When I speak with organizations struggling to revive their dwindling membership, my responses always boils down to the same mantra: Visit the future, and mind the gaps. Be aware of what and who is coming your way.
I ask these organizations, have you engaged with interested young people? How much time have you invested in thinking about the future? When the answers are “no” and “none,” I understand their situation right away. When we get stuck in the rut of daily tasks and short-term problem-solving, the bigger picture comes back to haunt us later.
Bold leadership holds the key to success. Instead of fearing change, leaders of associations must think outside the box and embrace the enthusiasm and optimism necessary to implement a successful workforce development strategy. This takes a CEO who goes beyond individual vision and surrounds themselves with a like-minded and excited team.
Every generation has something to learn and something to teach. Intergenerational dialogue plays an important role in preparing for the future. In my new book, “Talent Generation: How Visionary Organizations are Redefining Work and Achieving Greater Success,” I tell the story of the American Osteopathic Association. It experienced an unusual situation where the profession was getting younger through an influx of new physicians with this specialty. However, the association continued to grow older. To combat this, they conducted research and took educated guesses about what the industry could look like in 2030. This included projected advances in medicinal practice, the educational environment and people-first details, like where people will live and how they will commute.
They used this information to reflect on their offerings today, and to change these offerings to make them relevant. By providing the training, resources and information younger members crave, their membership has grown larger and more representative of the industry demographic. They also made changes on the internal level, including a quota for young, emerging physicians to make up 30 percent of each committee. Diverse committees became infused with new ideas, innovation and energy. As a result, their community is more magnetic, exciting and robust.
Including a wide range of voices at the table, from entry-level to experienced professionals, demonstrates a people-first mentality which cares about the needs of each individual, not only those with institutional power.
As well as looking outward, look inward and ask yourselves, what legacy do we want to leave? Are we going to leave this association and industry stronger and better than when we arrived? If 2030 happened tomorrow, would we be ready for it? Are we thinking a generation ahead, or behind? Constantly examine the relevancy of your projects. Lay the foundations for the road ahead and your association won’t be left behind.