What does the “G” in “ESG” mean for a real business organisation with real-world issues, and how can it be not just a box to tick, but an asset in building a culture, a mission, and a strategy, creating an organisation that people will line up to join? Erika Eliasson-Norris of Beyond Governance knows the answers.
Thank you for your time. First, I’d like to know what made you decide to get into governance?
I came across the field by accident when I was studying to become a lawyer in London, and I bumped into an old waitressing colleague of mine on Christmas Eve 2007. She was a governance professional and told me about the profession; and the rest is history, as they say.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and how has this shaped you? What is your professional background?
I came from humble beginnings, went to a deprived state school, and wore secondhand clothes for most of my childhood. My father worked night shifts driving trucks to provide for his family, and my mum stayed at home, as childcare costs were more than she could earn working. My father fell ill with “terminal” cancer pre-A-levels when I was 17 years old, but battled against the odds and thankfully survived, but now lives with multiple sclerosis. I had to fight for my education and things didn’t come easy in the world of work either. But these experiences have made me the tenacious, driven, resilient person I am today, and I wouldn’t change them. I have an undergraduate and master’s degree in law and a professional qualification in governance, too.
In your words, what is Beyond Governance’s purpose? What are you trying to achieve?
Beyond Governance is changing the face of governance, bringing to the fore that all organisational scandals and collapse have a root cause in governance. I want every organisation worldwide to understand that good governance brings efficiency, long-term sustainability, and positive financial returns.
I understand that you are the mother of twins. Has this changed your perspective on business or your role as a CEO? If so, how?
Most definitely. Not just having twins, but identical twins, has required me to see beyond the surface of someone’s personality to really get to know people on a deeper personal level; no two people are the same, even if they are genetically identical. Becoming a mother has also enabled me to fast-track the development of my communication, problem-solving, and time-management skills.
Due to “The Great Resignation” and, now, “Quiet Quitting”, many companies are struggling to retain and motivate staff. How can organisations reassess their operations and strategies to provide for the needs of their team members?
People want to work for organisations that care about them, have a great culture, and support their values. Good governance enables the board and executive management to solidify this into its mission, values, and strategy, which provides the “red thread” upon which every decision should hang. By assessing accountability and transparency structures within governance, you can reduce the resignations and turn your organisation into a highly productive place where people are lining up to join. It all starts with corporate governance.
What are the key factors associated with bad governance in an organisation? What are the tell-tale signs of bad governance?
The key ones are lack of transparency and accountability, corruption, poor risk management, and a lack of processes, procedures, and policies that drive the right behaviours. This can be seen in an incompetent or disengaged board, a board that focuses more on operations than strategy, a high number of employee resignations, difficulty in getting investment, poor stakeholder relations, disruptive organisational politics, and poor decision-making.
You were the youngest person in your industry, at just 32, to take on a C-suite position at a FTSE 250 organisation. How did this role shape you and what did this enable you to learn at a young age?
Working with accomplished executives and board members at such a young age required me to mature my communication style quickly. I was expected to provide feedback and act as the company’s conscience, interjecting and steering conversations as required. This made me tenacious but also very pragmatic; when you’re in the boardroom you realise just how much there is to get done and how there is only so much time to discuss matters before a decision is made, so information flow has to be very strong.
What are you most proud of about Beyond Governance? How has the organisation established a strong relationship with its clients and the value they place on members of the organisation?
I am especially proud of winning Governance Professional of the Year 2022 from the Chartered Governance Institute UK and Ireland. This was awarded as a result of the hard work and determination of my team. It is also a strong indicator of how well we deliver for our clients.
Through our B-Corp accreditation, we have established multiple ways of supporting our clients and those we employ. We put our people first every time, give them a voice, and are always open to feedback, both positive and not so positive. Our team are very highly valued by our clients, as we provide wisdom and always go beyond expectations to provide feedback on ways to improve further for our clients to take forward either alone or with our support.
Lastly, what are your hopes for the future of Beyond Governance? What are your hopes for your company?
I see us growing exponentially over the coming years. ESG is growing year on year and we’re raising the profile of good governance and its benefits. I am excited to grow our multi-award-winning team to be one of the leading governance consultancies in the world, serving clients across the globe.
Erika Eliasson-Norris, CEO of Beyond Governance, has always worked in the “eye of the storm”. Her career included navigating controversial board decisions, shareholder rebellions, a share price collapse to the brink of insolvency, high-profile anti-management stakeholder protests, survival-focused business division disposals, corporate manslaughter investigations, forced CEO and Chair removals, C-suite fraud investigations, FCA dawn raids, unexpected radio appearances, liquidation-evading emergency finance, and more.