Tips for developing director level training programmes

John
Weston, director for training and development at the IoD, gives us some
guidelines on how to make your director level training programmes a success.

Being
a company board director is a fundamentally a different proposition to being a
manager. Responsibility for a company’s corporate governance may be among the
most important differences, but it is not the only one.

While
many organisations have strong management programmes and invest heavily in
developing the leaders of tomorrow, many fail to invest sufficient time and
effort in developing those who have responsibility for growing the company
now.  Although not so prevalent today,
there is still the opinion that directors do not need specific training for
their roles when reaching board level. Wealth of experience in running a
company is seen as qualification enough.

However,
the past few years have seen a major change in attitude. Directors must now
understand a broader range of issues than ever before.  In addition, the Government, the media and
stakeholders are focusing on the professionalism of directors, both
individually and collectively as a board. So when developing director training
for your organisation, here are some questions that should be considered.

Who
drives board level development within your organisation?

A)
Is development set by the HR function, the chief executive or the chairman?

B)
If the latter, how can HR have any influence and ensure that directors receive
the correct development?

It
is important to understand the drivers for development, as these can determine
the type of programme or course requested, the ‘buy-in’ at board level and the
ultimate success of the programme.

How
do directors learn?

Time
restraints?

A)
The Institute of Directors Sign of the Times Survey (1998) highlighted that 58
per cent of directors prefer short/open courses rather than spending too much
time away from the office. Day courses or courses that can be spread over a
number of dates may prove most suitable.

B)
Is the training needed for a particular phase in the business or is it for
long-term development? If training needs to be completed within a specific time
period, for instance, for an initial public offering, then you will need to
work within very specific time scales.

What
do directors need to learn?

As
it has evolved, the Combined Code has focused directors’ minds on the need to
stay up-to-date with legal requirements, best practice in corporate governance
and current business thinking. Those arranging director and board level
development need to be aware not just of directors’ duties, responsibilities
and liabilities, but also how directors need to think and act as a member of
the board.

Type
of learning?

Professional
development interventions for directors can be explored through a number of
initiatives. Courses, workshops, coaching and mentoring are just a few of the
choices that provide very different results. Longer-term programmes – including
formal qualifications through accredited programmes – provide the in-depth
knowledge and understanding that directors need, whereas short courses may be
more functional, teaching practical techniques.

Is
it for an individual director, a few directors or the board collectively?

Having
identified the need for some type of training, it is good to assess whether
other directors could undertake the same training. If the issue is an
individual one, such as time management skills or strategic direction for
instance, then individual coaching or mentoring may be more suitable.

What
is the business case for development?

Does
the proposed development activity fit in with the business strategy? This is
one of the most important questions and is required to measure and assess the
outcome of any programmes. Development may be undertaken to fulfil the needs of
the organisation at a strategic level, or to fulfil the needs of an individual.

Some
of the questions that might be asked include:

Is
it to address an immediate need, such as training for an MBO or a merger?

Is
it to update directors about new legislation or best practice?

Is
it to improve the board as a collective working team?

Is
it to train one director up to the standards required?  

Is
it to personally develop one or more directors?

How
will you know if it has been successful?

How
will you measure the return on investment?

How
will you know if it’s successful?

Every
business should put procedures in place to monitor any skills gap within the
board, which might affect short or long-term performance. Assessing the
personal development gains of the individual along with the impact on the
business is crucial. What are the views of those who did the training? Have
other directors/managers seen any impact? Who else do they think would benefit?
Did it lead to any other identifiable problems?  This will help ensure that the organisation enjoys continued
survival and growth.

The
effects of training can not only improve the skill of the director and the
bottom line of a business, but can cascade down through the entire
organisation, so that others can then respond and learn the new methods and
techniques.

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