Boards of directors are charged with ultimate oversight and welfare of an organization. It is the expectation that all directors are engaged and present to make the decisions necessary for the growth and prosperity of an organization. That’s why tracking board of directors meeting attendance is an important practice for board administrators but sometimes overlooked as a key data point when measuring success.
“Regular meeting attendance is considered a hallmark of the conscientious director,” says Harvard Business Review. Whether members attend meetings in person, remotely, or via proxy, tracking board of directors meeting attendance is critical for reporting on engagement and the effectiveness of a board.
Board of directors meeting attendance is simply essential for reaching a quorum. According to Board Source, a quorum is the minimum number of board members entitled to vote who must be present at a meeting before any business can be transacted legally. If an organization does not have a clear board of directors meeting attendance policy or repercussions in the bylaws for missing meetings, business could potentially come to a halt. “If a quorum cannot be reached, any transaction of business is void and the meeting needs to be adjourned immediately,” Board Source explains. The first approach a board can take to ensure this does not occur is incorporating strict bylaws that outline quorum policies. However, the impacts of not reaching a quorum due to board of directors meeting attendance are only the tip of this proverbial iceberg.
Why Board of Directors Meeting Attendance Matters
When boards have one or a few directors who fail to attend meetings on a regular basis, business and other highly engaged directors are affected. “If the board reviews prior discussions and decisions so the occasional board attendee can knowledgeably vote on issues, other board members are penalized by having to sit through a summary of the last few months deliberation,” says Dolph Goldenburg, Managing Director of The Goldenburg Group. “If the board doesn’t take the time to bring the rarely seen board member up to speed, the board is harmed by a member who votes without understanding the issues.” Unfortunately, it is almost an impossibility to conduct proper business without proper board of directors meeting attendance. The time spent revisiting past issues is not in the best interest of other board members or the company’s precious time to act on decisions and strategically plan for the future.
These time constraints caused by poor board of directors meeting attendance also strain working relationships between board members. A board functions much like a team and if every member is not engaged or present for meetings the leadership will suffer. Oftentimes poor board of directors meeting attendance impacts “working relationships among directors, as absences create the perception of an unequal level of commitment and burden responsibility,” reports Professional Growth Systems. Directors are not only tasked with guiding organizations but relinquish work days, leave their families, and travel to attend meetings. This breeds a sense of discord amongst members who do not make board of directors meeting attendance a priority. Ultimately, poor board of directors meeting attendance causes a loss of engagement and the deterioration of effective leadership.
Take Action to Boost Board of Directors Meeting Attendance
Fortunately, there are measures that organizations can implement to boost and maintain board of directors meeting attendance
Attendance Policy: At every level, organizations should have a strict board of directors meeting attendance policy as part of their bylaws. The board of directors meeting attendance policy should also outline repercussions if the policy is overlooked by a member. For example, if a board member misses more than 25% of board or committee meetings including training per year, the member could be subject to removal. Organizations are responsible for creating versions of their own bylaws and attendance policies. Some organizations require mandatory board of directors meeting attendance unless a member has a personal emergency. Other board of directors meeting attendance policies make accommodations for members to attend meetings electronically or via proxy. It’s also helpful to outline the attendance policy during the interview process to ensure that new board members can attend all meetings.
- Focus On Organization: Leadership starts at the top and the Chair of the board should also shoulder the responsibility of fostering board engagement and board of directors meeting attendance. Board agendas and supporting documentation including board books should be distributed before meetings take place. Predetermine goals for each meeting and make them known to members in advance, so board members are prepared for working sessions and properly informed to make decisions and plan at the start of all meetings.
- Time Management: Board engagement begins when members know that their Chair and organization respect their time. The Chair should expect all members to arrive at meetings fully prepared and informed with specific goals in place. When members’ time is managed appropriately and effectively, board of directors meeting attendance improves drastically because they are more willing to attend and participate in meetings.
Evaluation: Board members should also be given the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of meetings. This can be conducted anonymously at the end of meetings or after meetings with electronic surveys and polls. Allowing board members evaluate their time, enables board Chairs and administrators to better engage their board members. Conversely, board administrators should also evaluate board attendance.
Boost Attendance & Engagement with Board Governance Software
Enlisting the help of a board management software like Govenda has many advantages other than securing sensitive documents. Govenda has the ability to help administrators, corporate secretaries, and other governance professionals manage both formal and informal board of directors meeting attendance policies including remote attendance, quorums, and engagement with ease. Board administrators can take board of directors meeting attendance directly in the Govenda platform from any device. They also have the option to export board of directors meeting attendance into spreadsheets that show attendance by an individual board member, group or committee, meeting, or all board members. The data that administrators can gather is an invaluable tool for evaluating board attendance.
Govenda also fosters exemplary board engagement. Board members are able to evaluate their own board of directors meeting attendance and the effectiveness of meetings with surveys and polls. This furthers the insight for board administrators and directly contributes to useful data for the organization. Govenda is also useful for seamless organization and time management. With all board documents, agendas, and board books on easy to use applications, members are never unprepared for meetings.
Board members can also collaborate in between meetings with useful tools such as discussions, which allow board members to comment on and discuss certain agenda items and documents. Govenda Voting and eSign also allow for effective decision making in the boardroom and beyond. The ability to collaborate and facilitate discussions outside of regular board meetings is the key for ideal board of directors meeting attendance and engagement. “They seem to get into a virtuous cycle in which one good quality builds on the other,” continues Harvard Business. “Team members develop mutual respect; because they respect one another, they develop trust; because they trust one another, they share difficult information; because they all have the same reasonably complete information, they can challenge one another’s conclusions coherently…” This sense of team and responsibility amongst boards, with the respect of board of directors meeting attendance, becomes the norm. When organizations utilize a board portal to place governance in the hands of their members, board engagement becomes effortless and proper board of directors meeting attendance is no longer an issue.
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