Have you considered a government board role?

Government Boards

Whilst not everyone wants a government board appointment, many recognise the value of these appointments and are well suited to these roles. One reason many find them appealing is that in the UK, most of these roles are paid. In this article, I will outline who you should consider a government board role.

Board roles exist across the commercial, not-for-profit, and government sectors. Every board is different, with appointments being made of people with  different skills and levels of experience. Indeed, many are even open to appointing individuals with limited governance experience. This can particularly be the case for  Government Boards.

What Government board opportunities exist in the UK?

Public appointees play a vital role in public life. They help guide the strategy for some of the most critical institutions in the United Kingdom. These appointments are usually for chair or non-executive director (NED) positions on the board of a public body or for a role as a member of an advisory committee. Unlike the private sector, a government departmental board’s role is advisory.

At the highest level of government today, non-executive board members (NEBMs) or non-executive directors (NEDs), and in particular since 2010, are being appointed to bring outside (independent) experience from larger, more complex organisations, particularly those within the commercial sector to “make Government operate in a more business-like manner”.  All 18 Government departs have departmental boards, which include 2- 7 non-executive directors. They exist to advise departments on issues such as strategy, performance, and the deliverability of policies.

There are also UK government organisations and regulatory bodies across all levels of government with boards or committees that seek independent members and advisors. These bodies operate in, but are not limited to, the arts, health & NHS services, local council services, prisons, housing, research, media, and business development. 

Why you should consider a Government Board role

For many of you, the answer will be obvious. Like any board, serving on a government board develops and demonstrates your strategic leadership skills, fosters new relationships, shows your ability to analyse complex issues and gain public sector or industry experience you don’t currently possess. All of which add value personally and professionally. Indeed, a study by Harvard Business Review found those who held a board role in addition to an executive role were 44% more likely to get promoted or earn 13% more than their peers without a board role!

Not interested in a Government board appointment?

Even if you do not desire a role with a government board, those on these boards are often influential in your areas of interest or industry. As such, they can be incredibly valuable connections who can help get the appointment you are interested in. 

Other unique aspects of a Government board appointment might also change your mind, including:

    •  The formal application process means the role’s specifications, selection criteria, selection process, and commitment are clear and transparent – so you know quickly if you are a good fit or not, thereby saving you time and increasing your chance of success.
    • The application process is rigorous and time-consuming, which may reduce the number of people applying – also increasing your chance of success.
    • The vacancies and details are publicly available and are not handled by recruiters – limiting the number of applicants.
    • Due to these bodies’ scope and purpose, they cover almost every aspect of life in the UK. They, therefore, seek a wide variety of skills and knowledge – which may provide you with more board opportunities than in the private sector.
    • Prior board or governance experience is desirable, but new board members are also often sought – a great place to begin your board career.
    • Remuneration. Many board, committee and advisory roles are paid, and some pay well. For example, NHS trust and foundation trust board members are paid a minimum of £13,000 per year. When writing this article, Gov.uk had 36 vacancies advertised, with the remuneration ranging from £350 per day to £52,540 per year.
    • Boards of public bodies are most effective when they reflect the diversity of views of the society they serve. These bodies often desperately seek diverse candidates.
    • Risk and accountability. Unlike other private boards, government boards are accountable to the public rather than shareholders. They also do not make decisions but provide advice and guidance for the relevant departments to make decisions. For some, the limited risk can be reason enough to apply.

Where to find Government board opportunities

I recommend several resources to help you find government board and committee roles. Even if you do not desire a Public Appointment, understanding and connecting with the influencers in your area of expertise, interest, or industry can be incredibly valuable.

These resources include:

Apply for public appointments – the official UK government website for advertising Public Appointee roles. Register your details to receive notifications about new opportunities.

NHS Jobs – all NDS jobs are advertised here, including Chair, non-executive director (NED), committee, advisory and trustee roles.

Board Appointments – here, we compile all board opportunities, including government roles, all in one place.

GOV.UK Organisations – this is a directory for all the UK Government departments, agencies and public bodies. There is substantial information about what each does, plus the names of the current board or committee members.

Advice for applying for Government boards

You should consider or work on several things before applying for a government board role.

    • Ensure you are clear about what you have to offer a government board and have included it in your Board Profile.
    • Use the GOV.UK Organisations directory to identify what government boards, committees or bodies you are interested in and match your skill set. Then, note when each member is coming to the end of their tenure. This will allow you to pre-empt when a seat will be vacant and proactively reach out to board members for a conversation.
    • When you find a vacancy, research the role to ensure you have sufficient expertise to meet or be able to address all the selection criteria outlined in the role description.
    • A public appointment is often a ministerial appointment to the board of a public body or advisory committee. Those interested in one of these roles must submit a CV and expression of interest stating your suitability for the role and demonstrating how you meet the required criteria. These applications are comprehensive; they will take time and dedicated attention to complete.

If you are interested in developing a board career, then I recommend compiling a list of board members who sit on the boards of Government bodies in the industry you are targeting. You should get to know these people as part of your strategy to gain a board appointment, whether it be a commercial, not-for-profit or public appointment.

Once you have developed this list, then approach them for a conversation. Discuss current industry issues, share research & insights or your board aspirations. Trust me, headhunters call these board members to see if they are interested in board appointments and also if they know of anyone they could recommend. 

Need a hand in developing or starting your board career? Talk to one of our Board Appointment Career experts.


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About the Author

David Schwarz is CEO & Founder of Board Appointments – The UK’s leading board advertising and non-executive career support firm. He has over a decade of experience of putting people on boards as an international headhunter and a non-executive recruiter and has interviewed over one thousand non-executives and placed hundreds into some of the most significant public, private and NFP roles in the world.

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