March 3, 2022

The Future of Board Meetings

What does the post-pandemic boardroom look like?

The way people work has changed dramatically over the past two years, as the world navigates the COVID-19 pandemic. Boards of directors and the board governance process have not been immune to changes.virtual-meetings

According to a recent survey by McKinsey Global Surveys, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to stronger and more productive boards of directors.

The study shows that while many people and corporations struggled (and continue to struggle) over the course of the pandemic, boards were among the first to figure out how to navigate both sides of the crisis: the public health side and the economic side.

In fact, the study’s results show that the pandemic has accelerated changes to the way boards work—from strategy and operational changes to changes in the way board members communicate—increasing their overall effectiveness and productivity.

The Future of Board Meetings is Digital

The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that has changed the way businesses and economies work. It’s forced companies to restructure their processes in terms of more long-term solutions as they try to manage the ever-changing challenges of the pandemic. Here are just come of the ways that board meetings and board management have changed:

virtual-board-membersThe Adaptation of Virtual Board Meetings

As virtually all board members  begin to resume face-to-face meetings, it’s becoming clear that the process is not the same as it was pre-pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the idea of 100% in-person board meetings was something that boards needed to move beyond.

With virtual meeting software (Zoom, MS Teams, WebEx), board members only need to commit a few hours to the actual meeting time. They don’t have to clear a whole day (or more) to travel to an in-person meeting. In many ways, including reduced travel expenses and increased attendance, virtual meetings are more efficient and cost effective than in-person meetings. Less travel also decreases a company’s carbon footprint. That’s why most companies have adopted a hybrid meeting process: some meetings will be in person, and some will be virtual.

Surprisingly, board members are finding that traditional meetings—where everyone sits around a giant conference-room table—can be less personal than virtual meetings. When you’re in a virtual meeting, everyone can easily see each other’s faces. They’re not squinting at people across the room, which has the effect of increasing people’s focus as well as their communication.

Digitization of Board Management

The adoption of virtual board meetings necessitates digitization of the board meeting management process. Luckily, it’s been clear for many years that a cloud-based board management system is more secure and easy to use than manual processes, and many boards have been moving in that direction anyway. Board management software makes it easier for administrators to plan meetings and it makes it easier for  board members to be more engaged and productive.

Using board management software means that board members have instant access to all the relevant, up-to-date information and data they need to be effective during the meeting. They can annotate documents and collaborate between meetings, making the meeting themselves more productive and leading to better-informed decisions.board-satisfaction

Operational Changes

Boards have had to make some organizational and structural changes to remain proactive during the pandemic and to future-proof their boards in response to changes that the pandemic precipitated.

The most common tools involve supporting hybrid meetings: investing in technology to make virtual meetings easier. That includes hardware and software to make video conferencing easier and more effective, and also board management software to help collaboration and communication before, during, and after meetings.

Still smarting from the effects of the pandemic, many boards have created  crisis-management processes and committees, to try to predict and mitigate any future crises that may arise

Increased Collaboration

The need to respond to new challenges quickly has inevitably made boards more nimble. It’s taught board members to communicate efficiently and effectively, accelerating the board’s decision-making processes and productivity.

The pandemic has led to more effective communication and collaboration between the board and the executive team. Better communication translates to more productive boards.

Legal Considerations

The legality of virtual board meetings varies between countries. You may need to make changes to your company’s Articles of Association to allow virtual board meetings, and you will also need the approval of your shareholders.

Post-pandemic, it seems very unlikely that boards of directors will return to 100% in-person meetings. Virtual board meetings are now standard, and as younger digital natives begin to take their seats around the boardroom table, they’ll insist on the flexibility of virtual meetings.

The proven benefits of virtual board meetings will make it hard to forward-looking companies to resist using them.

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