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blog • Resource

Creating an induction and training process

Megan Raybould

25 August 2020

This week we’ve been researching how to create induction and training programmes for new trustees.

Why are induction processes important?

Wales Council for Voluntary Action listed some of the issues that can be caused by a lack of induction, training and development for trustees. Including:

  • A lack of knowledge and clarity about  the trustees’ collective roles and responsibilities.
  • A lack of knowledge about the organisation, including its overall mission and what is set out in its governing document.
  • An inconsistency in responsibilities - some trustees do far too much, others very little.
  • Little understanding of the role of the chief officer, in relation to working with the GB.
  • Ineffective meetings and ineffective action plan.
  • Little clarity in organisational policies and procedures.

We’d add to this list that trustees’ experience is also really important. Trustees are volunteers and should feel valued & confident in their role. Young people have told us that when they haven’t received a good induction, this has resulted in them stepping down from the role.

We know that many Young Trustees, particularly from marginalised identity groups have shared experiences of having been made to feel:

  • Tokenistic
  • That they must assimilate and conform to have their voice valued
  • Obliged to hold the burden of labour to create an inclusive space for themselves e.g highlighting that they can’t afford to pay for train tickets upfront

This is also backed up by a survey to young people (conducted by Ecclesiastical), which found in answer to the question “why did you stop being a trustee?”:

23% said they felt like an outsider

22% said their input was no longer valued.

Read the full report here. 

A comprehensive induction, that leads to a culture in which young people are prepared for their role and feel listened to, would go some way to address these issues.

What’s the aim of an induction process?

Aims of a trustee induction are explained in this useful blog:

  1. To give a basic understanding of the role of a charity trustee
  2. To provide information about the charity and its governance
  3. To understand what the charity and its trustees are empowered to do
  4. To identify/agree some guidelines for practical operation
  5. To flush out questions that trustees may have
  6. To enable the trustees to have a common understanding and work well together for the success of the charity

Is it only young trustees who need comprehensive induction?

Absolutely not. Every new trustee can benefit from a good induction process. We’ve mentioned before that things you do to make the board accessible for young trustees can have a big impact on everyone and make the board a more effective and inclusive space all round.

Having said that, inductions for young trustees are particularly important as they allow you to disrupt the power dynamics in the room and address the feelings of ‘imposter syndrome’ or ‘not belonging there’ that young trustees often feel.

How long should an induction process take?

NCVO has created this useful guide on trustee induction processes. It includes a table to map out when different aspects of the induction process should happen.

Notice that the 3rd column is for ‘first year’ - that’s because lots of trustees are still learning and finding their feet in the first year.

Mick Williams pointed out in this week’s Q&A that trustees may only have 3 terms, perhaps 12 board meetings during their time in role. He recommends to trustees on the CASHY Board that they speak out as early as they feel comfortable to. You can watch a recording of the event here. That’s true - but we’d also remind new trustees that it’s ok for them to feel like they're still getting to grips with everything for a while, especially in the first year. You don’t need to feel like you know everything before you speak out!

What should be included in an induction?

In their guide, NCVO split the induction into 4 sections:

  • About the charity e.g. charity mission and vision, annual reports
  • Legal status and regulatory guidance e.g. governing documents
  • Governance e.g. list of committees, code of conduct.
  • Management within the charity e.g. charity structure and chief exec

The Charity Commission has created  this welcome pack.  

It includes a checklist of things that trustees should know when they join your board. You can use that same checklist to make sure everything is covered in your induction.

Here’s some of what they list trustees should know after reading the documents.

They recommend new trustees understand:

  • How much money the charity has
  • Where the money is held.
  • Where does the funding come from and what plans are in place for spending it.
  • What savings, property or investments the organisation holds
  • What commitments, contracts or debts the organisation may have

They also recommend that new trustees:

  • visit premises and talk to beneficiaries, volunteers and staff
  • get copies of all strategies, plans and policies

They have put the information above together in this induction booklet from the Charity Commission - it might be useful to give to trustees joining your board, or to make sure you cover all the points mentioned in your induction.

Governance Pages have put a similar checklist together you can access here.

And Lloyds Bank have created a Guide to recruitment and induction that is helpful. In their guide they created this checklist, in collaboration with NCVO which is really helpful!

What are other organisations doing?

Reach volunteering have created this incredible blog on online recruitment & induction processes. In it, they include a plan from Talk Listen Change’s induction pack.

TLC: Talk Listen Change’s induction

TLC: Talk Listen Change is inducting five new trustees, four of whom have no prior board experience. Maggie Shannon, Deputy Chair, has developed an induction booklet, structured along the lines of the Charity Commission’s welcome pack for new trustees. It includes the following.

  • A welcome from the Chair.
  • Key information about the charity such as its services, beneficiaries, articles of association, finances, strategic plan, and team.
  • What to expect from board meetings such as who attends; that observers are welcomed; that board papers are sent out a week beforehand; that trustees are encouraged to send in questions before the meeting to save time; and that there is no such thing as a daft question.
  • Guidance on the role including: what’s expected of you between board meetings, scheme of delegations, what your role is and isn’t.
  • Practicalities such as the expenses policy, IT systems and dates of meetings.

Maggie followed this up with a phone call to each new trustee, so that they could ask questions about the content, and to explore their individual interests and needs. Based on this, she then lined them up with meetings with the appropriate staff member or trustee.

At the first board meeting, Maggie introduced each new trustee to the board and each other. They also started with a check-in this was important as: it helped replicate the informal chat that occurs in person, and also meant that everyone, including the new trustees, had already spoken at least once before the formal part of the meeting started, making it easier for them to speak later.

'We have found that trustee recruitment post lockdown has actually been easier to organise and more streamlined. And, by adapting to a more agile, flexible approach to recruiting, these boards are demonstrating an openness to change which is appealing to candidates.' says Rachel Ord, TrusteeWorks Manager at Reach.

Remote recruitment and induction takes a bit more thought and planning to do well, but this investment will pay off by improving your process, and stand you in good stead for future recruitment rounds too. If your board has a skills gap, or lacks diversity, now is a great time to recruit. Don’t postpone – just think of the fresh energy and valuable perspectives that your new trustees will bring!

How often do we need to review our induction process?

Reach volunteering previously created this post about induction processes and reflecting on recruitment. They suggest getting feedback on your induction process.

‘After three to six months you should also review how your new trustee is settling into their role and how well the new board is working. Ask your new trustee for feedback on the induction process and whether they feel this is this right role for them. Then evaluate if there are changes that are needed on the board overall, and whether the skills and experience of each trustee are being used effectively.’

We asked Young Trustee’s Movement members what they thought made a good trustee induction. Here’s some of the things they suggested:

  • Having a meeting with the Chair after 3 months to ask questions about things they don’t quite understand.
  • Having a buddy system with someone else on the board, so you have an informal space to ask questions
  • Having more than one young trustee join at the same time and  more than one on the board at any one time
  • Creating a culture where it’s ok to ask questions by listening to and acting upon the questions and suggestions made. Reporting back on what action has been taken based on young trustees suggestions is a good way to do this.
  • Having meetings between each trustee and the Chair to focus on the needs of that individual trustee
  • Informal chat with the chair
  • A list of acronyms to help new trustees understand jargon.
  • Access to training and courses that are free online.

What sort of training should trustees receive?

The Welsh Council for Voluntary Action suggest that specific training and development topics for new trustees might include:

  • Leadership skills
  • Strategic planning
  • Financial management
  • Asset management
  • Employing and managing people
  • Introduction of new policies and procedures legislation e.g. new health and safety standards, new working patterns/technology and quality improvement.

What if we don’t have money to send new trustees on training programmes?

There are lots of course new trustees can go on that do involve a cost, for example:

But there are lots of free options too! Lots of the above organisations have free resources or reduced rates for small charities.

Here are a few examples of free resources:

You could also think about using  resources within your board for a cost effective induction.

For example:

  • Set up a mentor or buddy system for new trustees. Find more information about mentoring schemes here.
  • Trustees shadow staff members to learn about a specific project.
  • Trustees could visit the project or ‘beneficiaries’ to learn more and understand the vision of the charity and how it delivers this.
  • You could do a skills sharing session by completing a skills audit and asking trustees to share skills with other people in the group. This wouldn’t just work for new trustees,  everyone will have skills and knowledge they could give training on.

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