06 December 2021

What induction should aim to achieve

Induction should start as soon as a board member's appointment takes effect. A well-designed induction programme is essential to helping new members contribute confidently to their work on the board.

Operating within the 'Crown environment' has distinct differences from a commercial or community setting. For instance, all Crown entities except the Independent Police Conduct Authority are subject to the provisions of the Official Information Act 1982.

As well as understanding the specific objectives of the board, members should have a proper appreciation of the elements and demands of public sector governance, and of the key relationships that will impact on the successful performance of their role.

Responsibility for induction and training

Ministers

Ministers are responsible for ensuring that new board members have an adequate induction and training to understand their role and any expectations the Crown might have of them. In practice, ministers usually delegate this role to their departments, in consultation with the board.

Ministers are likely to want to take a more active role in working with newly appointed board chairs, to ensure they’re aware of the Crown's expectations for the board, and that the key responsibilities and relationships are well understood.

Board chairs

Chairs should brief new board members on the board’s operating environment. Depending on what’s already been covered, the chair's briefing could include the nature of the entity's business (site visits may be useful), the composition of the board and its various procedures (sub- committees, expected workload, governance, and management issues, etc), the member's responsibilities to the chair and other board members, and relationships with the minister.

In some cases, responsibility for training new members is specified in legislation (e.g. schedule 3 section 5 of the New Zealand Public Health and Disability Act 2000 requires District Health Boards to ensure new board members have appropriate training).

Departments

Any induction of board members by the monitoring department should be undertaken in consultation with the chair of the board.

Induction of chairs

Board chairs have more responsibilities than members and special attention should be paid to these in a chair's induction process.

The chair should be introduced to:

  • key ministerial office staff
  • key monitoring department staff
  • chairs of other relevant sector agencies.

The chair's induction should also cover the key expectations for engagement and relationship management with the minister and the monitoring department.

Creating an effective induction programme

At the earliest opportunity, departments should provide new board members with an introductory briefing on the Crown entity environment and the expectations of ministers. They also should consider covering:

  • the role of boards in the government context, and ensuring compliance with the law and with accountability documents and relevant Crown expectations
  • the strategic direction for the sector and the entity itself, and any areas of sensitivity or high risk
  • the various planning and public accountability processes
  • the ongoing management of any perceived, actual, or potential conflicts, and the board's policies towards receiving and offering gifts and hospitality
  • the individual roles and duties of board members
  • the collective duties of board members
  • the need for board members to recognise that they shouldn’t let advocacy of particular interests override or undermine their governance responsibilities or duties as members
  • the roles of and relationships between the key offices and agencies
  • maintaining appropriate relationships with ministers, Parliament, the monitoring department, and the public
  • liability for and protection from legal proceedings.

An effective induction programme will include:

  • a meeting with the minister at their discretion
  • meetings with the board chair to discuss board protocols and the board governance manual
  • meetings with the chief executive and staff for operational familiarisation
  • comprehensive information on the activities of the board or body and the organisation concerned, an outline of the sector served, the wider implications of operating within the government sector, and the nature and key points of the key documents such as the Crown Entities Act, Public Service Act, any specific enabling legislation, and other documents (if any) such as an Output Agreement, Memorandum of Understanding, the Statement of Intent, or Deed of Trust
  • current budget, recent annual reports and board minutes, all relevant legislation, planning documents (e.g. Statement of Intent), key challenges and issues, the role of central agencies, delegated authorities, policies on disclosing interests and declaring gifts, meeting timetable and venues, staff structure
  • the key relationships affecting the successful performance of the board
  • the impact on the operations of the board and the entity of provisions such as the Official Information Act 1982, and the obligations and protections relating to appearance by staff or board members before a Parliamentary Select Committee (see Officials and Select Committees – Guidelines).
  • a tour of relevant facilities, if appropriate.

Some departments take a combined approach with workshops or seminars for new appointees from a range of boards for which their ministers are responsible; this can help to underline the importance of a sector-wide approach.

Existing board members also could be invited. Development workshops offered by the board, monitoring department, central agencies, or an external body, may be other useful steps to assist new members, together with the use of formal or informal mentors. See also The appointments process.

Induction resources

The Commission has developed a package of induction material. The primary audience for the material is new board members of statutory Crown entities, but it may also be helpful for existing board members and other types of public bodies. Entities and monitoring departments are encouraged to make free use of the material in full or in part to supplement their current induction programmes: Induction Material for Crown Entity Board Members.

Supporting board performance

All board members should receive ongoing support and information so they can develop their understanding of the total environment within which they work.

Departments should use opportunities that arise through their engagement (and their minister's engagement) with entities to identify areas where assistance can be provided to support boards. An effective board will usually have a diverse membership with a relevant mix of experience and skills, so there will always be some areas where support is sought to lift performance. A common request is for support with understanding the financial information that the board receives (or should receive). Often, boards will take action themselves, but there may be economies of scale in addressing some issues collectively and a department can help to facilitate this.

Governance manuals for Crown entity boards

Every statutory Crown entity is expected to have a board governance manual tailored for the entity and that reflects good practice standards. The Commission has developed a resource (link provided below) to guide the preparation of such manuals, recognising that the fundamentals of good governance are common to all entities, despite their widely differing roles and relationships.

That guidance is intended for those who are charged with developing, implementing and maintaining a board's governance manual. It should be used to ensure that all boards have governance material that meets good practice requirements across the range of topics. It may also assist departments in answering queries from entities on governance issues.

Many entities' manuals will need to include additional material to suit their legal circumstances and particular activities.

See the Resource for Preparation of Governance Manuals – Guidance for Statutory Crown Entities (excluding DHBs and Corporations Sole).

Other information resources

  • The CabGuide
  • Cabinet Office Circulars
  • The Te Kawa Mataaho Public Service Commission's website
    • Statutory Crown entities – Guide for Ministers
    • Statutory Crown entities – Guide for departments
    • Guidance for Crown entities
    • Code of Conduct for Crown Entity Board Members
    • Model Standards for Conflicts of Interest
  • The Treasury publishes an Owner’s Expectations Manual which sets out expectations for the Crown companies and entities for which the Treasury provides performance advice to ministers. It includes expectations on governance, performance, and reporting and accountability. Owner's Expectations: Expectations for Crown companies and entities monitored by the Treasury – July 2020.
  • The Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s online sector-specific e- manual promotes good governance. The e-manual highlights key governance principles and illustrates how these apply to agencies monitored by Ministry. Each topic is augmented by appropriate website links and See the Governance e-manual from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.
  • The Tertiary Education Commission provides a number of resources to support Tertiary Education Institution Councils including governance support Resources for TEI councils from the Tertiary Education Commission.

Departments should regularly check the relevant websites to ensure they’re using the latest versions of any reference or supporting material.