The Corporate Secretary's Role in Onboarding New Board Members

Inside Europes Boardrooms
Onboarding new directors-particularly younger, first-time directors-has become a challenge for many public companies. Today's newest board members vary widely in background, experience, and age, which requires a more tailored approach to the onboarding process. However, many boards/companies have failed to answer an important question: Who owns the onboarding process-and what are their responsibilities?

In this episode, host TK Kerstetter and Paul Washington, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel & Corporate Secretary of the Warner Media Group, break down the onboarding responsibilities of the company, the board members, and the new directors themselves.

''The company's [onboarding] responsibility is to make sure that the director becomes a fully-effective contributing member of the board over time, because it does take a while,'' said Washington. ''I think it's a team make sure that the director not only feels welcome and informed, but is also given the opportunities to contribute."

The corporate secretary, explains Washington, has a truly unique vantage point between the board and the management team--and the potential to be a powerful asset during the onboarding process.

[blockquote source="Paul Washington, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel & Corporate Secretary of the Warner Media Group"]I think the corporate secretary is in a terrific position to give the new director a sense of what it's like to be on the board. The new director should have gathered some of that [information] through meeting with the other board members. But [the corporate secretary] can probably be a little more candid about how the meetings actually unfold. If you become someone that the new director turns to for advice, you can help guide them, because they will wonder: Did I overstep? Did I talk too much?[/blockquote]

Kerstetter and Washington also discuss the importance of mentorship, something new directors consistently rank as the most valuable aspect of their onboarding. Washington also shares a critical piece of advice to new board members seeking to make their onboarding as smooth as possible.