What can you expect by joining the ISE board?

Oct 5, 2021 | Sector & policy

As ISE looks for new board directors, Alison Heron, former ISE Chair and Employer Brand & Employee Experience Lead for Consumer Healthcare at GSK, explains what you can expect.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations recently about recruitment; about role specifications, talent pools, the need for diversity and inclusion, the process itself. These discussions are nothing to do with GSK (my day job) but for the next round of director vacancies at ISE.

In the context of everything that’s happened in the last 18 months or so, it’s a bit of a watershed moment for the ISE board. So much has changed that it’s the perfect opportunity to review the structure and what we look for in a director.

I became one of those directors back in 2014 then became Chair a year later. Since stepping down, I was appointed a Fellow and now chair the Nominations & Remuneration Group (NRG), which leads on board recruitment.

My relationship with the organisation actually goes back much further than that. I’ve been around long enough to remember the days of AGR! When there was a call out for members to join an Education & Training task group I put my name forward and that was the first real role I played.

Although we were just one small part of the membership, we did set up a number of initiatives, some of which still exist today such as the introduction courses on graduate recruitment. And it made me realise the value that members can add, particularly when you have a relatively small team at the centre of the organisation.  

Fast forward a few years and a couple of career moves and I started thinking about applying to be a director. I wanted to get more involved, to give something back and to stretch myself. By this stage, I was part of a large corporate but had also worked in a mid-sized agency and thought that might be useful alongside my experience generally.

I think most of us would see ISE as a big organisation with loads of employer, supplier and university members, which of course it is, but it’s also a small business. So when you become a director you take on exactly the same legal responsibilities as the directors of any large company. And they are serious responsibilities.

Yes, it is about the strategic direction of ISE and a big attraction for me was that the key role of the board is to take the organisation into the future. But you also have fiduciary responsibilities, which means you’re trusted to act in the best interests of the members and need to be commercial enough to understand finances and how to make sure the business is sustainable.

And it’s definitely not all about strategy. A big part of the director role is actively getting involved in a real variety of projects and pieces of work, while supporting Stephen Isherwood and the ISE team. That was something I always stressed when, in my later role as Chair, I would interview potential directors.

You have to remember that this is all on top of your day job, and alongside the time commitment for board meetings you also need to allow time for actually making things happen. In that respect, the board is no different to any other team – everyone has strengths and weaknesses, things they enjoy and things that don’t inspire them, so it’s important to make sure that everyone understands where they can add most value and what they are accountable for.

My experience was rich and rewarding. From day one, I worked with completely new colleagues from different industries and played a part in creating the future of an important and well-loved organisation.

Looking back, it certainly did stretch me – accountable to the board, ISE team and membership, I learned about working in a matrix environment and developed a good mix of commercial, strategic, consulting and operational skills. I also developed my confidence by working at board level. It is a stretch. But it’s a great stretch.

ISE is recruiting for Board Directors, find out more 

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