In today’s post-acute care (PAC) organizations, the role of the board is entirely different from other industries. While the individuals on the board are often volunteering their time, the governance structure plays a vital role in managing the safety of an organization’s persons served and represents the people it serves.
The ideals behind many boards are simple and humble, which can lead to a disconnect between the needs of an organization’s front-line workers and the demand of management. This disconnect can breed disengagement and impact the effectiveness of the board. To help organizations improve board engagement, follow these steps:
1. The Boards Actions Must Be Clear Throughout the Organization
Across the world, healthy, successful organizations are built on the foundation of clarity and openness. The same holds true among HHS’s boards. Visibility of the board can come in many forms:
- Cultivate an “open door” policy by inviting in staff and senior leadership to attend and participate in meetings
- Meeting schedules should be updated and clearly posted
- Meeting minutes should be easily accessible to the entire organization
These various forms play a fundamental part for both the board and its representatives in their career advancement. National Council advises that organizations often hold a discussion with your board to talk about their roles as advocates.
Another area of visibility is in the makeup of your board. No more than half of your board members should come from within your organization. The remaining positions must come from families of persons served and individuals who have received services by your organization. This strategy will not only inhibit partiality, but it will also help preserve visibility.
2. Ongoing Training Encourages Conversation and Stable Improvement
As previously stated, many board members volunteer their time and efforts. Although this is true, the board members must still commit to their responsibilities within the organization. At the same time, it is the organization’s responsibility to ensure that board members are thoroughly and efficiently trained. Training should be continual and offer the following aspects:
Board members tend to rely on their traditional understanding of their responsibilities. Joint Commission suggests that training should enable board members to have a deeper understanding of quality, safety matters, and for traditional routines to be replaced with evidence-based training.
It is a real asset to have a dedicated board committee focusing on quality and safety matters, including:
- Serious safety events review
- Ricks management trends and patterns
- Impact upon quality and safety issues due to staffing and other challenges
3. Create and Follow Policies, Procedures, and Bylaws Even During Uneasy Times
Uncertainty and confusion can hinder a board from achieving realistic goals. Having a clear governance structure can help avoid and alleviate confusion caused by organizational changes or transitions. Members should also have a uniform understanding of the policies, procedures, and bylaws to encourage productive and active dialogue.
However, times of transition can serve as a prime opportunity for the board to review or institute a new governance structure, review policies and procedures — or any inconsistencies or discrepancies among board bylaws — and to modify them appropriately. In fact, the CCBHC advises that during these phases or organizational change, transition plans need to be in place.
Another place of confusion or conflict can exist in meetings. This is where a company’s governance structure should allow for objections and afflictions to be filed and addressed per the bylaws.
4. Maintain Compliance with Laws and Regulations
Another area of responsibilities for the board members lies in holding your organization responsible for compliance with the local, state, and federal laws and regulations. Using metrics and data to track accountability and adherence to evidence-based practices is one of the best ways for board members to make sure the organization yields to the laws. Unfortunately, if your existing staff is stretched thin, and unable to keep up with increasing regulatory demands or maintaining consistent policies across all facilities, it leaves you further open to risk, suggests Wolters Kluwer.
5. Prepare for Any Situation…Good or Bad
Whether it be the worst-case or best-case scenario, your board must be ready to respond to any situation with resolve. Once again, this is where the organization’s governance structure comes into place. A good structure should have a strategic plan that not only focuses on the long-term goals but also the short-term, while simultaneously working to improve treatment outcomes. Strategic plans should include, but not be limited to:
- Key metrics to track the successes or failures, of treatments as new medications and therapies are developed for substance abuse, mental illness, and other public needs.
- Transition plans in the event of a sudden, unexpected change in funding or state oversight.
- Means to continue providing services during times of crises for local, regional, state or federal agencies.
Another way to get through good or bad situations is to have a healthy culture on the board. According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, successful long-term change and sustained positive momentum can be achieved when the following elements are in place:
- Key stakeholders (all board members) feel they’ve had a chance to be heard in problem identification and solution
- Goals that are clear, relevant, and realistic
- Progress that is monitored, supported, and celebrated
6. Partner Beyond Your Organization…Sometimes Even With Competitors
Out of all the points discussed, this one is the hardest to follow simply because it could require working with your organization’s competition. When institutions that serve the public, come together, the result seems to favor the people they serve. Board members should highly consider and be encouraged to explore a partnership with outside organizations that hold the same priorities and goals. This collaboration will help serve the people and impact your community along the way.
A few partners that an organization might consider are:
- Religious organizations
- Nonprofit entities
- Educational institutions
- Local businesses
Now that the ball is in your court, you need to start with your board. As discussed above, give them the resources necessary to be successful. This includes providing the relevant training. Next, you need to begin applying these tips. Doing so will increase engagement and interaction among your board members, in your community, the people you serve, and the members of your staff.
The approach to board effectiveness, engagement, and communication all lead back to one simple idea, relevant training. If any organization wants to have a positive impact in the world, it need look no further than those in a position of authority – your board members. So, start at the top and let board engagement be the beacon of light that will carry your organization to success.
The more engaged your board, the more people will want to be involved. Make sure you’re choosing the best fit. Behavioral interviewing is a great way practice when determining what board member to induct next, as they will influence your organization’s future success!