Trends in Healthcare & Governance

HTNYS’ monthly Trends updates provide trustees with information about emerging developments in governance and healthcare. Published by HTNYS on the second Wednesday of each month, Trends’ timely statistics and insights help trustees fulfill their roles and responsibilities while adapting to the changing environment.

Trend: Ways to support board engagement
January 2023

For a board to be effective, it must first be engaged. Today’s complex and volatile healthcare environment requires that boards be highly engaged in the mission and business of your hospital or health system.

While not all-inclusive, here are seven activities that can support board member engagement:

  1. Provide board members with clear job descriptions and share your vision of what board engagement looks like.
  2. Have a thorough on-boarding and orientation process for new members, and assign a mentor.
  3. Involve board members in activities beyond the board room, such as programs, events, meetings and other opportunities to interact with stakeholders — leading them to fresh insight into your organization’s mission and business.
  4. Make sure your board meetings have plenty of opportunities for meaningful discussion.
  5. Make it clear board members should question assumptions; probing questions are welcome at meetings.
  6. Make sure board members receive materials with ample time to review before board meetings.
  7. Make information easy to find for board members — allow them to satisfy their own curiosity.

People join boards because they want to contribute — and the way their time is spent at board and committee meetings can make a big difference. In his article, The right stuff, the right way. Barry Bader identifies 10 steps for optimizing the way a board uses its meeting time and 10 ideas for creating more engaging board meetings.

How do you know if your board is engaged? Board member engagement can be measured by tracking attendance, evaluating preparation for meetings, having candid board discussions and assessing whether there’s a positive, constructive relationship with the CEO and mutual trust and respect among board members. But this only provides a partial view. Ultimately, trustees need to provide direct input through a board assessment. Results of the assessment should be used to make improvements and work to achieve the level of governing excellence required for success in today’s challenging healthcare environment.

Information for this article was obtained from “7 Ways to Destroy Board Engagement,” Board Effect; “The right stuff, the right way: 10 ways to improve board meetings”, AHA Trustee Services; and “Assessing the Engagement and Effectiveness of Boards”, AHA Trustee Services.

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