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Data enhancements, diversity and the return to remote meetings: 2022 boardroom predictions

By Paul Stark, General Manager of OnBoard

As the ongoing threat of COVID-19 and the Omicron variant once again thrusts businesses into a working from home model, global events are still creating uncertainty around what the world of work will look like in 2022.

However, with the return to remote working and the increasing digitisation of boardrooms presenting new opportunities (data enhancements) and threats (of the cyber variety), we can expect to see several key themes and innovations come to the fore next year.

Advancements in boardroom technology security, a sharpened focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI), improvements in the facilitating of remote and hybrid meetings and the role of data in creating actionable insights for a board are amongst the most important aspects of the boardroom’s continued evolution that we can expect to see next year.

A shift in cybersecurity culture

It is imperative for businesses that sensitive conversations and documents shared in the boardroom stay confidential. With remote and/or hybrid working set to stay indefinitely, it is vital that cybersecurity continues to be a key aspect of a company’s internal workings. The business community agrees that cyberthreats will represent a growing threat in 2022. And in worrying contrast, only 36% of boards believe their company’s cybersecurity metrics reporting is accurate.

With the pandemic likely to mean we’ll continue to see some back and forth between home and office working, the opportunity for criminals to exploit cybersecurity gaps in a boardroom perennially exists. Consequently, boards will place a greater focus on implementing cybersecurity measures. It is becoming more important for boardrooms to have regular communication with IT professionals and security teams on the latest guidance and security recommendations, and this collaboration will continue to grow.

Boards are being encouraged to invite CISOs and security leaders into board meetings, as the culture towards cybersecurity continues to shift towards making digital strategies more of a business priority. Board directors must attain a greater degree of security and risk knowledge, with insights into a company’s level of preparedness. They must have a working knowledge of the protections in place, as well as an organisation’s cyber insurance liability coverage, to determine if it is adequate

Driving Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in the boardroom

A light has been shone on boardroom diversity brighter in recent times than ever before. Indeed, a FTSE study carried out in November 2020 found that 74 FTSE 100 companies had ethnic representation on their boards, rising to 81 in March 2021. FTSE 250 companies have until 2024 to appoint at least one ethnic minority director on their boards.

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Creating boards that are more diverse in representation, but that also have the right skill sets, will continue to be a major priority for companies next year. Coronavirus has accelerated companies’ thinking in approaching individuals with mixed skill sets and contrasting experiences, as the goal posts continue to change for businesses’ operations. And the benefits of doing so are clear: a Mckinsey report found that companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.

Businesses are under more social pressure than ever before to ensure they have diverse representation and meet diversity targets. But it goes further than just the diversity of people. While a focus should remain on characteristics such as gender, age, ethnicity and sexuality, next year will also see a focus on creating diverse perspectives and thoughts. Doing so will improve boardroom dynamics, and their decision-making capabilities to tackle the complex issues facing today’s boards.

Increased facilitating of hybrid meetings

The future of work is hybrid. Research by Lenovo found that 83% of IT leaders expect at least half of work in the future to be undertaken outside a traditional office. While working from home measures remain in place currently, the long-term solution is hybrid working – the business world will almost certainly never go back to working five days a week in an office.

But this causes problems. According to Webex, 97% of hybrid workers said the top challenge companies face is the ability to collaborate with those in and out of the office effectively. In the coming year and beyond, boards will be placing a huge focus on improving their hybrid meetings, as boardrooms continue to be borderless.

Boardrooms across many sectors are still finding their best paths to successfully navigate hybrid meetings, but taking steps such as adopting meeting moderators, undertaking feedback sessions after each meeting to improve their effectiveness and evaluating hardware and software regularly are just some of the steps boards can take to ensure their hybrid meetings are effective.

The role of data

Data will play a hugely important role in the boardroom, and indeed the wider business – next year and beyond. Driven by the pandemic, most boardrooms have had to digitise to some degree, to adapt to the new ways of working that nearly all of us all now operate in. Data will become the foundation of how a board operates, from organising proceedings pre-meeting, creating an effective and efficient meeting, to ensuring follow-ups and actions are carried out smoothly post-meeting. But data won’t simply be relied upon to make meetings more efficient – data insights will propel boardrooms into a new era of evaluation and measurement.

Data-driven agendas leading to more engaging meetings, intelligent forward planning, data-driven decision-making for the wider business operations and more thorough assessment of meetings are all ways in which boards will embrace data into their operations.

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