No succession plan? No business future

“A board with no succession plan is not future-proofing its business nor planning for the board diversity which is essential for an effective, high-performing board,” was the stark warning from Maura Quinn, CEO of the Institute of Directors in Ireland.

The governance organisation published its latest quarterly Director Sentiment Monitor for Q3 2021, which reveals that one third (34pc) of business leaders say their primary board does not have a succession plan in place to replace board members.

“Many of the barriers to positive change on board composition in Ireland can be explained by a sizeable number of boards not having a succession plan in place”

Furthermore, 45pc of board members admit they were recruited as a result of a ‘direct approach from a member of the board/the board’ even though a clear majority (96pc) of the respondents believes that diversity is important when recruiting new board members.

Good governance

“Board succession planning is an important tenet of good corporate governance,” Quinn said.

“The finding that one third of respondents to our survey say that their primary board doesn’t have a succession plan in place raises many flags, not least in terms of planning board diversity.

“A board with no succession plan is not future-proofing the business nor planning for the diversity which is essential for an effective, high-performing board. Many of the barriers to positive change on board composition in Ireland can be explained by a sizeable number of boards not having a succession plan in place.

“So, while a clear majority of business leaders in our survey acknowledge the importance of diversity in terms of board recruitment and board performance and effectiveness, the finding that close to half of them say they were recruited as a result of a ‘direct approach from a member of the board/the board’ mitigates against recruiting disparate board members.

“Some boards are still relying on their own networks, which is neither an open, transparent, nor independent process.

“Boards which are personally and professionally diverse are more likely to create a listening, collaborative environment, one which is constructively challenging and accepts and incorporates disparate perspectives to deliver enhanced board effectiveness and, ultimately, company performance.”

Irish director sentiment

The key findings of the IoD’s Director Sentiment Monitor for Q3 2021 include:

Succession plans: When asked, ‘Does the board of your primary organisation have a succession plan in place with regard to the composition of its board?’ the business leaders responded as follows:

  • Yes: 58pc
  • No: 34pc
  • Not sure: 5pc
  • Other: 3pc

Board recruitment: When asked, ‘How were you recruited to join the primary board on which you currently serve?’ the business leaders responded as follows:

  • Recruitment agency: 10pc
  • Public Appointments process (for a State board position): 7pc
  • The IoD’s Boardroom Centre: 1pc
  • Legal/Accountancy firm recommendation: 3pc
  • Direct approach from a member of the board/the board: 45pc
  • Colleague/peer: 13pc
  • Other (please specify): 21pc

Prior contact: When asked, ‘What approximate percentage of members of your primary board did you know personally/professionally before you joined?’ the business leaders responded as follows:

  • 10pc or less: 41pc
  • 11-20pc: 6pc
  • 21-30pc: 5pc
  • 31-40pc: 7pc
  • 41-50pc: 5pc
  • 51-60pc: 6pc
  • 61-70pc: 5pc
  • 71-80pc: 5pc
  • 81-90pc: 0pc
  • 91-100pc: 20pc
John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.