Well, the year is certainly flying by - but unfortunately COVID isn’t and we continue to live and work in a partially virtual world, which bizarrely is beginning to feel more normal as the months go by. I hope you are all coping well and embracing the emerging new normal. For any members that are having difficulties, please don’t forget our Support Network. We heard from the Support Network CEO, Anni Broadhead, in our September Trustee Board and she reminded us all of the good work they are doing as you will hear about later.
In this edition of Inside Track, as well as reporting on our September Trustee Board meeting, I will also briefly report on our AGM, which was held physically/virtually on 22 September.
Just over a week ago I also interviewed Stephen Metcalfe MP who you may recall, was the government’s engineering envoy during the Year of Engineering (2018) and who remains a strong ambassador for engineering within Westminster. If you’d like to hear what he had to say about engineering keep an eye on the usual IMechE media channels as it will be published very soon.
Finally, I would like to advise that we are now progressing with a recruitment programme to find a new CEO for the Institution. As many will be aware our previous CEO, Stephen Tetlow stepped down in 2018 and Dr Colin Brown was appointed as our interim CEO. Colin has done an exceptional job and helped us through some quite challenging times, for which I will always be immensely grateful.
I am now leading a small team focused on identifying a new CEO, who we hope will take up office in Q2 2021. As you will appreciate, this is a very key appointment for the Institution and we are currently going through a comprehensive process to find the most suitable recruitment partner to work with us and ensure we undertake an effective selection process that will lead us to the right person.
173rd Annual General Meeting, 22 September 2020
Our By-Laws are very specific in how we conduct our AGMs. With a little careful planning, we did find a way to allow us to fully comply and achieve the require quorum with a fully compliant, socially distanced physical meeting in our HQ augmented with a live stream to members around the world and proxy voting. It is also now available to watch on our website (log into your IMechE account and you will see the link). Many thanks to all that supported the meeting. We presented the 2019 Trustee Report and Annual Accounts and following a lively Q&A, the report was approved. We also announced that we will be changing our financial auditors from 2020 and advised that we will announce who has been appointed once the commercial process is completed.
Trustee Board Meeting, 16 September 2020
The following captures some of the key discussion items and decisions taken during the Trustee Board which I felt would be of interest to members:
Code of Conduct and whistleblowing
The Board reviewed the latest draft of the new Code of Conduct regulations and approved them. They describe the standards of behaviour expected of our members and this new edition is an update rather than a complete rewrite of the current regulations. They have been written in a manner to make them clear and easy to understand and are now supported by guidance notes. As they now progress through to final publication, the team are considering how they can be made most accessible to members. It is very likely there will be a requirement for a renewed commitment to periodically reaffirm awareness and compliance. Further information can be found in this month’s ‘From Birdcage Walk" blog.
A new whistleblowing policy was also presented to the Board and following review will now undergo further development to address a number of issues raised. It will be substantially different to the previous policy. The scope has been extended and now provides better guidance for members seeking to whistleblow in their professional lives, as well as during their engagement as members of the Institution.
The CEO presented a status against the current business plan, which showed performance being affected by COVID but regardless, good progress being made with a number of effective initiatives being implemented to mitigate against the COVID impact on the business.
Finances were reported to be in line with the last forecast – but with a caveat that Q4 will be worse than forecast, as COVID impacts had previously been forecast to diminish during Q4. We now know that is unlikely. The main impact is on our venue hire/events revenues, which have effectively flat lined. It was also reported that, sadly, the Institution’s Annual Dinner has been cancelled (without financial loss).
As has been reported previously, the 2020 election turnout was lower than normal (7.8% as opposed to 13%). To try and understand the reasons for this, the Board have commissioned Council to undertake an exercise to investigate the reasons for the decline and how we can improve the engagement for the next election. We will report the findings in due course but if you didn’t vote in this year’s election and would like to share your own reasons for not voting, we would like to hear from you so please use the feedback link below and your feedback will be passed to the Council team.
Nominations Committee (NOMCO)
A startup NOMCO team has been put in place and the Board has approved their terms of reference. Good progress has been made and you may have seen that expressions of interest have been requested from all members to take positions on NOMCO. This is a radical change to how NOMCO operated previously and a great example of the transparency we want to bring to the Institution’s governance.
NOMCO is going to be a vital part of our governance in the future as it will act as our internal talent-spotting and head-hunting function, seeking out members for key positions on the Trustee Board, Council and other major boards who will shape the future of our Institution. If you feel you have the right skills and experience and would like to be considered for a role on NOMCO, you can find further information on the Nominations Committee page.
Anni Broadhead provided an update on the work being done by them to support our members. The COVID crisis has, not surprisingly, significantly increased their workload and Anni cited some examples of the support they had provided including providing some struggling student members access to laptops and in response to many enquiries from members being made redundant, the assistance they have provided to many through on line training and 1-2-1 coaching to help them gear up to be more effective in seeking new employment.
As you will be aware the Support Network is funded through member voluntary donations. Anni commented that the £10 donations, collected through annual subscriptions were currently paid by 53% of members. Clearly the more donations they receive the more the Network can do to support members in need. Our sincere thanks to all those who do contribute.
Strategy Committee (Stratcom)
We now have an interim team in place ahead of a NOMCO recruitment process to identify some appropriately skilled members to join Stratcom and help formulate our future strategy. Further details will be provided in coming weeks as to how you can get involved with Stratcom.
Next year will be a transitional year from a strategic planning perspective and we expect to see the new strategy being developed during 2021 and being finalised around Q3 with implementation commencing fully in 2022. The Terms of Reference for the new Stratcom has now been approved by the Board.
Implementation Group (IG) Update
Dr Kerry Mashford, Chair of the IG, provided an update on the progress they had made with the ongoing task of implementing the Governance, Finance and Disciplinary Review Recommendations. Encouragingly good progress is evident on all fronts and optimism is growing that we will achieve the goal of completing the task within my presidential year.
Dr Mashford’s report included a discussion around the latest thinking on how to handle the ‘retired member’ category of membership. As we all know CPD is now a mandatory requirement to maintain Engineering Council registration as a Chartered Engineer. We have many members, mostly now retired, who wish to maintain their membership but do not wish to maintain their CPD. This is acknowledged as being a sensitive matter and hence the need for consultation. Several scenarios have been proposed including modified post nominals to M or FIMechE (retired) or just allowing M or FIMechE to be used but without CEng.
If you would like to know more and share your own opinions on this matter look out for the on-line survey, which will be launched shortly and will explain the options being considered or use the feedback facility below. It should be noted that these changes are not intended to align with or affect the reduced subscription rates that some retired members benefit from, which are determined on other parameters.
Our Royal Charter and By-Laws set the guiding principles on which the Institution operates and are controlled by the Government’s Privy Council. Over the coming months we will be looking to make some changes to our By-Laws to facilitate the changes that have resulted from the Governance Review and other changes like the Engineering Council’s required move to mandatory CPD.
By-Law changes require a special/general meeting and it is intended to schedule this for March 2021. In preparation for this, a team has been set up and work is underway to develop the change proposals, which cover four main areas: Mandatory CPD, Trustee Board, Electronic Communications and GDPR as well as some other minor changes.
The changes recommended by the Governance Review that related to Council have been the subject of much discussion over the past year. Although final agreement on exactly what changes will be made has yet to be reached, as an interim measure, a number of changes were agreed by the Board to move things forward in anticipation of the full solution being agreed before the end of my presidential year. The interim changes include electing their own Chair and the formation of a Council Leadership Committee to oversee the Council’s business.
Many of the changes agreed effectively formalise changes that have been progressively developed/implemented over the past year to improve the effectiveness of Council as an advisory body. The main issues, as yet unresolved, relate to the size of Council (Governance Review proposed a smaller Council) and also its composition (currently part elected and part ex-officio – Governance Review proposed all elected). The Council and IG (on behalf of the Trustee Board) are working to try and find an acceptable solution to the outstanding issues.
I hope you found the content of this Inside Track to be informative. Your feedback is always welcomed: InsideTrack@imeche.org