on the Board for, but on society as a whole.

When we ran our recent recruitment campaign for new Board members, it was important that we advertised to the right people so we could create a Board that is representative of the society we envisage and who have the skills and experience to help us get there. Here’s how we did it.

Why the time was right for recruiting new Board members

There is always a need to recruit new Board members. Companies evolve, need fresh insight, skills, and networks. We were really lucky to have long-standing Board members who although due to step down, remained on the Board bringing stability through Covid and a changeover of CEO.  With the dust settled, we felt the time was now right to refresh our board and bring in new Directors. CEIS is eternally appreciative of these members who remained with us through challenging times and to input to our recruitment campaign and to onboard our new members.

Steps towards creating a more accessible organisation

Before we dive into the campaign itself, it’s definitely worth mentioning that an important first step for us as an organisation and an employer was to look at how we can be more inclusive.

This started with ‘Employerability’ training delivered by Inclusion Scotland in 2021. This helped us understand how we as employers could make our organisation more accessible, primarily for disabled people but more broadly under-represented groups we want to attract to our organisation. Crucially, the training also took away the fear of getting it wrong and created a safe space to ask questions.

From there, we began our journey to becoming a more accessible and inclusive organisation, which started with our recruitment process. 5 small changes we made and would highly recommend are:

  1. Ensure recruitment documents are accessible: use a sans serif font, font size 14 and make sure these are available in .pdf and .doc.
  2. Ensure you add ‘Alt text’ to all images and include this when using social media schedulers, in comms packs etc, so those with visual impairments and using screen readers know what’s in the picture. You can also use this in the body of longer form content on Facebook and LinkedIn posts.
  3. Use diverse imagery that is reflective of the community and clients you serve and who should be represented on your Board. While we’d recommend paying for a shoot where possible to build a small bank of photos it can be expensive to hire photographers all the time. The good news is there are other complementary options. The quality of photos on mobile cameras nowadays is amazing, so ask staff to take photos when they’re out and about. Remember to seek permission when doing this. There are also free and relatively cost-effective tools and sources out there such as Canva, which is an easy and intuitive tool to use. Using image banks is not always ideal as photos can look staged but they do have a wide range to choose from and can add to your own database.
  4. Ensure you add subtitles to all videos. Again, there are some free or cost-effective tools out there such as Veed.io, which is also easy and intuitive to use.
  5. Engage with and promote your jobs or volunteer positions through lived experience organisations such as Inclusion Scotland, SUSE, CEMVO, Black Professionals Scotland to name but a few.

If you’d like to have a chat about your recruitment process feel free to contact marketing@ceis.org.uk

Ok, back to our campaign!!

Who we looked for

We started with a needs analysis to map the skills, experience, professional background, networks and values that we felt were going to be the right fit for our organisation in relation to what we want to achieve going forward. It was important for us to involve both our senior management team (SMT) and existing board members in the recruitment campaign to ensure we identified the right values, characteristics and attributes for helping us achieve our vision.

Through this process we identified some key areas we wanted to strengthen such as entrepreneurship, knowledge of community wealth building (CWB), digital skills, net zero and other areas. As well as some fundamental areas for any business i.e. operational skills in finance, marketing and governance. We also identified we needed to change the composition of our Board as we were under-represented by gender with few men on our Board, the age profile of our Board, as well as ethnic diversity and experience of disability.  However, each organisation needs to consider what they need.

How we advertised it

We created a Board recruitment hub on our website, which you can see here. It became the foundation for our entire recruitment campaign, with all marketing efforts leading back to this site.

We advertised heavily on LinkedIn, using promoted posts targeted at people who had specific sector and skills and also directly reached out to people on LinkedIn. This required a LinkedIn professional subscription for the month that only cost £30 and we found to be very valuable. We also reached out directly to our partners to help promote the campaign using a campaign pack. We’re fortunate to have an experienced in-house communications team that created our hub alongside videos, website copy, ad copy, visual assets, LinkedIn advertising and more. We are also lucky to have a great Board who were happy to lend their time to participate in our communications efforts including providing written and video testimonials.

For us it was really important to promote our Board opportunities to under-represented groups within CEIS. So, we engaged with organisations such as Inclusion Scotland and CEMVO running recruitment campaigns and participating in webinars. We also made a commitment to interview everyone with protected characteristics who met the minimum criteria. Our CEO Martin Avila also offered time to chat to people about the role prior to submitting a formal application.

Each organisation should play to its strengths. The more work you do, the better chance you’ll have of attracting the right people with the right skills and values.

How we selected candidates for interview

For every person that applied we scored against desirable and essential criteria. The Board created a subgroup with Board members and the CEO. They offered everybody interested in learning more about a Board position the chance to have a conversation with the CEO prior to submitting a formal application, which helped people understand if they were a good fit, had the right skills, could commit appropriate time etc.

This resulted in us receiving a lot of very high-level applications with desired skills and diverse representation. In the end, we invited 8 applicants who we think would be a good fit with our Board to join a ‘Getting to Know You’ session with our CEO and current members which took place on 4th November.

Appointing the Board members

Following this session, we’ll invite those still interested and who jointly agree are a good fit to join the Board, sub-committees or other roles.  All new recruits will receive an induction pack with information on our Group, services, history, financial performance, as well as staffing info. Our new office holders will also spend time shadowing existing office holders and all will be offered the opportunity to join Board training.

Did we get it right?

We’re very pleased at how our campaign turned out, and we’ve learned a lot from the campaign that we will take forward into similar campaigns in the future.

Our Board recruitment campaign was very much a team effort. Board and senior management helped to outline aims and objectives, marketing pulled together website, information packs, targeted ads. We felt that a key driver in our success was having existing Board members involved in the process, so that they were comfortable about who’s coming on, explaining what’s involved, and were able to give input to the marketing campaign.

The whole process from Board and SMT conducting needs analysis to recruiting new member has taken circa eight months.

The process of hiring new Board members will inevitably be different for every organisation, however we hope that anyone that is looking to bring new trustees onto their Board can learn from this blog. If you would like to learn more about our Board recruitment process, please get in touch.

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