Early in the pandemic, Debra Everitt McCormack received calls from board members frantically about how to join their conference calls via video.
“I had one of them text me right away and say, ‘Debbie, I need your help with this. Launch “because they’ve never used it before,” said Everitt McCormack, the global board’s sustainability and efficiency lead. Voice mark. “Traditionally, they use the phone so when they have a meeting without face-to-face it means that the meeting is done via conference call, not video call. And so the transition to video calls was not easy. “
Two years later, we still forget to mute ourselves. But the board members have at least moved largely from the reverse footage on their cameras to the stage of creating perfectly staged video backdrops without the risk of a stuck cat face filter. .
In many ways, the pandemic has spurred the adoption of the technology to many modern boards, but that was a problem long before “COVID” was used in the vernacular, and that was the gap. which many boards are still dealing with.
Everitt McCormack in 2019 wrote an article Consider how the tables are needed to implement the technology. Today, she says, there are three things a board needs to consider: whether board members have the skills needed to use that technology, how they deal with risks like cyber risks with that technology and how board members are trained in the new technology.
“It is imperative that organizations … shed light on the technology being used and the associated challenges around that,” she said.
Run better meetings
Before Zoom there were software companies like OnBoard. Launched in 2003, the platform aims to help councils run meetings more efficiently. Since the pandemic began, business has boomed.
OnBoard CEO Paroon Chadha said: “While the world turned upside down in 2020, we saw the exact opposite. “While it was difficult to hire the right people and scale quickly, we have nearly tripled the size of the company in the last two and a half years.”
Chadha explains that the software helps board members coordinate outside of meetings for a more productive meeting when the time comes.
“There is a board meeting that I usually think of before the meeting, there is a board meeting that I end up with, and then a week later I realize there is a meeting that I should have,” I said. “Our goal is to help committees have the meetings they should have had the first time.”
The platform allows users to share meeting agendas and minutes, and there are even ways to track time spent on each item to prevent meetings from running through. The technology is relatively easy to use, Chadha asserts, and most companies have internal systems in place to train their board members on it. Software users report getting their agenda three days earlier than before, on average.
“Because of COVID, people are more comfortable sharing digital information, and because information is easier to share, the book size has increased,” he said. Chadha believes the pandemic has spurred adoption of the technology.
“That will be the lasting legacy of COVID,” he said. “And because we are digital, this will — in a very meaningful way — give us the opportunity to be more diverse and more inclusive.”
A level playing field
Everitt McCormack points to two statistics by Spencer Stuart in a board governance trends report, showing how board members are using technology today. The first shows that in 2021, the average age of an independent director is 63.
“Individuals of that age don’t start their careers using a lot of technology,” says Everitt McCormack. The same report found that only 15% of independent directors are tech-savvy. “If the remaining 85% didn’t go on video conference calls before and now have to, it’s like those board members calling and saying I need help with this.”
As more boards embrace technology, there may be opportunities for others with inherent tech skills, perhaps younger employees in general, to step up and fill the void.
But as both Everitt McCormack and Chadha point out, board turnover is low and slow. In a way, perhaps indirectly, software like OnBoard can level the playing field for upcoming board leaders to enter the ring. According to Spencer Stuart, board revenue will be at just 8% a year in 2021.
Chadha points out that platforms like his remove some of the barriers for board members who can easily be bypassed and disrupted. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting at the head of the table or in a corner with only standing room.
“That’s no longer a problem because on Zoom, three people can’t talk because then no one can listen,” he noted. “No matter where you are sitting, now we are all in the same virtual, digital room.”
Chadha says this aspect of his background can help when boards looking to increase diversity consider applicants’ skills more than their C-level experience.
“First of all, you’re mining a very undiverse pool, when you’re really bringing people up from the C-level,” he said. “You’re going to have to step outside or you’re going to have to play up some of these talents.”
Technology has helped similar boards map out their goals in more meaningful ways, which is especially helpful when Fortune 500 companies don’t appreciate environmental milestones, their society and governance (ESG).
When the leaders at American Electricity (AEP) learned about a piece of software called Datamaran, which they see as a way to gain a broader view of the ESG landscape as they make more informed decisions about their own goals.
“Datamaran gave us the worldview we needed to understand emerging issues and trends, including new regulations in the pipeline that could directly or indirectly affect the AEP,” said Sandy. Naken, vice president and director of sustainability at AEP.
Naken says the platform helps AEPs track their ESG goals in real time and helps predict how national politics, consumer habits, natural disasters and the like will play a role in the economy. their results. Since starting to use the platform, AEP has developed a human rights policy.
“Human rights were once seen as a problem that only occurred in far, far less developed countries. So why does it emerge as an emerging problem for AEPs? “AEP’s addition of ESG social scores and risk ratings improved post-implementation,” Naken said. our own book — showed us why it is important to address human rights directly.In the end, we developed a human rights policy based on legal practices, policies and obligations. that we had.”
Marjella Lecourt-Alma, CEO and co-founder of Datamaran, says the platform helps companies predict how global developments will affect them.
“Software doesn’t replace the act of making a decision, but it gives them the information they need to move confidently in a certain direction,” she said. “And that’s what our customers like: that they have the foresight and predictability of what is becoming more and more relevant, that they can check where their competitors are. where.”
Datamaran also incorporates publicly available sources to give customers a look at competitors and how they are tracking and meeting ESG goals. While many companies rush to establish ESG targets and metrics, it doesn’t take them long to track and monitor data comprehensively. That’s where Datmaran can help by eliminating the need for each customer to be a data scientist, Lecourt-Alma said.
“They were pressing the gas while braking hard,” she said. “They know they need to do something, but they need to understand it better.”
In a nutshell, Everitt McCormack says that the most successful assemblies will be able to leverage technology to attack.
“When technology-driven disruptions happen, like a pandemic, companies need board members who understand the challenge and can see around them so they don’t react but take the initiative,” she said. . “That is what will help technology and network related companies and their sustainability and ESG going forward.”