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How Your Association Can Stay Relevant in a Tech-Driven Culture

Technology Liz Dupont

It’s undeniable – we live in a completely different world compared to 30 years ago. And, it can be difficult for any association to stay relevant in such a rapidly changing landscape. 

Demographics are changing, as Baby Boomers retire and Millennials take up the torch as the largest percentage of workers. Beyond just the age difference, these up-and-comers are also more culturally and racially diverse, which makes for an even more unique generational makeup.

And not only are the demographics changing, but people’s traits, preferences, and tendencies are changing due to the technology advances. When younger workers join an organization, they expect it to have the characteristics that they deem indispensable: immediacy, relevance, and constant connection.

Unfortunately, though valuable, these traits make the young workforce even harder for professional associations to reach. How do associations remain relevant in light of these shifts? And, as a follow-up, how do you convey that relevance to a skeptical group that has high expectations of every product they purchase or group they join?

Let’s explore these changes more in-depth, and consider some potential ways that associations can remain a powerhouse for the workers of today, while still keeping a hold on their core values.

 

Adapting to demographic changes

Before you can make changes to your association to achieve and sustain relevance, you need to know exactly how the tides are turning and how you can accommodate.

As mentioned above, the workforce is moving in favor of younger generations. Baby Boomers are aging out of the workforce, and younger workers are rapidly taking their place. By 2025, it’s estimated that Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce. That’s an astounding number!

Additionally, this younger generation of workers is racially diverse. Almost 20% of American Millennials are Latino (compare that to 10% of Baby Boomers), while about 14% are African-American and 5% are Asian. Additionally, increasing numbers of the younger generations are from mixed backgrounds, which creates a unique landscape for marketing. You have to be able to accommodate these changes both in the benefits you offer and in your approach for reaching this target.

Finally, this demographic diversity combined with the massive media-intake of younger generations have created a group that cares deeply about charity. This young workforce has grown up with more media than ever, seeing firsthand both the good and bad in the world. Thus, this group is a compassionate one, with 60% making purchase decisions based on the environmental friendliness of the business, and 57% volunteering at not-for-profit organizations. These values must also be reflected in a very real way within your association.

But how specifically can you remain relevant to such a diverse and socially-conscious group? Let’s take a look at a few important methods.

 

Set the example within your association.

Make it easy for your target to picture themselves within your organization. Expand your board to include younger, more diverse, forward-thinking members. If potential members see that they are represented and reflected in your association’s leadership, they will be more inclined to join and feel comfortable within your organization.

Make sure your images match your target.

When it comes to your marketing, the same principle applies: people want to see that they are represented. You’re appealing to young, racially diverse people. Show diversity in your marketing images!

Create opportunities for members to engage in charitable activities.

You can’t just appeal to the age group and demographics; you also need to appeal to their values. This young workforce places a high priority on social activism, which means you should, too. Find charitable work that both aligns with your association’s values and is important to your members. Create regular opportunities for your members to volunteer or give back in some way, and you’ll create a culture that keeps your current members engaged, while attracting more young members as well.

 

Adapting to technological changes

As vastly different as the demographics are compared with decades past, the technological advances of today are even greater. In fact, tech developments are a significant part of what has shaped younger generations into who and what they are today.

Social media, for instance, plays a huge role in how these workers communicate and interact, and thus it needs to shape how your organization interacts and the experiences you offer. Your new target expects you to be able to deliver a level of connectedness beyond what they can already achieve on their own. This places a heavy burden on you as an association, considering just how far an individual’s personal network can extend these days!

But, technology has changed more than just networking. It’s affected everything about the workforce: how people look for jobs, how workers gain more knowledge about their industry, and even how job functions are performed. Where associations in the past may have been able to provide a yearly educational conference and/or job fair, now career services need to be constant and immediately accessible to compete with technology and online resources.

Finally, technology has even affected the industries themselves, causing phase-outs in some career paths while creating more opportunities in other areas. Questions arise as to whether some professions will even exist much longer if technology accelerates to the point where it can replace workers.

In this technological climate, what can professional associations offer to show that they are not only relevant, but a necessary part of every professional’s career journey? Better yet, how can professional associations support their industries as a whole in addition to its’ members careers? Consider these methods to help you stay up-to-date with technology:

 

Offer your own sources of connection.

“Why do I need a professional association? I have LinkedIn!” If you’ve heard this before, you’re not alone. Professionals of today believe that they can perform all the networking they need on social media. Keep ahead of this trend by both keeping your own active social media presence to target potential members, and more importantly, by creating your own sources of connection.

Create a platform solely for members where professionals can meet to connect, advance one another, and provide further opportunities, then make this a selling point of your organization.

Stay ahead of industry changes.

Trepidation about what the future holds for one’s industry is common among professionals. As an expert in the field, it’s your association’s job to be “in the know” on what shifts are occurring in the industry and to keep members appraised.

This means carefully watching trends and activity and offering relevant foresight for your members. It also means providing plenty of educational opportunities to distill this information and content that will help your members to educate themselves and become more valuable professionals within their industry.

Provide your own technological services.

If we could sum up the entirety of this post in one point, it would be this: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. You can’t stop the cultural and technical shifts – you have to adapt to them. This means implementing your own technology that can outrun competitor options. In terms of career services, you can offer your own advanced job search options with software like Web Scribble’s intuitive job board platform. Offering such services keeps your association up-to-date and ahead of the tech trends, but it also creates an exclusivity to your member benefits that makes you even more valuable.

 

Create your own change

One positive change that has occurred with the increased connection of technology is the subsequent increase in competition. This may not seem like a positive, but for your association, it can be – if you seize the opportunity.

Increasing competition within career fields means that you’re in a unique position to target potential members with your benefits. If you can offer services that make it easier for your members to advance, find new job opportunities, and make more valuable connections within their industry, then you create demand that only you can fill – and that is the ideal place for your association to be.

Don’t just follow the trends. Seize them and take them one step further to position yourself as a highly valuable and necessary part of every member’s career development.

 

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