NACD Advisory Council Discusses the Board’s Role in Crisis Preparation

In today’s world of real-time communications, companies are
now expected to respond immediately to emerging crises, and boards are feeling
more pressure to ensure that their companies can navigate effectively through
challenging crisis moments. Peter Gleason, NACD president and CEO, explains, “Boards
have always provided oversight of crisis response plans, but the key difference
today . . . is [that] with the advent of social media, the window for response
time has all but disappeared. It’s critical for directors to engage with
management on a regular basis to discuss the outline of the crisis response
plan.” 

The 2019 NACD Public and Private Company Governance Surveys find that less than a third of companies have delineated roles for the board and management in their crisis preparation plans, while fewer than 20 percent  indicated that they’ve assessed the effectiveness of early-warning capabilities—a critical aspect of crisis preparedness.

While each crisis is unique, there are leading practices boards can adopt to improve their governance of crisis readiness. To help directors prepare for this issue, NACD, Heidrick & Struggles, and Sidley Austin LLP cohosted a meeting of the NACD Nominating and Governance Committee Chair Advisory Council—comprising Fortune 500 company nominating and governance committee chairs and lead directors—on April 24, 2019, in Washington, DC. The meeting was held using a modified version of the Chatham House Rule, under which participants’ quotes (italicized) are not attributed to those individuals or their organizations, with the exception of cohosts. A list of attendees’ names are available here.

Participants identified three important benefits of
effective board-management dialogue on crisis planning and preparation:

Effective crisis planning
identifies skill gaps within the executive team.Thoughtful crisis planning exposes
potential risks related to information flows to the board.Nominating and governance
committees can use insights from crisis planning to inform their reviews of
board structure and composition.

Effective
crisis planning identifies skill gaps within the senior management team.

Crisis planning offers more benefits than just a routine
hygiene check. As one director noted, “When
you are doing a good job as a board overseeing crisis preparation, issues are
going to rise to the top that you need to address.” These issues can take
many forms, including identifying potential disconnects in the assignment of
roles and responsibilities. Ted Dysart, Vice Chair at Heidrick & Struggles,
noted “Crises can accelerate to a point where senior leadership is no longer
equipped to serve in some roles—for example, acting as a spokesperson for the
organization. As part of the crisis planning process, the board can discuss
whether any skill gaps have been identified, and how they will be addressed
with training or other support.”

Delegates discussed that the right candidate isn’t
always the most obvious one. One participant noted, “We need to ask the questions about whether the CEO is fully prepared
if a crisis arises, but it goes beyond that. Some crisis response roles should
be assigned according to skills, not necessarily titles, so the board needs to
know who else in the management team is crisis ready.”

Thoughtful
crisis planning exposes potential risks related to information flows to the
board.

While it’s important to have a process around what
information is escalated to the board, judgment is often more important than process.
One delegate commented, “At one of my
companies we had an issue with a senior leader that never reached the board.
The reporting process was part of the roadblock. What worries me most [are the
gaps in information.] What does the organization know, [that] the board does not?”
Another participant noted, “The [glaring]
crises that are acute and major are easier to prepare for. It’s the
under-the-radar ones that result from a series of seemingly insignificant
activities that can be more difficult to detect, and they’re often the ones
that the board is most accountable for.”

Some council participants indicated that their boards use
the latest news stories as a mechanism to evaluate the effectiveness of their crisis
readiness. One director noted, “In the
aftermath of some of the recent headlines related to culture and #MeToo, we’ve
had discussions with management about when the board will receive information
about issues that may not be financially material, but could be culturally
significant.”

The relationship between the board and the general counsel
(GC) also emerged as a critical component of effective crisis planning. A
delegate said, “I have a conversation
with the GC monthly. [This practice] started when I was new to the [nominating and
governance committee chair] role, and was an opportunity to set up a trusted
relationship, that has strengthened over time.” Another director shared a
similar approach: “Before every committee
meeting, I sit with the GC and review the agenda. Then we have an open
conversation about anything else on the GC’s mind. The regular rhythm of these
conversations helps me stay informed about potential challenges.”

Nominating
and governance committees can use insights from crisis planning to inform their
reviews of board structure and composition.

Delegates discussed benefits outside those traditionally
associated with crisis preparation, zeroing in on board structure. Sara
Spiering, principal at Heidrick & Struggles, commented, “In our board
search work, we’re seeing clients asking questions about prospective directors’
past experiences with turnarounds or other challenging situations. One of the [qualities]
boards are starting to [recruit for] is confidence and calmness in
high-pressure situations.”

Directors are also using these insights to weigh the
merits of changing committee structure. One participant explained, “We had a situation on one board that
required establishing a special committee. Luckily, [the board] had enough
independent directors with the [requisite] capacity and skills— [that is,] the
ability to get into the details [and] ask tough questions, [as well as] the
time commitment and energy to take on the [additional] workload. As nominating
and governance committee chairs, we have to factor this into board succession
planning.”

The boards of companies in heavily regulated industries
often align committee structure with risk management and crisis planning. One
director remarked, “I’m on several boards
with a separate safety committee. Other industries have compliance or
regulatory affairs committees; some are [establishing separate] cybersecurity
committees. In all cases, it sends a strong signal about the importance of the
issues and the level of oversight. On our safety committee, we’re looking at [granular]
information—if a truck hits a ditch on Christmas morning, [the committee] hears
about it.”

Conclusion

As Benjamin Franklin pointed out, “By failing to prepare,
you are preparing to fail.” In light of growing public scrutiny, board and
management preparation for crises is likely to remain a priority for nominating
and governance committees. When confronting these complex and unpredictable events,
Holly Gregory, partner and co-chair of the Global Corporate Governance &
Executive Compensation Practice at Sidley Austin, advised directors to closely
monitor corporate culture, noting, “Periods of crisis are when the cracks in an
organization’s, and a board’s, culture really show up. If there’s been a
tendency to avoid difficult conversations, if relationships with management are
strained, if there are skill gaps or factions within the board, these things
will all make a bad situation worse.”

As directors scan the horizon for potential risks,
they should not lose sight of seemingly insignificant, but persistent,
problems. As a delegate framed the issue, “Major
crises don’t come along very often. We can learn not only from crisis planning,
but [also] from more minor issues. Both of these can help the board identify
underlying tensions and open up important conversations about the skills and
processes needed to weather a serious crisis.”

Questions directors
should consider:

Is there a crisis-response plan in
place? How often is it revised? How often is crisis planning discussed in board
meetings? Is there a common understanding among
management, the board, and board committees about their respective roles,
responsibilities, and accountabilities for crisis management?Have we identified which crises the
company is most likely to face? What steps can be taken to mitigate the risks
that would lead to those crises?Have we achieved a common understanding of what circumstances
trigger bringing an issue to the board’s attention? Has our management team
identified key indicators that offer early warnings about increased risk exposure
that could lead to a crisis? What is the threshold, and the process, for
reporting to the board about sudden changes to the company’s risk profile?Does the organization’s culture support a level
of trust between a) the board and the executive team and b) the executive team
and middle management that encourages candid discussions about risks? How
willing are employees to speak up about problems that can cause a crisis for
the organization?

Related
Resources

NACD Online Resource Center: Risk Oversight“Governing Through Disruption: A Boardroom Guide for 2018” Holly Gregory, Sidley AustinReport of the NACD Blue Ribbon Commission on Adaptive GovernanceReport of the NACD Blue Ribbon Commission on Culture as a Corporate Asset“Seven Steps to Minimize Fallout from Crisis Situations”

Sharpen Your Board’s Risk Oversight Process

A 2018 joint report prepared by NACD, Protiviti, and NC State’s Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Initiative advanced the view that boards may not be overseeing the appropriate risks and outlined a road map for strengthening the board’s risk oversight in today’s complex and unpredictable marketplace.

As
the business environment changes, so must the board’s risk oversight. As the
pace of change quickens and the stakes for “getting it right” increase, a
question arises: Is our board risk oversight process still fit for purpose?

Below
is a refresher of four points from the report’s road map that continue to apply
today.

1. Revisit the board’s risk governance model and
director skill sets. Depending on the nature of the enterprise’s
risks and the extent of the expected change in its risk profile over time, the
board should assess whether it has access to the requisite expertise and
experience needed to provide appropriate oversight—either on the board itself
or among its external advisers. For example, with digital disruption affecting
many businesses, do directors have sufficient understanding of digital business
models, digital ecosystems, and the potential that hyperscaling digital
platforms has to facilitate rapid growth and reinvent the company’s business
model? These are trends that bring both opportunity and risk to the business,
and understanding them is essential to sound oversight. In addition, the board
should rethink how it organizes itself for risk oversight, including the
delineation of responsibilities among its various committees and the full
board.

2. Make culture an
enterprise asset as well as an oversight priority. Culture is
almost always the source of reputation and financial performance outcomes, as
it is a potent source of strength or weakness for an organization. A strong
culture is a critical asset for any brand. It is of vital importance to both a
differentiating strategy and superior performance. Accordingly, the board
should expect management to understand the culture at lower levels of the
organization, and whether the mood in the middle and the tone at the top are
aligned. Concerns that this topic may be “too soft” for objective assessment
should not distract the board’s focus on the real question:

Does the CEO really want to know the unvarnished truth about people’s
perceptions across the entity, and is he or she prepared to act on that
knowledge?

A “speak up” culture that encourages transparency and sharing of contrarian data and bad news entails convincing employees that they can indeed speak up without fear of repercussions to their careers or compensation. Anonymous and confidential surveys are an example of how executive management can learn what they need to know. Metrics addressing such things as mission and values alignment, innovation, resiliency (speed), collaboration, and employee satisfaction also offer insights regarding culture. Candid, open, and constructive board and management interactions should prioritize the tough questions on directors’ minds.

3. Focus on the quality of the risk management
process. Given the
pace of change experienced in the industry and the nature and relative
riskiness of the organization’s operations, does the board understand the
quality of the process informing its risk oversight? For example, how much
manual effort is required by management and various board-reporting departments
to generate the reports used in board meetings? How actionable is the entity’s
risk information for decision-making? These and other questions focus on how
mature and robust the risk management process is and whether it is effective in:

Delineating
the critical enterprise risks from the day-to-day risks of managing the
business; Establishing
accountability for results; Fostering
an open dialogue to identify and evaluate opportunities and risks; and Informing
key decision-making processes with current, reliable information.

4. Ensure management integrates risk considerations
into strategy, performance, and decision-making. The unique
aspect regarding exposure to disruptive change is that it presents a choice: On
which side of the change curve do organizations want to be? Organizations must
make a conscious decision about whether they are going to be the disrupter and
try to lead as a transformer of the industry, or whether they are going to play
a waiting game, monitor the competitive landscape, and react appropriately and in a timely manneras an
agile follower to defend their market share.

These market realities strongly suggest that the board should
ground its risk oversight with a solid understanding of the enterprise’s key
strategic drivers and management’s significant assumptions underlying the
strategy and risk appetite. Directors need to ensure that risk oversight and
management are not appendages to strategy-setting, performance management, and
decision-making, but contribute information and insights relevant to the
success of these core processes.

We encourage everyone to read the joint report from 2018. Boards should take a fresh look at how they are approaching risk oversight, including how the company’s ERM is informing that oversight. With risk management practices for many industries largely rooted in the prior century, the big question is:

Are we prepared to
improve our risk management and risk oversight, or do we face the challenges of
the next 10 years in the digital age with what we’ve been doing over the past
10 years?

The nature, velocity, and persistence of risks have changed. Consequently, it’s time for boards to revisit their governance model and skill sets and refresh the focus of their risk oversight.

Jim DeLoach is managing director of Protiviti.

It’s Time to Focus on the CHRO: The Hidden Innovation Hero

Innovation is top of mind for most C-suite executives and directors of companies, and both have every reason to prioritize innovation as part of the company’s strategy. According to a study by Credit Suisse, the average lifespan of a S&P 500 company is now less than 20 years compared to 60 years in the 1950s. Additionally, Mercer’s 2019 Talent Trends Survey found that 73 percent of executives predict significant industry disruption in the next three years, up sharply from 26 percent in 2018.  In many industries, continued innovation is critical to a company’s ability to survive and thrive.

In the recent past, having a dedicated, centralized innovation team seemed like the obvious answer to this corporate imperative, and companies made the move to create such teams—the number of corporate innovation centers has grown from over 300 to 580 from 2015 to 2017.  Unfortunately, the success of these innovation centers has been mixed. Centers that tend to lag in performance usually have unclear strategic goals, suboptimal set-up, and vaguely defined success metrics.  

Developing a culture of innovation requires commitment from the top, starting with the CEO. The company’s CEO needs to define what innovation means to the firm, be its biggest advocate, and get the entire leadership team’s buy-in and support—including the backing of the board. Boards should make sure that the innovation strategy is forward looking with a balance of incremental and disruptive goals. Once the vision is defined, leaders need to infuse innovation into the company’s DNA by cultivating an open-minded and intellectually curious culture that is ready for change.

To truly embrace a culture that is open and prone to innovation, CEOs are also looking to their chief human resources officers (CHROs) to help lead this cultural change and drive innovation.   

The CHRO as Innovation Catalyst

The role of the CHRO has evolved, and it has never been more critical for the board to focus on this role’s ability to drive a culture of innovation throughout the organization. To enable innovation at scale, having a sound people strategy is equally important as having the right infrastructure, processes, and tools. 

When considering the CHRO’s role in setting the framework to build a
workforce that drives innovation, the board should consider how the CHRO is
leveraging the following four building blocks. 

Talent identification

The most important building block for the
CHRO’s talent strategy is identifying the right people. One could argue that
innovation is an innate skill, and not a skill that is developed. In reality,
the answer is, “it depends.” The company’s definition of innovation drives the
types of talent needed, whether the talent can be developed from within, and if
recruitment from outside needs to happen. People also have varying degrees of
innovative talent. Organizations may have a limited number of innovation
whizzes available to create transformative ideas, but many are capable of
developing incremental innovations to improve existing solutions or modernize core
businesses with the right training, support, and tools.  The board and management need to think beyond
traditional approaches to identify the right talent and teams to lead
innovation initiatives. Depending on the level of disruption required, the
board and management may need to urge the CHRO to consider external talent such
as seasoned entrepreneurs to get an injection of fresh ideas. The CHRO should
keep a close pulse on innovation talent across the firm, meet with innovation
teams on a regular basis, and report back to the CEO and board to ensure the
firm has a strong pipeline of talent suited for innovation.  

Diversity and inclusion

It is no secret that diversity drives
innovation. Diversity in this context extends beyond gender, race, and ethnicity,
and includes experiences, expertise, perspectives, and even working styles.  Individuals with differing thoughts can
result in dissent and conflict, but this should be viewed as the gateway towards
developing breakthrough ideas. Inclusion must come hand-in-hand with diversity.
One can only maximize the potential of a diverse team when each individual’s
differences are respected and valued. In addition, a diverse and inclusive
workforce ensures that the innovations created are reflective of the
organization’s diverse customer base. The board should embrace and work with
the CEO and CHRO to measure how diversity and inclusion impacts innovation and
the company’s people strategy on an ongoing basis.          

Performance
management

Since innovation development processes are
agile in nature, workforce performance management and metrics should align with
“test and learn” principles. The “test and learn” approach ensures that
projects can fail fast and pivot as needed. To encourage such behavior,
performance management also needs to allow continuous and open feedback to
enable individuals to adapt according to project needs. The board and CEO can
make this feedback loop a priority by measuring how the CHRO structures
performance reviews at the firm.   Disruptive innovation initiatives require a
longer time horizon to realize their potential and impact. As such, these
initiatives should not be measured on a quarterly basis. Setting key milestones
that could be an early indicator of success will help boards monitor progress. Although
driving revenue, profit, and return on investment growth are the ultimate goals
of innovation, non-financial metrics are not to be ignored and are arguably
equally important. These metrics include, but not limited to, enhanced company
brand, increased ability to attract top talent, improved customer satisfaction,
speed to decision making and execution, ability to break down silos, the number
of ideas in the pipeline, and increased digital presence and digitization
across the firm.       

Learning
and development

In this rapidly changing environment, it is
critical for all employees to be on top of key trends and develop new skills—the
board included. Besides formal training courses, entrepreneurs and start-ups
are excellent channels for corporate “intrapreneur” learning. Including
exposure to these resources as part of a corporate people strategy could yield
measurable benefits that the board could use to assess efficacy of the program.
As an example, Mercer piloted a learning program with NewCampus, a startup that
invites entrepreneurs around the world to share their expertise and experiences
with Mercer colleagues. This type of alternative learning is a great source of
inspiration for new ideas. For companies with dedicated innovation centers,
having rotational programs will enable organizations to build stronger
innovation muscle, share what has been learned, and develop skills with broader
employee populations to achieve greater impact. 
 

For
CHROs to drive innovation, they need to innovate and reimagine the HR function
they lead. The CHRO and his or her team at entrepreneurial companies are more
progressive in their thinking, willing to experiment, and thrive on setting new
industry standards. If companies believe that their people are the ultimate
sustainable competitive advantage—the power for creating innovations for the
firm—the CHRO and that person’s entire team should be the key to unlocking human
capital potential at the firm. The board and CEO need to empower the CHRO to
experiment, and that could be as simple as trying out new technologies and
policies. The time to do so is now. 

Patty Sung is a senior principal
and innovation leader in Mercer’s Global Digital Innovation Hub.

Shaping a Better Future for Boards

This fall, NACD will release the findings of our latest Blue Ribbon Commission report (BRC). Carrying forward a tradition we have kept for more than a quarter century, seasoned directors and advisors will opine on yet another challenging new topic. In recent years we have tackled corporate culture and disruptive risk. This year, the topic will be the future of board leadership.

Despite
the strong progress made in governance over the last decade, board leaders are
now being confronted with a wave of interconnected and simultaneous forces that
will only intensify in the next 5 to 10 years, requiring a profound
transformation of how boards deliver value. The BRC will offer a blueprint that
board leaders can use to prepare themselves and their boards for a much more
demanding future that in some ways has already arrived.

Can an NACD BRC help to shape that future? With 25 BRCs to date, and multiple recommendations made in each BRC (typically 10), our overall impact is hard to trace. Still, as was shown four years ago in a blog post about “Blue Ribbon Impact,” our voice is being heard. If you compare governance practices in the year of any given BRC to practices two or so years later, you will undoubtedly see that our BRCs do move the needle.

To focus on reports that had significant impact, I turned to Chief Knowledge Officer Emeritus Alexandra Lajoux’s insights from her 2015 blog post (excerpted and condensed below) as a reminder of the prescience exemplified by these reports. That changes in board governance and oversight practices are brought about by these BRCs is supported by data collected in NACD’s public company surveys on how our members have adopted these practices over the years.

1995: The BRC on Director Compensation recommended director
payment in equity, with dismantling of benefits. Before vs. After: Whereas in 1995 it was
common for directors to receive benefits but no stock, by 1999 the trend was
the opposite. By then, nearly two-thirds of companies included stock as part of
director pay, and less than 10 percent paid benefits.

2001: The BRC on Board and Director Evaluation recommended formal evaluation of boards and directors. Before vs. After: The 1999 survey showed 32 percent of boards conducted evaluations; the 2003 survey showed that 85 percent did so. This was no doubt due to new stock exchange requirements mandated in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 and issued in 2003. But, the stock exchange rules themselves were born in part out of NACD recommendations made March 4, 2002 (included in this NYSE report). In fact, 9 of NACD’s 10 recommendations—all based on the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recommendations (including one on board evaluations)—subsequently became stock exchange listing requirements.

2003: The BRC on Executive
Compensation recommended an entirely independent compensation committee for
all public companies. This change was notable because it suggested an independent
compensation committee beyond those covered by the Sarbanes-Oxley–mandated
stock-exchange rules that would be issued in November of that year. Before vs. After: The 2005
survey showed a rise in overall independence of compensation committees
compared to 2003: “Three-fourths (75.9%) of firms overall, up from 65.5 percent
in 2003, indicated that they had only independent outsiders on their
compensation committees.”

2004: The BRC on Board Leadership recommended that boards
consider using an independent lead director in cases where they did not have an
independent chair. Before vs. After: In the immediate and near-term aftermath of this report there was
an apparent surge in the use of the lead director—even greater than that seen
when the “presiding director” disclosure requirement of the New York Stock
Exchange became effective in 2003. The 2005 survey indicated that over a third
(38.5%) of the boards studied had a designated lead director, almost four times
the number (10.0%) shown in the 2003 survey. The 2007 survey said that “44.8
percent of respondents’ boards have a designated lead director.”

2007: The BRC on the Governance
Committee recommended director orientation (as well as ongoing director
education). Before vs. After: In 2007, 60 percent of respondents said that their boards had a
policy or program on director education. In 2009, 72.8 percent said they had
such a program.

2011: The BRC on Lead Directors recommended continued use
of the lead-director role as a viable alternative to an independent chair. Before vs. After: The 2011 survey showed that
at the time this group was convened, only 65.4 percent of respondents sat on
boards with lead directors; the 2012 survey showed that 82.8 percent had a lead
director.

2017: The BRC on Culture as a Corporate Asset recommended stronger
oversight of this area, including not only oversight of the tone at the top,
but also oversight of the buzz at the bottom. Within one year, the impact of
this recommendation was already evident. Our 2018–2019 survey reported that
directors’ understanding of the mood in the middle rose 10 percentage points,
to 45 percent. It also found that 27 percent now say they clearly understand the
buzz at the bottom levels of the organization, a 9 percentage point increase
compared to 2017.

So, what will the 2019 BRC recommend, and will it help predict the future? The Future of Board Leadership report will recommend practices to future-proof the boardroom. Our Commissioners have already begun convening, and here are several of the action items that they foresee for boards and their leaders:  

Change the board’s structure to become more
flexible.Disclose more about governance methods and
results to investors and stakeholders.Deploy data analytics capabilities and new
technology to enhance board oversight. With accelerating turnover, become more diverse.
Increase accountability for individual and collective
performance. Prioritize the fastest-changing drivers of
corporate strategy and risk. Represent a wider variety of stakeholder
interests.

These recommendations are all
credible and important. Will they provide an accurate lens into the future of
board leadership and predict where we’ll be in a few years? Perhaps. But the
important thing is not predicting the future of board leadership. Rather, it is
in making that future better through decisive, informed board leadership. That
is the goal of this Commission, and I am confident that they will meet it.

Once Considered a Career Killer, CISOs with Breach Experience Now Preferred

No C-level role has evolved as quickly and radically as
chief information security officer (CISO). The CISO role first sprang from the ground-breaking
“mega breaches” of the early 2000s, when it became apparent that cybersecurity
issues could have serious business ramifications. Back then, the role was
largely technical in nature (they would put up a technology perimeter to stop breaches
from happening) and, really, it was C-level in name only—most CISOs reported to
chief information officers and did not have a direct line to the CEO like other
C-level executives.

The early days of CISO evolution also had a dark chapter. As
the breach epidemic picked up steam, so did the scapegoat status of CISOs, who
often found themselves in career jeopardy following publicly disclosed data
breaches. Life in those days was difficult for CISOs. There was still a general
belief in boardrooms that breaches could be prevented with some degree of
certainty, so CISOs were tasked with an impossible job: preventing the
unpreventable.

That perception is changing today. I would venture to guess that no CEOs or board members in the Fortune 500 believe data breaches are 100 percent preventable. Those same enlightened executives and directors want to understand if the company is prepared to effectively respond to a major security incident. After all, if breaches are not completely preventable, then breach-response preparedness becomes the most effective tool for managing business risk associated with data breaches, which can include operational disruption, litigation, regulatory fines, customer attrition, and loss of intellectual property.

Cybersecurity has become similar to the electric grid. Utilities
can do their best to reduce the likelihood of blackouts, but violent storms
will still cause power outages. Therefore, the measure of competence for an
electric utility is not so much its ability to withstand violent storms without
blackouts. Rather, the company’s success is measured by how effectively it
minimizes impact and how quickly it can bring power back online after the
storm. Likewise, the measure of competence for a CISO is not so much their
capacity to prevent every conceivable breach, but whether or not they have a
codified, rehearsed, and company-wide incident-response plan in place that can contain
the incident and minimize the damage caused by a data breach.

Which brings us back to the evolving role of the CISO.

From those early days of being technical people and easy
scapegoats, today’s top CISOs have a much broader role within business. That
broader role requires a fuller skillset. They still need to understand the strategy
and technology of cybersecurity, not to mention IT in general, but they also
need to have the management acumen to make strategic investment decisions and to
effectively deploy staff and third parties. They also need to have the
vocabulary to translate security program objectives into business terms for the
board of directors.

And, most importantly, they need to be able to instill
confidence in the board that they know how to prepare the company to respond to
a data breach, because breach-response effectiveness can mean the difference
between a “blip” of bad publicity and an ongoing morass of litigation,
regulatory fines, and customer loss. It is for this reason that what was once
the career “kiss of death” for a CISO—being in charge when a data breach
occurred—is now a resume builder. Boards rightfully want to ensure that the
CISO knows how to “land the plane” following a breach, so what better
experience could there be than to have already managed a breach-recovery
situation—particularly when the outcome was as favorable as possible?

It’s been a wildly complicated ride for CISOs. Moving from
“tech jockey” to strategic business executive in little more than a decade is
not an easy shift. There is still a long way to go, as many CISOs are still
viewed as technical hands by senior management and directors, but the trends
are clear: more and more CISOs are getting a seat at the boardroom table. And with
savvy boards of directors, breach experience gets CISOs invited into the
boardroom, not thrown out of it. That’s a change for the better.

Mark Adams is the senior practice director of risk
transformation at Optiv.

Retirement Options – Beyond the Dollars and Cents of Retirement Planning

Nearly every organization provides a retirement savings plan to ensure their valued employees can support the financial aspects of their lifestyle once they retire.  Retirement, however, is more than just ending one’s working career to live off accumulated saving.  With growing life expectancies, retirement can last for 30 years or more! Through proper planning, looking beyond finances, this period can become an individual’s most fulfilling phase of life.
Career Partners International (CPI) knows the value of preparing the workforce for that next step into retirement.  By making retirement a positive event, organizations can reduce stress, improve succession planning, strengthen engagement, and ensure smoother customer transitions.  With CPI’s Retirement Options program employees are guided through the retirement planning process.  Everyone’s retirement will be unique, so Retirement Options takes a systematic approach to preparing for all components of a successful transition from working life.
Through the proprietary, third-party validated Retirement Success Profile (RSP) assessment participants gain a holistic view of their retirement preparedness.  From Replacement of Work Functions, to Life Satisfaction, through Perception of Health, and many more the RSP provides insight on fifteen retirement components.  Future retirees are presented with data on which areas they are well equipped for and the factors on which they will likely need to apply more focus.
World-class coaches analyze these results to help guide participants through a planning process to design and prepare for their desired retirement.  Through individual coaching sessions, participants can understand their unique assessment results and identify areas driving any shortfalls.  This process takes many employees from a state of anxiety and apprehension to optimistic anticipation.  With all documents and assessments available on a custom mobile-friendly portal, retirement planning and coaching can take place anywhere in the world.  CPI Retirement Options is designed to fully integrate with current employee benefits programs to make life easier for future retirees and help organizations guide their valued employees into the next stage of life.
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Overcoming the Most Common Challenges for Managers Conducting Stay Interviews

Over the past few years, the job market has become increasingly competitive.  As a result, workers are gaining more power and have a greater say in where they choose to share their talents.  Many organizations have seen a growing number of departing employees, despite no obvious decrease in happiness.  Quarter after quarter employee surveys show the same results, and yet top talent continues to leave for greener pastures.  To proactively retain their workforce, leading companies utilize stay interviews.
When implemented properly, the direct communication of stay interviews uncovers meaningful data and actionable patterns.  Without the right training and preparation, stay interviews are rarely implemented properly and can cause more harm than good.  One of the key causes of failure is a lack of management training on the process of conducting stay interviews.  These types of conversations come naturally to very few leaders.  The ability to hold these conversations in a way that allows for data collection and analysis is an even more elusive skill.
Career Partners International has over thirty years of global executive coaching experience helping organizations and managers navigate difficult conversations that lead to meaningful change.  The following are just a few examples of issues untrained managers often encounter while conducting stay interviews.

Interviews are Time Consuming

Most managers are busy juggling multiple projects and chasing deadlines.  Their days are packed and adding new activities can cause additional stress.  It is imperative that leaders have the mindset that stay interviews are an investment in their function’s capability and capacity, not a task or to-do.  This enlightened thinking makes stay interviews a priority and an investment that delivers a solid return.  The information gathered is valuable and participation is expected.  It may not be necessary for a manager to conduct stay interviews with every employee.  Targeting key workers, those with the most strategic importance to the organization, for example, high performers, individuals that enhance diversity, or those in high demand fields.

Responses are Anecdotal

A leader implementing stay interviews should target the collection of specific information.  If managers are left with broad expectations, they may not be able to collect actionable feedback.  Interviewers should prepare a set list of questions to conduct the interview.  The interview should be conversational with the list acting as a guide.  This subtle but important skill can either enhance or diminish the depth or breadth of information offered up.  At the same time, if each manager is asking similar questions and recording the responses patterns should begin to arise.  This will elevate the actionable feedback from the individual level to the strategic organizational level.

Known Issues Become a Focus

There is always room for improvement, this is true for all organizations.  It is important that managers do not allow stay interviews to focus too heavily on issues that are already known.  If brought up, managers should be coached to acknowledge the challenge and move on.  Utilizing the set of standardized questions will allow a manager to pivot to more productive areas of discussion.

Impractical Feedback

By nature of conducting stay interviews, managers will be opening discussions about employees’ futures at the organization.  This will often lead down an employee’s expected career path or future positions.  Occasionally an employee may discuss raises or promotions with a manager that had not been previously considered.  In these instances, honesty is the best policy.  Managers should let employees know that they are valued, and although a specific role or opportunity might not be readily available, they should provide support to further the valued employee’s career.  Together the manager and employee can develop a plan to achieve these goals.

Overcommitment

Throughout the course of a stay interview, there will be multiple instances with potential corrective action.  It is important for managers not to overpromise throughout the conversation.  This is an opportunity to listen and to collect data.  Managers should let employees know that they have been heard and understood and that their suggestions will be taken into consideration.  Managers should be coached to provide an expected timeline to complete their assessment of the stay interviews and begin identifying opportunities for improvement.
Stay interviews can be an invaluable tool for improving engagement and reducing employee attrition.  To set the organization up for success managers will need to be supported throughout the process.  Well trained managers with good backing will be able to draw out the most impactful feedback from participants.  By focusing on well delivered interviews, fully thought out questions, complete analysis of responses, and implementing change organizations will be better able to provide their workforce with a reason to stay.
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Career Partners International Coaches Employers to Use Stay Interviews as Valuable Retention Tools

As the working world becomes more complex and employee tenure decreases, organizations are looking for better ways to engage their workforce.  Career Partners International (CPI) works with firms around the globe to align employee and employer goals through a multitude of techniques.  Exit interviews gather useful information about why an employee is leaving. Employee engagement surveys are used to obtain the pulse of the organization.  Stay interviews take this a step further, providing actionable information through direct communication.  This method allows managers to obtain a better measurement of job satisfaction and engagement, ultimately reducing employee attrition within targeted groups.
A stay interview is a structured conversation, usually between a manager and an employee, designed to discover pain points and motivational drivers. Broader than a discussion about projects or performance, a stay interview uncovers the root cause of an employee’s decision to remain in their job. Companies leading the pack in stay interviews often have highly talented people they don’t want to lose or are in industries known to have high turnover.
Stay interviews are more specific and future-oriented than exit interviews.  Organizations can better predict and reduce employee turnover by taking corrective action based on resulting feedback.  An employee can decide to leave at a moment’s notice, or they can decide to stay because their manager took the time to ask a question, show they care, and respond in a meaningful way.  The initial act of conducting a stay interview often generates goodwill with employees.  It is, however, crucial to follow up these interviews with meaningful action to maintain the positive impact.
It’s important to speak with the groups of employees that matter most to the organization based on business and employee retention goals.  Potential interviewees might include:

Emerging leaders and high potentials
Affinity groups such as women, people of color, LGBTQ community
Hard to fill technical skill sets such as nurses, software engineers, or scientists
Newly transitioned employees due to a merger or acquisition
Millennials or Gen Z

There are many ways to conduct stay interviews including surveys, focus groups, and expert HR consultants. Companies may be reluctant to conduct stay interviews because they can be time-consuming and it may be difficult to react meaningfully to the feedback. Hiring a third party to conduct stay interviews can save time and simplify the development of proposals for productive action.  Additionally, using a third party telegraphs the importance of the process and allows for more candid responses.
Another way to get started is by teaching managers to ask stay interview questions during regular employee meetings.  Develop interview guides with consistent questions to better identify patterns across the company. Sometimes managers may ask every question in an interview, other times a talkative, articulate employee may provide deep insights with just a few prompts. Stay interview questions should be tailored to the goals of the organization and might include:

What is different here that makes you proud to be an employee?
Is your manager effective? If so, what do they do that you value the most? If not, what do you wish they would do more often?
What do you like most or least about working here?
What might tempt you to leave?
What talents are not being used in your current role?
What would you like to learn here?
What motivates or demotivates you?

Reluctance to conduct stay interviews may stem from concern over receiving feedback that isn’t actionable, such as a desire for a raise or promotion. There may be no money in the budget, no available position, or the employee may not be qualified to make their desired move. In these scenarios, honesty is the best policy.  Reiterate these conversations are intended to identify how the company can evolve to better support the needs of valuable employees.
When an organization decides to conduct stay interviews, it’s vital that leaders make a commitment to understand the findings quickly then act to show genuine care and follow-through.  With managers and employees invested in the process, it is imperative to make changes within the organization’s control. Initially, changes need not be major; a few small, yet visible improvements can go a long way as more complex and strategic adjustments are analyzed.
Sustaining the momentum of stay interviews requires continued steady attention to connecting with employees. Some ways to keep it going include:

Continue to connect with employees to assess satisfaction and level of engagement
Communicate progress and celebrate successes
Offer workshops for all managers so they can periodically meet with their employees and query them to discover the talent reality
Train internal HR staff in how to conduct focus groups and report findings via a readily available, easy to use tool

Stay interviews are a valuable retention tool when conducted properly. Be sure to spend time coming up with questions that will yield the most valuable feedback. Have that million-dollar question such as, “What is the one reason you stay with the company?” Imagine the value to the organization if managers knew every employee’s response and acted to make it a reality.
 
Written by Kim Littlefield, Senior Vice President, Keystone Partners. A CPI Firm
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