Talent at Risk: 10 Questions Every Board Member Should Ask

If you’re a member on the Board of Directors or Advisory Board for a for-profit or non-profit enterprise, you’re likely well aware that finance, strategy, innovation, technology, and growth plans often drive the agenda for Board governance. Embedded within this work is the overarching issue of whether the organization has the talent and people practices it needs to deliver on its business goals.

Here are 10 essential questions every Board of Directors should ask of their executive team: What are the overall leadership strengths of this organization? What are the leadership development needs and how are we addressing them?

  1. Do we need to make any internal talent changes to support our strategic goals? What external talent might need to be hired to support our strategic goals? What is the timing of these changes?
  2. Who are the key experts in our organization with a distinguished and unique level of expertise that cannot be replaced? What are we doing to retain these key experts and to encourage them to teach and mentor others in the organization?
  3. To what extent are our leaders and key experts documenting their knowledge, approaches, and procedures for others to follow in the organization?
  4. Which members of our leadership team will be eligible to retire in the next three years? What is our strategy for ensuring strong business continuation as these leaders retire?
  5. Do we have a process in place for identifying those we think are high potential leaders who are currently operating at the top of their game and aspiration? What are we doing to retain and to develop these individuals?
  6. What percent of our people are new to the organization (less than one year)? How well defined is our new employee and new leadership onboarding and/or transition process?
  7. What feedback have our leaders received on their performance, how frequently is it given, and what have been the results?
  8. What is our organization’s annual employee turnover, and how does that compare to industry standards?
  9. What is our turnover in professional or leadership positions and how much is that costing us?
  10. What is our budget for employee development, for leadership development, for successor development, and what results have we seen from these development investments?

Some questions of this nature, of people and culture, should make it on the agenda of every Board meeting. As the guiding force for sustainability and long-term success, it’s important that Board members make themselves aware of the talent needs, risks, and plans described above, as these affect how well the organization carries out its work on a daily basis. If the people strategy and practices aren’t fully developed and acted on, this can have serious implications for the outcomes of all other initiatives that the Board may support.

At the same time, the Board needs to ensure that executive leaders have the authority, information, and resources (financial and otherwise) to develop the supports needed to align individuals and teams with the mission, vision and goals of the organization.

If your organization needs an indepth assessment of talent at risk issues, we can help. Contact us to start the conversation.