Best Practices in Trustee Recruitment, Selection and Retention

Significant expected turnover on multiemployer benefit fund trustee boards and the increasing complexity of serving as a trustee are among the key challenges faced by these boards. To address this changing landscape, trust funds are deploying a wide range of initiatives to recruit, select and retain the next generation of trustees. These are among the findings of the new International Foundation survey report Trends in Multiemployer Trustee Boards. The survey captures benchmarking data from 233 trust fund representatives including labor and management trustees, plan administrators and appointing authorities.

Best Practices in Trustee Recruitment, Selection and Retention

Challenges in Trustee Recruiting and Retention

Responding trust funds have cited some difficulty in recruiting and retaining both labor and management trustees.

  • On the labor side, more than one in four (26%) respondents state that recruiting new labor trustees is more difficult than it was five years ago, while 18% state that retaining new labor trustees is more difficult.
  • Those on the management/employer side cite more difficulty in recruiting and retaining trustees. About three in five (58%) respondents state that recruiting new management/employer trustees is more difficult than it was five years ago, while 38% stated that retaining new management/employer trustees is more difficult.

Recruitment, Selection and Retention Strategies Used

Trust funds are utilizing a wide range of strategies to combat this turnover.

  • About one-half of responding trust funds (47%) use a formal contingency plan for appointing a successor trustee upon an unexpected event, including the resignation or death of a trustee.
  • This is followed closely by the establishment of a formal orientation, mentoring or knowledge transfer process for new trustees (43%).
  • About one in four responding trust funds (28%) has an action plan for recruiting the next generation of leaders, a formal mentorship program where mentors are current trustees (26%) or requests that retired trustees from the fund return to serve as current trustees (25%).
  • Funds are less likely to utilize a system for monitoring trustee performance (18%), conduct a trustee turnover and successorship analysis (14%) or employ different strategies for recruiting different generations (12%).

In addition, a second level of analysis was conducted to determine which specific trust groups utilize these strategies.

  • Formal contingency plans, action plans for recruiting the next generation of leaders and mentorship programs that use current trustees are more likely to be established on the labor side, while a formal orientation, mentoring or knowledge-transfer process is more likely to be established at the board level. The use of retired fund trustees as current trustees is more likely to be utilized on the management side.
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Components Included in Board Orientation Efforts

A key step in trustee preparedness is a formal board orientation. Responding trust funds were asked which components are included in their board orientation efforts.

  • Components most often include education and learning opportunities (79%) and the distribution of trust/plan documents (69%).
  • About two in five funds (39%) schedule a one-on-one meeting between the new trustee and an administrator, the board president or another trustee prior to the first board of trustees meeting.
  • A similar proportion (37%) arrange a pre-meeting in which expected duties and responsibilities are discussed before a person accepts trusteeship.
  • It’s less common for funds to use alternate trustees (25%), schedule one-on-one meetings with the fund’s professional service providers (23%), assign trustee mentors (17%) or use observation-only trustees (17%). This strategy gives potential trustees the opportunity to attend and observe meetings to develop knowledge and experience prior to their appointment.

Population Groups Targeted in Trustee Recruitment Efforts

Some trust funds are making specific efforts to recruit a number of population groups.

  • These groups include younger participants (23%), women (16%) and minorities (12%).
  • Funds are less likely to target members of the military (5%) and immigrants (5%).
  • More than seven in ten responding funds (73%) do not make efforts to target specific population groups in their recruitment efforts. 

Most Effective Messages for Trustee Recruitment

To recruit the next generation of trustees, trust fund representatives must utilize effective messaging.

  • When asked about their most effective recruitment messages, responding trust funds cited responsibility/duty (57%), improving the fund (52%), the opportunity to represent others like you (41%) and giving back (40%).
  • Funds are also finding success by touting the learning experience (37%), helping take care of others (37%), and the ability to lead and strategize (35%).

Learn More

Download Multiemployer Trustee Boards Report Trends in Multiemployer Trustee Boards: 2019 Survey Results,  available free to International Foundation members. The survey covers prominent trust fund challenges, trustee recruitment, selection and retention initiatives, trust fund policies, the use of professional trustees and trust fund attributes.

[Related Reading: Tips for Virtual Trust Meetings]

Justin Held, CEBS
Senior Research Analyst at the International Foundation

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Justin Held, CEBS

Communications Manager at the International Foundation

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