In some organisations there is an unstated expectation that new board members will learn on the job. This is insufficient - they need to have a deep understanding of the organisation's environment, its policies, strategy and plans, its culture and the opportunities and threats it faces. They also need to understand the particular roles that trustees perform.
Board members from other sectors might need briefing on charity governance and its differences from corporate and public sector governance. All new board members face a steep learning curve. So, as well as the usual pack of induction papers, new board members should also be expected to visit the services the organisation provides or funds.
They should be briefed by the chair or chief executive on the strategic issues the organisation faces. They could also shadow a top team meeting and have one-to-one meetings with key people to gain insights into the issues management is tackling.
This 'super-induction' approach allows new trustees to raise questions that might otherwise waste valuable board time. In return, new members should be expected to report on their first impressions, as a fresh eye can bring new perspectives.