Creating a Board Self-Assessment Form

Nicholas J Price
The key to making sure that boards have the best directors with the right skill sets is doing effective board self-evaluations. This is the reason that board self-assessment forms are a necessary component of best practices for boards. Boards have the flexibility to design their self-evaluation processes according to the needs of the corporation. Because manual self-evaluations are time-consuming and cumbersome, it's high time for boards to evaluate the evaluation process. Digital board self-assessment options are a more effective and efficient method of turning information from board self-assessment forms into clear and meaningful data that serves board directors, stakeholders and shareholders.

Areas of Board Self-Assessment

The board self-assessment questions and process are most effective when they're customized to reflect the unique needs of the corporation. Among several other factors, the design of the self-assessment process must account for the company's goals, corporate culture and skills of the managerial team.

At a minimum, boards should divide their board self-assessment forms into the following eight categories:

  1. Structure and Processes for Committees and Boards
In evaluating the board's structures and processes, it's necessary to evaluate whether the company's corporate governance structures are effective and appropriate. This category should explore whether meetings are too frequent or infrequent, and whether the reporting lines are appropriate and effective.
  1. Composition of Boards and Committees
Volatility on Wall Street in recent years is placing a renewed focus on board composition. This is an area of board self-assessment forms to which boards should pay special attention. This section should explore whether the whole board has the necessary skills, experience and diversity to take the company through the board's strategic plans and key business objectives. For the sake of sustainability, board self-assessment forms should inquire about the robustness of the nominating process, succession plans and overall board refreshment.
  1. Legal entity and group structure
Board self-assessment forms for corporations that have several entities have many additional complexities. Boards with multiple entities should incorporate questions about the relationship of local entities to the parent corporation and to the whole group.
  1. Roles and Responsibilities
Board self-assessment forms should inquire about the effectiveness of the board and committee leaders. Oversight is a major responsibility for boards, so it's important to assess whether the current level of oversight needs improvement and how well board directors engage on company matters regarding oversight. Evaluation of oversight duties includes reviewing the strategy and business planning processes and remuneration structures. In healthy boards, non-executive directors challenge the rest of the board on important points. The board self-assessment forms should assess non-executive directors to absolve themselves from groupthink.
  1. Assessing Board Behavior, Dynamics and Culture
Boards act and make decisions as a unit, which is what makes board functions and team dynamics so important. The board self-assessment forms should probe for clarity about the board's behavior and dynamics, and whether they're setting the tone for the corporate culture.
  1. Director Training and Development
The section on director training and development should incorporation questions about board orientation, onboarding, director education development and technical training programs.
  1. Oversight of Internal Controls
Internal controls and auditing are also top governance concerns. Board self-assessment forms should include questions about risk, compliance, the internal audit, actuarial processes and how internal controls measure up against the three lines of defense model.
  1. Oversight of Reporting, Disclosure and Performance
Shareholders have taken a greater interest in board composition and transparency. Questions on board self-assessment forms should explore the flow of communication between the board, management and committees in both directions. In addition, boards should evaluate their progress on monitoring managers' performance and progress toward corporate goals. This section may include how well the board measures up with requirements and investor expectations for disclosure requirements.

Manual templates are helpful tools for coming up with a broad-based checklist of questions; however, off-the-shelf surveys are usually not customized or thorough enough to make the board self-evaluation process meaningful.

Streamlining and Strengthening Board Self-Assessments With Diligent's Board Self-Assessment Tool

The benefits of conducting board self-assessments online far outweigh the benefits of cumbersome, manual processes.

Diligent's Board Self-Assessment tool streamlines board evaluations, creating efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Board evaluation administrators can use the tool to monitor the submission and completion of each director's evaluation. Directors will appreciate the convenience of being able to complete their evaluations any time of day or night using whichever electronic device they have handy. Directors can submit their evaluations anonymously, which promotes honesty and integrity.

Diligent incorporated the experience and feedback from multiple industries, including corporate, nonprofit, healthcare, and financial and banking institutions. The features, along with the ability to customize questions, make Diligent's board assessment tool a value-driven solution. The board evaluation administrator can personalize assessments by using a variety of multiple user-tested questions. They can also incorporate glossaries and supplemental reference information using links. Directors can finalize their evaluations with a secure e-signature.

Using just a few clicks, administrators can view past questions and results. The program gives immediate results. There's no need to manipulate or calculate results manually. The platform also averages data automatically and creates helpful graphs, charts and reports. Administrators can easily export the results using the export wizards in just a couple of clicks.

The platform paves the way for clear results of the board's strengths, weaknesses and skill sets, enabling boards to implement immediate positive change. The visuals make it simple to present and share specifics about board performance with external auditors and others. Highly professional presentations to shareholders assure them that the board is committed to good governance practices.

Diligent's Board Self-Assessment tool also eliminates the need for utilizing third-party independent experts that are expensive and difficult to schedule. Overall, the efficiency and cost-effectiveness drive more value for board processes, which benefits corporations in major ways.

In many realms, paper forms and paper processes are becoming outdated and replaced by more efficient electronic processes.

Diligent Board Self-Evaluations is just one of several software solutions that comprises Governance Cloud, a total enterprise governance management solution, and the No. 1 software product for boards.
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Nicholas J. Price
Nicholas J. Price is a former Manager at Diligent. He has worked extensively in the governance space, particularly on the key governance technologies that can support leadership with the visibility, data and operating capabilities for more effective decision-making.