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This study uses survey data to extend multiple case studies that explored innovative and promising practices in the recruitment and selection of association board members. The survey looks at the prevalence of recruitment practices and priorities enacted by associations. This study identifies features and practices that support effective recruitment. This includes the use of board member competencies; the structure, role and function of the nomination committee; the role of the CEO, the selection of board officers; and the assessment and selection of candidates. The survey tests the premise that utilization of standardized recruitment practices are linked to improved board composition, dynamics and performance.
“Most successful boards have a strategic focus; they have a culture of learning, self-assessment and accountability; and they have developed effective recruitment and development practices” (Gazley & Bowers, 2013). Unfortunately far too many boards are not as functional as necessary (BoardSource, 2015) and when considering composition and diversity most boards are below par. Figuring-out how to transition a board from dysfunctional to functional is difficult (Sonnenfeld, 2002). Thoughtful strategies that attend to board composition will make a difference (Van Puyvelde, Brown, Tenuta, & Walker, 2014). There is a fundamental interplay between board composition and board action (Adams, Hermalin, & Weisbach, 2008). Such that attending to composition is a critical step in building a highly capable board. The “…volunteer leaders have important influence on the effort put into diversity and inclusion at board, membership, and staff levels” (Leiter, Solebello, & Tschirhart, 2011) and that is the paradox. The current board may not be in the best position to develop and create the board of the future (Solebello, Tschirhart, & Leiter, 2016). As stated by a CEO, “several prominent board members continue to hold onto long-held beliefs and expectations that are no longer relevant in today’s society” (BoardSource, 2015). For boards to create “smart, resilient, flexible, strategic, and entrepreneurial boards” (Gazley & Kissman, 2015, p. 214) they need to implement skills-based recruitment, improve cultivation and carefully manage selection of prospective board members (Brown, 2007).
A conceptual model identifies three steps in the recruitment and selection process: the specification of board member competencies, the cultivation and recruitment of prospective candidates, and the selection of candidates. This study summarizes and synthesizes how these processes are utilized in a sample of trade and professional associations. The survey data report on recruitment and selection practices that support optimal board performance. While the literature provides a basic summary of the process of board recruitment and selection there is limited exploration of how broadly these practices are implemented and the implications for board and organizational performance.