For new board members, onboarding is a crash course in company culture

The process of orienting new corporate directors can involve everything from hours of executive meetings and tours of company facilities to special tutoring sessions on corporate governance. The pandemic altered the pace of onboarding with some surprising results.

A stack of school books sits on a desk, with an apple on top. [Education/Learning]

Anne Margulies has managed some massive budgets in her career, both in her current role as CIO of Harvard University and as CIO for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts before that. Yet, as she prepared to join her first public company board in 2018, this CIO Hall of Fame member also signed up for a six-week, Harvard Business School online course in business finance.

Anne Margulies, CIO, Harvard University Anne Margulies

“I’ve managed very large budgets. I can do math,” says Margulies, “but I wanted to transfer that knowledge from fund accounting to corporate accounting.” Immersing herself in a rigorous, strategic-level finance course was only part of Margulies' personal board readiness plan, which included “a ton of homework,” additional reading and research. “I really wanted to become a good board member.”

When she joined the board of Henry Schein, Inc., a $10 billion global provider of dental and medical supplies, Margulies was impressed by the extent of the company’s own ‘onboarding’ education for its new directors. That process involved everything from tours of company facilities to tutoring sessions with outside experts in corporate governance.            

The culture club

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