How to measure board effectiveness: best practices, tools, methods

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How to measure board effectiveness: best practices, tools, methods

Updated: June 14, 2023
6 min read

Even though many boards believe performance evaluations enhance overall board effectiveness, only about 50% of organizations conduct them regularly. 

In this article, we’ll explore why the board evaluation process is so important and how to measure board effectiveness. 

The importance of regular board evaluations

Board evaluations are crucial for the effective functioning of an organization. Here’s why it’s so important:

  1. Enhancing board effectiveness. Regular board evaluations provide an opportunity to assess the performance of individual directors as well as the board as a whole, identifying areas for improvement, strengths, weaknesses, and skills gaps in order to enhance board effectiveness.
  2. Identifying and mitigating risks. By assessing the board’s composition, processes, and decision-making practices, potential risks can be identified, and appropriate measures can be implemented to address them. This proactive approach helps in avoiding or minimizing potential pitfalls and enhances the organization’s resilience.
  3. Fostering continuous learning. Board evaluations provide an opportunity for board members to identify their strengths and weaknesses and focus on personal and professional development. It encourages continuous learning and staying updated with industry trends and best practices.
  4. Enhancing stakeholder confidence. Periodic board evaluations serve as a demonstration of the organization’s commitment to corporate governance guidelines. When key stakeholders see that the board is actively evaluating its performance, they gain confidence in the organization’s ability to act in its best interests.

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How to measure the effectiveness of a governance board: top tools and methods

There are several tools and methods available to measure the board’s performance. Here are some commonly used ones:

1. Board self-evaluations

Board self-evaluation surveys are questionnaires designed to gather feedback from individual board members about their own performance and the functioning of the entire board. These surveys cover areas such as board composition, communication, decision-making processes, key strategic issues, risk management, and governance issues. The responses are typically anonymous, allowing corporate directors to provide honest feedback on how the board operates.

2. External board evaluations

External board evaluations involve hiring independent directors and consultants to conduct an in-depth assessment of the board’s performance. These external evaluators bring objectivity and expertise to the evaluation process. They may use a combination of methods, such as interviews, surveys, and document reviews.

3. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

KPIs are specific metrics used to assess the board’s performance against predetermined objectives. These objectives can include financial performance, risk management, stakeholder satisfaction, compliance, corporate strategy, key strategic issues, and other relevant areas. By setting clear KPIs and regularly tracking progress, the board can evaluate its effectiveness based on tangible outcomes.

4. Board observations

Board observations involve an external observer attending board meetings and closely monitoring the board dynamics, discussions, decision-making processes, and adherence to governance principles. The observer then provides feedback on the board’s interactions and engagement levels, helping to increase board meeting effectiveness. However, only about 22% of organizations used or considered using a third party to facilitate the evaluation. 

5. Peer evaluation

Another way to measure board effectiveness is through peer reviews. They involve board members evaluating their colleagues’ performance. This approach enables board members to assess each other’s strengths, weaknesses, and level of understanding regarding the board’s role in the company. This process promotes open communication, mutual learning, and accountability among board members. However, currently, only about 25% of organizations conduct peer reviews.  

Areas of board effectiveness to evaluate

Here are the most important criteria and tips on how to measure the effectiveness of a board of directors.

1. Board structure and composition

Evaluate the composition, diversity, and structure of the company’s board.

What to evaluateMethods for evaluation
1. DiversityReview demographic information, professional backgrounds, industry expertise, and educational qualifications of board members.
Compare the collected data to best practices and benchmarks.
2. ExpertiseReview board member profiles and resumes.
Assess the relevance of their expertise to the organization’s strategic objectives.
Conduct a skills gap analysis.
3. Size and structureAssess board structures and size in relation to its responsibilities and governance needs.
Consider the optimal number of board members for effective decision-making and fulfilling oversight responsibilities.
Compare the results with industry standards and best practices.

2. Board governance

Assess the effectiveness of the board’s governance practices, policies, and procedures.

What to evaluateWhat to do
Board committee effectivenessAssess the structure and composition of board committees and their alignment with board oversight responsibilities.
Evaluate the performance of the governance and nominating committee and its adherence to governance principles.
Evaluate the committee’s engagement and communication with board members and other stakeholders.
Board chair effectivenessAssess the effectiveness of the board chair in providing board leadership.
Evaluate the chair’s ability to facilitate productive board discussions and decision-making processes.
Assess the chair’s communication and relationship-building skills with board members and other key stakeholders.
Governance policiesReview board policies, such as a code of conduct and conflict of interest policies, and assess their clarity, comprehensiveness, and relevance.
Evaluate adherence to policies.
Board meetingsAssess the frequency of board meetings.
Review board meeting agendas, minutes, and attendance records.
Evaluate meeting efficiency, participation, and the quality of discussions.

3. Board training and development

Effective board assessments include the evaluation of board orientation, training, and development.

What to evaluateMethods for evaluation
1. Training programsAssess the availability and effectiveness of training programs tailored to the needs of board members.
Gather feedback from board members on the usefulness and impact of training initiatives.
Assess the participation in training programs and ensure that the board maintains the right mix of knowledge.
2. Succession planning Assess the board’s succession planning process for board members and senior executives.
Evaluate an alignment of a succession plan with the company’s strategy.

Best practices for effective measurement

Here are some best practices for a nonprofit board for measuring board effectiveness:

  1. Clearly define objectives and metrics. Clearly articulate the objectives and desired outcomes of the evaluation process to the full board. This includes identifying the specific areas of assessment, such as board composition, communication, and governance practices.
  2. Adopt a comprehensive approach. Take a comprehensive approach to board evaluations by utilizing a combination of methods and tools, like self-assessment surveys, external evaluations, and peer reviews. By employing multiple assessment methods, a more accurate picture of the board’s performance can be obtained.
  3. Ensure independence and objectivity. Consider involving external experts or consultants to conduct the assessment, as they bring a fresh perspective, unbiased insights, and expertise in governance issues.
  4. Encourage open communication. Create a safe environment where board directors feel comfortable providing constructive feedback and sharing their perspectives. Confidentiality should be maintained to promote honest responses.
  5. Establish a continuous improvement mindset. Successful boards tend to regard board evaluations as an ongoing process of continuous improvement rather than a one-time event. Thus, regularly review evaluation methodologies and align them with changing organizational needs.
  6. Follow up with action plans. Ensure that the evaluation results lead to actionable outcomes. Develop action plans based on identified areas of improvement and establish clear responsibilities for implementation. Regularly review and monitor progress.
  7. Use digital tools. Boards of directors are recommended to use tools for data visualization, analytics, and board management. They enable data privacy and anonymity, allow for remote participation, streamline data collection, and ensure efficiency and accuracy.
  8. Integrate ESG into board evaluations. Assess the board’s understanding and integration of ESG principles in decision-making, risk management, and strategy development. This is important for reputation, as well as regulatory compliance.

Key takeaways

Here are the most important takeaways from the article:

  • Regular board evaluations are important for enhancing board effectiveness, identifying and mitigating risks, fostering continuous learning, and enhancing stakeholder confidence.
  • Tools and methods for measuring board effectiveness include board annual self-evaluations, external evaluations, KPIs, board observations, and peer reviews.
  • Aspects for board evaluation include board structure and composition, board governance, and board training and development.
  • Best practices for effective measurement include clearly defining objectives and metrics, ensuring independence and objectivity, encouraging open communication, and using digital tools for efficiency and accuracy.

To effectively measure board effectiveness and streamline the evaluation process, consider leveraging a board portal from iDeals Board. With this secure and user-friendly platform, you can share board materials, conduct meetings, and collaborate on any board-related questions, including evaluation.


What is board effectiveness?

Board effectiveness refers to the board’s ability to fulfill its responsibilities and contribute to the success of the organization. It encompasses aspects such as strategic oversight, decision-making, accountability, and adherence to corporate governance principles, resulting in good corporate governance s and positive outcomes for stakeholders.

What is the purpose of board performance evaluation?

The purpose of board performance evaluation is to assess the effectiveness of the board in fulfilling its duties, identifying areas for improvement, and enhancing the governance process. It promotes accountability, identifies strengths and weaknesses, and drives continuous improvement to ensure the board’s optimal performance in guiding and overseeing the organization.

How often should the board members’ evaluations be conducted?

Board performance evaluations should be on the board calendar at least once a year to ensure regular assessment and improvement of the board’s effectiveness. However, some organizations may choose to conduct evaluations more frequently or incorporate periodic check-ins to promote ongoing board development and accountability.

Who is responsible for the board evaluation process?

According to the New York Stock Exchange rules, it’s the nominating and governance committee that’s responsible for the board evaluation. The independent lead director and/or committee chairs often take a leadership role in facilitating the evaluation process.

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