Pandemic triggers change in in-demand skills for board members

ESG, innovation, cyber security and digital expertise among skills sought – study

The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a change in the skills in demand for board members, a new study has found.

According to the Director Sentiment Monitor research published by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Ireland, almost a third of business leaders say the pandemic has altered required skillsets and expertise for their board. Among the skills expected to be in demand in the coming two years are environmental, social and governance (ESG), innovation, cyber security and digital expertise.

"The pandemic has impacted just about every business in Ireland – as it has the rest of society – and this movement in relation to requisite board members' expertise and experience reflects this. So, while a majority (65 per cent) of our survey respondents says the requisite skills and experience on their primary board have not changed during the Covid-19 pandemic, a significant one third of the business leaders say they have changed," said Maura Quinn, chief executive of the Institute of Directors in Ireland.


“The shift certainly reflects a post-Covid heightened awareness of environmental, social and governance issues, but also sees innovation, cyber security and digital expertise as enhancing rather than replacing more ‘traditional’ competencies such as strategy, corporate governance and risk management.”


The majority – 81 per cent – felt their boards had the range of skills and experience necessary to drive the business and mitigate significant risks.

Strategy, corporate governance, sales, marketing and business development remained the most common skills board members believed they brought, with innovation, cyber security and data protection among the less common skills.

However, ESG and innovation were among the top three skills that respondents said would be the most desired and needed over the next two years. Cyber security and digital skills rounded out the top five, with marketing, sales and business development skills dropping to sixth place. Business continuity planning also fell down the list of in-demand skills.

“It is worth noting, too, that the crucial importance of strong business continuity planning expertise also came to the fore during the pandemic, and it served those organisations well that incorporated it into their boards’ strategic planning and risk management functions,” said Ms Quinn.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist