Five Alternatives to the AICD Company Directors Course
Highly regarded courses such as the AICD Company Directors Course are not necessarily the be-all and end-all for Board membership, particularly when candidates have strong experience and an accompanying track record of on-the-job effectiveness. For one thing, while Boards sometimes seek members with specific qualifications to address gaps in skills or knowledge, there is no one standard formal qualification you must have to sit on a Board. For another, even executives who believe that completing the AICD qualification is fundamental to a Board career concede that this may be for no other reason than that it distinguishes you from candidates without a GAICD.
Ultimately, your motivations for joining a Board will be crucial to determining which course of action you should take to strengthen your application for membership but you might find further training unnecessary – at least for now. Here are five aspects of your career that can add the same value to your CV as the AICD Directors Course.
1. A Track Record of Commitment
A demonstrable interest in the general area in which an organisation operates immediately distinguishes you from other Board candidates. In a panel discussion from 2020, Victoria’s former lead scientist Dr. Leonie Walsh mentions that she didn’t have any formal qualifications on the first boards she joined: there was simply a strong alignment between the Board and her interests and professional skills. Most of us aren’t lead scientists but Walsh’s observation still holds: personal or professional, high-minded or purely transactional, a demonstrable alignment between your interests and those of the organisation you seek to join is sure to catch the recruitment panel’s eye.
There are a number of ways you can demonstrate your alignment. A track record of working or volunteering in the Not-for-Profit sector is often considered desirable for Not-for-Profit Board roles; club and society membership can be similarly well-regarded, as can sitting on workplace committees and working groups. Perhaps at your insistence, your company or the organisation you work for supported a particular cause. Maybe you play in a band or a chamber music group. Depending on the organisation, these are just some aspects of your personal and professional life that may be worth highlighting in your bid for Board membership.
2. Professional Experience
The value of your professional experience can be similarly layered. Generally speaking, Boards are looking for candidates with governance and leadership experience but experience in specific industries, sectors and geographic locations also speaks volumes, regardless of seniority, as does an aptitude for strategic thinking.
Your background in an area may be reflected in your role titles or the kinds of organisations with which you have worked. It can also be reflected in the duties and accomplishments associated with each role and in the amount of time spent in specific roles, industries or locations.
3. Subject Matter Expertise
In its Good Governance Guide, the Governance Institute of Australia provides a non-exhaustive list of areas within and across industries in which Boards typically seek expertise. Expertise in digital technology, PR and media, and environmental sustainability is currently in high demand. Boards also commonly advertise for members with specialist knowledge in accounting, corporate management, industry taxation, legal, HR, marketing and public policy.
4. Networks, Deep and Broad
Your networks – deep, wide-reaching or both – can be valuable assets for Boards and demonstrated in several ways. They may be implied in the titles of the roles you have held, particularly if you have held leadership roles. They may also be indicated by your memberships and participation in groups, committees, clubs and societies both inside and outside of work; and in the responsibilities associated with your roles. Working across business units, divisions, regions and with outside contractors, organisations and agencies can all be considered examples of networking and building networks.
5. Short Courses
Enrolling in a short course may hardly seem like an alternative to enrolling in the AICD Company Directors Course. The value of the Company Directors Course is the transition it offers from an operational perspective to a broader overview that is far less hands-on. There are other legitimate training options, however, which is reassuring given the cost and time commitment of the Company Directors Course – over $7,000 for members and $10,000 for non-members; and, according to some accounts, at least 150 hours of study.
Nick Wailes, The Director and Deputy Dean at the Australian Graduate School of Management observes that comprehensiveness is one of the reasons the GAICD is held in high regard. However, for those with good, broad experience but lacking a specific skill, microcredentials from recognised institutions can be very useful for filling gaps.
For a more thorough approach, TAFEs, professional private providers such as the GIA and universities offer less expensive modules, certificates and diplomas. The GIA offers Fellowships suitable for CEOs and Senior Management, and courses for students in governance and risk management. Many universities offer graduate and postgraduate certificates in areas such as leadership and strategy, though some prerequisites, including completion of prior courses, may apply.
A successful application for Board membership is not dependent on AICD training but it is dependent on making a good, strong impression overall. Often it is a combination of interests, experience and expertise rather than just qualifications that makes a candidate attractive, so keep an open mind about what you have to offer. Importantly, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all Board CV. Like any role, your application for Board membership should make the alignment between your attributes and what the organisation needs abundantly clear.
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AICD-Sponsored content, ‘Further your Board Career with These Courses’, Australian Financial Review, https://www.afr.com/work-and-careers/careers/further-your-board-career-with-these-courses-20201203-p56k59, 3/10/2020.
Governance Institute Australia, Good Governance Guide, https://web.governanceinstitute.com.au/search-results/?Keyword=good+governance+guide&ResultType=All&SortBy=Relevance
Governance Institute Australia https://web.governanceinstitute.com.au/home/
Kristine Lumante, ‘Insights and Pathways for Joining a Board of Directors’, https://www.michaelpage.com.au/advice/career-advice/career-progression/insights-and-pathways-joining-board-directors 30/11/2020.
Mike Luker, ‘Is the AICD Company Directors Course Worth the Investment?’, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/aicd-company-directors-course-worth-investment-michael-luker/, 21/05/2018.
Richard Triggs, ‘How to Build a Career as a Board Executive’, The Arete Podcast, Ep 107, 2018.