In an effort to help widen the pool of South African skilled nonexecutives, a mentorship programme was launched in the country this month. It will involve top chairpersons and CEs, as well as a number of international exe- cutives, lending their expertise as mentors to potential, and new, nonexecutives in the Odgers Berndtson Cross-Company Board Mentorship Programme.
The programme aims to improve the quality of governance by nonexecutives as well as increase the pool of nonexecutives in South Africa.
Run by international executive search firm Odgers Berndtson, the Odgers Berndston Cross-Company Board Mentorship Programme has around 20 chairpersons and CEOs who have agreed to be mentors and a hand- ful of international mentors who have the requisite experience or sufficient interest in South Africa.
“Every chairperson knows that there is a significant lack of experienced nonexecutives in South Africa,” says Odgers Berndtson South Africa CEO Jamie Robertson.
“With the ageing board population in South Africa, we need to take swift action to ensure that that valuable expertise and those networks are transferred to the next generation.
“South Africa is highly respected around the globe when it comes to codes of corporate governance. The King 3 Report on governance in South Africa, in 2009, received praise from the G20 summit. “We have something to be proud of and now we need to deliver, by upskilling and increasing the pool of talent of nonexecutives,” Robertson says.
He adds that there has been steady support for the programme from industry leaders, who are keen to pass on skills and networks and who are also anxious to ensure the upskilling of nonexecutives and increase the talent pool of potential candidates.
Minister of Public Enterprises Barbara Hogan last month echoed the challenges prevalent in the nonexecutive pool, saying that government was tired of seeing the same names on the boards and controlling bodies of State agencies and corporations. She said that government wanted to cast the net wider.
The mentorship programme, aimed at high- potential candidates on the way to the boardroom, or else at those newly joining it, will ini- tially target JSE-listed companies, selecting a mentee for each mentor and facilitating the process of mentorship.
Mentees are matched to mentors and will meet at least once a quarter under conditions of the strictest confidentiality, for a minimum period of 12 months.
The mentor will review the mentee’s situation, providing insights into how boards need to function, board etiquette, how to properly prepare, as well as guidance on how to best add value. The mentor will also introduce the mentee to certain networks.
Sanlam and Murray & Roberts chairperson Roy Andersen will be the key mentor of the programme.
The programme is supported by the Institute of Directors and Business Leadership South Africa. Also supporting the programme is Praesta author, lecturer and consultant Peninah Thomson, cofounder and director of the international FTSE 100 Cross-Company Mentorship Programme and author of two books, including A Woman’s Place is in the Boardroom.