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eHarmony – how online dating holds lessons for board recruitment

07 Jun 2013 Voices

When it comes to recruiting the best people to your charity's board of trustees, what tips could you take from online dating sites? Tesse Akpeki elaborates.

When it comes to recruiting the best people to your charity's board of trustees, what tips could you take from online dating sites? Tesse Akpeki elaborates.

A high level of concern has been expressed about the shortage of effective trustees. Effective selection and recruitment processes result in securing the right match between the role, the individual trustee, his or her motivation and commitment as well as the link to the appropriate and relevant talent. A cocktail for success for the match is the blend of skills, experiences, perspectives and competencies. 

Sound familiar? Maybe that's because you're been online dating. There are a number of lessons that can be translated from online dating into recruitment. Take being able to communicate key clear messages of what matters, the clarity of expectations, a willingness to be honest about what matters, working out the level of commitment on offer and assessing whether each partner initially presents a way of meeting the specific needs that are verbalised in the initial request (for board, the recruitment advert).  

Board members need to be honest about what they can offer, what is on the table, whether or not they are the right match and how the roles and relationships can last. If there is not a win for both the board and the individuals involved, it is not worth strengthening the relationship.

Board chairs, treasurers and trustees need to find what is crucial for them otherwise their engagement will be a waste of time. The board needs committed board members who can shape the agenda and navigate complex environments. The skills and perspectives change in relation to the life cycle of the organisation and the need for workable solutions to complex or ‘wicked’ problems.

Herein lie the comparisons with online dating – first the initial step – the visit to the site listing your request and making it obvious to the pool of people out there. When you spot a possibility the opportunity can present itself for the coffee, lunch or dinner. In board recruitment world, this is the informal interview (the date). The informality lets both parties get to know each other, ask the questions you need to get answered and to find the touch points for engagement and motivation.

If the dating experience does not work, each person can say thank you for the experience and walk away ‘ a great person, but not the right member for the board role or conversely a good board, but not the board for me’.

The online dating experience if well done can be a fulfilling route to finding a best match. After the date, the yes or the no, can come the going out (the board tenure or board service). The depth of the relationship depends on the roots put down – the induction (the orientation) and the ongoing board development.

Dating/relationship coaches offer such practical and nurturing support these days. More boards are using board coaches and mentors to strengthen the performance of their boards and enhance board service.  Hopefully with the right steps, things work out for the better. Board dating presents another route to successful board recruitment.