Need to know: members of the board

Name the members of the board and the management committee. Give a brief career history of two of the people.

Why you need to know

It would be crazy, difficult or impossible to try to work strategically with your clients if you don’t know who runs the company and what they are interested in.

Many HR people know who runs their own part of the business but not who runs the wider group. But simply being able to name them is not enough, you should find out about their backgrounds and if they have any particular interests as this will help you be strategic in making a case for your own ideas.

You will almost inevitably be competing with other parts of the business or group for resources and management attention. So understanding the board members and their drivers will be a source of help in terms of developing and driving your strategy, as you will be able to look for synergies between them.

The names and background information about members of the board is usually pretty accessible. There are likely to be biographies of them on your own company website, which you should read and familiarise yourself with. You can also ‘Google’ them, or you could ask your PR department for information, as they will have details that they give to the press.

As well as being able to understand the agendas, areas of specialism and backgrounds of the board members, you should also research other information about them. Do they, for example, sit on any other boards? It would not be unusual for board members to see positive HR interventions in other companies they sit on the board of and suggest it for your company.

Do a bit more digging about the other companies they are involved in. What are those companies’ strategies and drivers? Look at the company websites do they have any case studies that might be useful or applicable to your business? Add those companies to your press clippings list so you can keep up to date with their activities. Is there anyone in your network who works for them that you can speak to in order to find a bit more information about the company?

If you can understand a bit more about the other companies that board members interact with then it will give you insight into the things that are likely to be suggested or applied to your business. You can give some strategic thought to what the board members might be learning and therefore what they might suggest for your company or area – how would those types of initiative fit in your area, and therefore how you would respond to such a suggestion.

Jan Hills, director, HR with Guts

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