While coronavirus lockdowns and restrictions disrupted business, they also hastened the shift to digital services and provided an opportunity for board members to learn.
“The pandemic accelerated many of our digital service enhancement projects so we could more effectively serve our members remotely,” Chizmadia says. “The investments in time and resources to make this successful will factor into how we incorporate the changes going forward.”
The shift to virtual meetings allowed Credit Union of New Jersey to experience the benefits of video conferencing and how it was an improvement over using telephone conference calls.
The virtual environment also improved the meeting evaluation process, Chizmadia says. Board members provided more thoughtful answers and suggestions on meeting evaluations because they didn’t have to rush to complete these before leaving the board meeting.
Another benefit: With meetings taking place virtually, board members didn’t have to factor in travel time. Meetings also were run more efficiently, reducing their length due to fewer extraneous discussions, Chizmadia says.
At Hiway, McGinnis honed the meeting agenda to deal primarily with strategic issues, in part to overcome “Zoom fatigue.”
“We recognized some items could be accomplished with an email,” he says.
Brad Banta, board chair at Spokane Media Federal, also sees positives in having the virtual option as an alternative going forward.
“It will certainly allow for some flexibility when our day jobs require more of our time, which seems to be occurring more often with the labor shortages some industries are experiencing,” he says.
Virtual meetings will also allow a board member who is moving out of the area to continue to serve, says Keesee.
One lesson Keesee learned from the pandemic was to be open to new ways of operating.
“Traditional is good up to a point, but had we started with some virtual meetings beyond conference calls it would have been easier to make the full switch,” she says.
The board at $516 million asset Sooper Credit Union in Arvada, Colo., plans to hold in-person meetings in the future, but CEO Dan Kester also foresees having some directors who will continue to join virtually.
“Especially our board member in Seattle,” he says. “We upgraded our Zoom meeting capabilities, and we will be more accepting of remote work in the future.”
Hiway’s ability to accommodate board members logging in when they’re out of town—which previously wasn’t an option—improves directors’ participation, says Wipf.
“At a fundamental level, the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of boards and helped them realize the many benefits technology has to offer in enabling them to better serve their missions,” according to the board management software company OnBoard.
Between March 2020 and March 2021, boards have become more effective and more collaborative, and are spending more time on vital strategic issues than prior to the pandemic, according to OnBoard’s 2021 Board Effectiveness Survey.
According to the report, two-thirds of respondents say board collaboration has improved since the shift to remote work and meetings, with 54% saying they have seen some improvement and 12% seeing substantial improvement.
About half of respondents say their boards have spent more time discussing strategic issues over the past 12 months than prior to the pandemic, with 39% reporting they spend about the same amount of time discussing such issues.
Fifty-four percent say they have achieved good governance under “challenging conditions.”
NEXT: Going forward