Aligning Board Talent With Strategy A Key Challenge

Aligning Board Talent With Strategy A Key Challenge

KPMG survey cites hurdles in shaping boardroom skills, diversity for company’s future needs

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Three-quarters of corporate directors say they face a critical challenge aligning board talent with the company’s long-term strategy, and three in five want more diversity and viewpoints on the board, according to a global survey by KPMG’s Board Leadership Center. Survey respondents also identified significant barriers to refining the board’s makeup, with issues ranging from the right mix of skills and overcoming “status quo” thinking to lack of formal succession plans.

“Having the right talent in the boardroom is critical to a company’s long-term success,” said Dennis T. Whalen, leader of KPMG’s Board Leadership Center. “But achieving the right diversity of boardroom skills, backgrounds, and experiences to position the company for the future requires an active approach—from robust evaluations to formal succession planning.”

To better understand how directors are thinking about the mix of skills, backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives in the boardroom—and tools and approaches to achieve the right mix—KPMG surveyed more than 2,300 directors and senior executives across 46 countries.

Directors see significant room to refresh or refine the board’s makeup; only 36 percent said they are “satisfied” and 49 percent “somewhat satisfied” that their board has the right combination of skills, background, and experiences to probe management’s strategic assumptions. The survey also identifies key challenges or barriers to building high-performing boards, as well as steps boards are taking to overcome these hurdles and position themselves as strategic assets for their companies.

While the views and practices related to board composition vary by country (as detailed in the survey report), key global trends include:

Board composition—and alignment with strategy—is a key priority. Survey respondents identified several reasons for the intense focus on board composition, including the need for directors with an understanding of the competitive environment, greater diversity of viewpoints and backgrounds, and understanding the pace of technology change and the potential disruptors of the company’s business model.

Significant barriers exist to building a high-performing board. The barrier most frequently cited by survey respondents was “finding directors with both general business experience and specific expertise needed by the company” (69 percent). Identifying the board’s future talent needs ranked second (55 percent), followed by resistance to change due to “status quo” thinking (43 percent).

Despite wide recognition of the importance of succession planning in achieving optimal board composition, many boards lack a formal succession plan. While the vast majority of survey respondents said that a formal board succession plan is a key mechanism to achieving the right board composition, only 31 percent reported having either a “formal succession plan in place that aligned with the company’s future needs” (14 percent), or “robust discussions and succession planning in process” (17 percent).

Read the report, Building a Great Board.

About KPMG’s Board Leadership Center

The KPMG Board Leadership Center champions outstanding governance to help drive long-term corporate value and enhance investor confidence. Through an array of programs and perspectives—including KPMG’s Audit Committee Institute and Private Markets Group, the WomenCorporateDirectors Foundation, and more—the Center engages with directors and business leaders to help articulate their challenges and promote continuous improvement. Drawing on insights from KPMG professionals and governance experts worldwide, the Center delivers actionable thought leadership—on risk and strategy, talent and technology, globalization and compliance, financial reporting and audit quality, and more—all through a board lens. Learn more at


KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm, is the U.S. member firm of KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”). KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax and Advisory services. We operate in 155 countries and have more than 174,000 people working in member firms around the world.


Joanne Fischetti

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