How to design an induction session

An effective induction session not only provides information about a committee for new members, but also excites members' interest in the committee's work and encourages their full participation in it.

Rule 23 requires that "the Executive Officer should work with the Chair to provide all new members with induction briefing material and appropriately induct new members into the committee" and states that "where possible this should occur well before the members' first attendance at a meeting of the committee. Rule 23 also provides a recommended list of briefing material to be included.

How to design an induction session

An induction session ideally has three components: providing information; engendering interest and enthusiasm; and encouraging full participation.

The second and third components can be integrated into the first during the session, so that the basic information is presented in such a way as to stimulate interest and encourage future participation.

Let's look at how this might be achieved. The following text is addressed to both Chair and Executive Officer, on the assumption that they'll share the presentation of the session. It assumes that you'll be dealing with new members who have limited knowledge both of committees in general, and of your committee in particular. You'll need to make adjustments to fit the particular needs of your new members, some of whom may be new to your committee, but familiar with other committees.

Sample integrated induction session

Planning the session/s

  • As soon as you know who the new members of your committee will be, determine a timetable for giving them the information package about the committee, and for holding their induction session. The session should be well before the members' first attendance at a meeting of the committee. The scheduling should allow new members time before the session for careful reading of any information distributed, as well as time before the first committee meeting to absorb the information conveyed at the session.

  • As far as possible, try to hold only one session for all new members. However, be prepared to hold two, for example in circumstances where a member/s can't attend a session before the first committee meeting, or where new members have very different levels of experience of working on committees, and therefore require very different kinds of briefing.

Setting aside a reasonable amount of time for the session

  • Set aside enough time to ensure that you can cover the information you want to convey (and answer questions) in a reasonably relaxed way. If you rush, you may give the impression that this is a chore you just want to get through as fast as possible.

    The amount of time required will depend on the nature and work of the committee. If in doubt, be generous with the time you allocate for your first session, and adjust this for future sessions in light of experience.

Establishing the right atmosphere

  • Take the trouble to establish a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere. Have coffee or tea available if possible. Don't sit behind a desk!

  • Introduce yourselves to new members and introduce the new members to each other, perhaps with a few brief remarks about which discipline/section they come from, how long they've been at UWA, their particular interests and so on. Take a few minutes to chat before starting on the business aspect of the session.

  • Make clear that you're happy for members to ask questions as you go through the session and/or at the end.

Using the information package and handbook

  • The simplest way of providing information is to give members an information package or handbook, preferably before the induction session, and then work through the documents provided, pointing out their most important aspects.

  • Listed below are some ways in which you might elaborate on specific documents in the Information Package.

  • While talking about the committee's constitution, take the opportunity to elaborate a little on its role or task. Describe the kinds of issues the committee's involved in, and explain why these issues are of importance to students/staff, the school, discipline, faculty or University. Also talk briefly about any major contributions the committee has made, whether locally or University-wide, in the past few years. If you can link any examples to the known interests of new members, so much the better.

  • When talking about the place of the committee in the overall committee structure of the school, faculty or University, you may wish to stress the dependency of committees elsewhere in the hierarchy on the effective working of your committee.

  • When talking about the membership of the committee, explain that the Chair, Executive Officer and members are all members of the committee team, with different but complementary roles to play to ensure that the committee works to best effect.

  • During consideration of the membership of the committee, the Chair should talk briefly about his/her role. Use the opportunity to make clear that a key element of your role is to ensure that all members are able to participate in meetings, so that the meeting can hear the full range of perspectives on any issue.

  • If any of the new members are women, you may want to stress that you're aware of the particular problems women members can face in being heard in committees, and that you'll be alert to this at meetings.

  • After the Chair's role has been explained (during consideration of the membership of the committee) the Executive Officer should give a brief account of his/her role in the committee's work. Stress your availability and willingness to answer any questions the new members may later have about the committee or agendas - make clear that you're always happy to help.

  • When talking about The Effective Member (part of the Information Package or Handbook), encourage new members to familiarise themselves with this document. You might want to draw attention to particular aspects of the document.

Providing procedural information

  • New members will need procedural information of various kinds. For example, you might tell them:

    • when they'll receive agendas, and how long it is likely to take them to fully grasp the material in the agendas

    • whether apologies are expected if they can't attend a meeting, and if so what the procedure for lodging them is

    • whether you expect them to advise in advance if they'll be late for a meeting, or will have to leave it at a particular time, and if so, what the procedure is for doing this

    • how they can record any conflict of interest at a meeting

    • that if they want to speak, they have to catch the Chair's eye for an invitation to do so, by, for example raising their hand

    • that if they can't catch the Chair's eye, they try for the Executive Officer

    • that they should raise their arms clearly when voting.

  • You might also wish to remind them to bring to every meeting:

    • their copy of the minutes of the last meeting

    • the agenda papers

    • their Information Package (where applicable)

Providing "domestic" information

  • New members may also need " domestic " information. For example, you might tell them:

    • where the nearest toilets are (if you have longish meetings in a building with which they're not familiar)

    • whether tea/coffee/water will be available at meetings, so that if necessary they can bring water themselves.

    • where they should sit at the meeting table (if there's any formal seating plan)

Answering questions

  • Allow some time for questions at the end of the session.

  • Encourage members to contact you if they think of any queries after the session.

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